Jeff Walling’s Thought Leaders

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 Jeff Walling, founding director of the Youth Leadership Initiative at Pepperdine University, Malibu, California.

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The thoughts and writings of Tim Keller, John Ortberg, Bob Goff, Thomas Merton, and C.S. Lewis have all been recently impacting how I think about Scripture.

07_TL_Walling_MC-book_JNWhile hardly a new name among Christian authors, C.S. Lewis’s words still vibrate with deep spirituality and practical wisdom. Lewis wrote at a time when global violence was causing many to question the spiritual foundations on which their societies had been built. The author’s response was neither a shallow “it’ll be all right in the end” nor a bitter diatribe against the enemy. Instead, Lewis spoke deeply but simply, straight to the heart of everyday man.

I recently began listening to Mere Christianity again. It is one of those works that should be required reading after baptism. But it had been years since I had turned those pages. I came across an audio version of it, read by a fine English actor. Maybe it was just the accent (you know, everything sounds smarter if you say it with an English accent!), but the words came alive for me again.

In what was originally a series of radio talks given to wartime Britain, Lewis addresses the questions and fears that circle our world today. He challenged a shallow and unexamined faith, and called believers to something deeper and more authentic (to use today’s “gold standard” word). Both his thoughts and his approach are a model for how we might speak into the chaos that surrounds us.

As someone who traffics in words, I find it encouraging to know that an impassioned yet rational voice from nearly three-quarters of a century ago can be a thought leader today.

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