When I was a (20 year-old) kid, trying to figure out what God was doing in my life as I sensed a call to ministry/leadership, I tried to learn as much as I could from others in ministry.
I talked to the Christ-following leaders I knew or came in touch with while in college. In fact, three of the most influential people in my life at that time were my pastor, my youth pastor, and the campus pastor of the college I attended. We’d talk about practical stuff as well as what God was doing in my life.
I also wrote letters to people who were currently in ministry leadership. In the days just before the growth of the Internet, I’d write letters to pastors around the country (maybe people I’d heard or wrote books I’d read), asking for their advice, mostly on practical matters related to preaching, ministry, and leadership.
Hearing back from a few of them, I remember making a commitment to respond to aspiring ministers/leaders if I had the chance. This blog partly flows out of that commitment to share practical stuff. For example, the posts on Centre Grove’s journey through the Five Practices are written partly for this purpose. And, interestingly, some of the most visited posts on this blog come via searches on One-Point Preaching, StoryMapping, and Appreciative Inquiry.
In addition to contacting those who were doing what I sensed God calling me to do, I read about great preachers and leaders in history. Two things impacted me most: (1) they prayed and (2) they journaled. I’m not as sure of the significance of the second part, but it was enough to cause me to begin journaling in 1989, although I don’t do it nearly as much as I used to.
But the one thing that seemed to be a common thread in the lives of the people I read about was the fact that prayer was a core value and practice in their lives. One of the books that particularly impacted me was a little book by E.M. Bounds (a Methodist, who once served as a chaplain for the Confederacy during the American Civil War) called Power through Prayer. You can read it online here (also, the Complete Works of E.M. Bounds on Prayer have been published). I wrote a post a year ago on a statement from the book that’s stuck with me, It Takes 20 Years to Make a Sermon).
As life (and ministry) becomes more and more complicated with each new day, it’s helpful to remember the things God has taught us in the past (simple things really, but not easy!).
I’m grateful for the all the people have influenced me since I was a kid. I hope I will be faithful with the lessons God has taught me through them, and that I will be a good steward in sharing these (and other) lessons with others!
Who are the people who influenced you? What are you doing with the things you learned from them?