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 Jon Weatherly, professor of New Testament and dean of the School of Bible and Theology, Johnson University, Knoxville, Tennessee.
When I enrolled as a student at Cincinnati (Ohio) Christian University, Roy H. Mays III, then a young staff member, became a vital mentor to me, and he remained so long after I graduated. Roy lived with an exceptional generosity of mind and heart. He saw every moment as an appointment with God, who was shaping him through others and using him to shape others. Stricken at too young an age by fatal cancer, Roy demonstrated profound reliance on and reflection of the grace of God in the experience of pain and the anticipation of death.
During my time as a student, Tom Friskney became my mentor in the study of the New Testament. Tom possessed boundless energy, a prodigious memory, a keen appreciation for literature, and a pastor’s heart. From him I learned that New Testament discourse is always pastoral, that theology is always practical, and that the church is living God’s promised future in the present.
I’ve read a lot of books on the Bible and theology, but none have mattered to me as much as N. T. Wright’s. His insights have, for me, been the mortar that holds the bricks of Scripture together, and in a way that reaches the utter core of the human experience.
I’ve read many fine novels that have helped me imagine life as a different person with different experiences. Japanese Roman Catholic novelist Shusaku Endo has shown me what it is like to be touched by the grace of Christ in experiences very distant from mine. Silence and The Samurai, his most famous novels, provoke me to prayer and praise whenever I read them.