We asked 35 Christian leaders, “Who is the influencer with the biggest impact on your life and ministry?” Most of these leaders listed several influential thinkers, writers, innovators, and leaders more of us should get to know. This response is from Aaron Wymer, senior minister with Grandview Christian Church, Johnson City, Tennessee.
Noticeably missing from this list are my professors from Emmanuel Christian Seminary in Johnson City, Tennessee, yet they were all instrumental in forming me and pointing me in the direction I have traveled. It seemed unfair to mention one of them and not another, so I left them off this particular list. Suffice it to say that without them this list would be entirely different. These are in no particular order (except I have saved my favorite for last):
I first read N.T. Wright’s The New Testament and the People of God in 1994. His chapter, “Knowledge: Problems and Varieties,” became formative for my understanding of both Scripture and culture. I continue to find his churchmanship, scholarship, and ability to concisely communicate extremely helpful.
Tim Keller rivals Wright’s ability to engage the current culture with respect while maintaining his own position and integrity. I don’t turn to the Reformed school often, but when I do I start with Keller. He knows his context (New York City) and he faithfully applies his context to Scripture.
Ben Cachiaras has natural leadership gifts. Although he hasn’t written any books, I’ve had access to him by serving alongside him on boards and as his successor at Grandview Christian Church. He has the ability to diagnose an institution’s need for vision. He has a deep scriptural understanding of the nature and purpose of the church. He is also willing to move forward in difficult circumstances. These gifts combine to make him one of our very best leaders.
Fred Craddock’s preaching gifts extended far beyond storytelling. He had an amazing depth and breadth of scriptural knowledge. He also had a keen understanding of, and intuition for, how people listen to sermons. These gifts allowed him to preach in ways that can’t be imitated, yet his work inspires me to be a better preacher.
A.E. Whitham is not a contemporary (1879–1938), but I must mention this British Methodist minister. I stumbled across his works while I was in seminary and eventually did my thesis on him. He formed my theology and practice of ministry more than any other person. All three of his books, Discipline and Culture of the Spiritual Life, Pastures of His Presence, and The Catholic Christ were published posthumously as a collection of essays he wrote for a British periodical, The Methodist Recorder. His love of prayer, church unity, and the Lord’s Supper led him to become a founding member and first president of the Methodist Sacramental Fellowship. If only one person were on this list, it would be Whitham.