Michael Plank’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 Michael Plank, executive director of worship and discipleship, Spring Road Christian Church, Lanett, Alabama.


Dr. Richard Averbeck, professor of Old Testament and Semitic languages at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, is also the director of the Spiritual Formation Forum. Building on the amazing work of Dallas Willard in the field of discipleship, Averbeck and his forum of scholars in this field promote healthy spiritual development by balancing three areas: individual, community, and mission. His work has been extremely helpful in developing a culture of disciples in our congregation.

07_TL_Plank_Generic2_JNHarold Best is author of Unceasing Worship and Music Through the Eyes of Faith. With an eloquence I could only ever hope to articulate, Best revealed the vastness of Christian worship to me. Using Romans 12:1, 2 as a core text of his theology, he convincingly argues how all of life is worship. Every guitar player who knows five chords and thinks they are ready to take on the world should read every word Best has written before stepping on to the stage.

James K. A. Smith is professor of philosophy at Calvin College and author of The Cultural Liturgies Series, which includes Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works. More than anyone else, Smith helped me realize that whatever liturgy I construct as a worship pastor tells a story of the gospel and powerfully forms, over time, my particular congregation. Smith explains how liturgy is not just a “church thing,” but that we each develop a liturgy of life . . . daily practices that shape the person we are becoming, even without realizing it. (Consider, for example, the liturgy of engaging daily in social media and its impact). The design of any liturgy engages people’s imaginations. This has huge implications for worship, preaching, and teaching in the church. None of us does anything without first imagining it. Then, in regular practice of what we have imagined, we become different people. Church leaders are responsible for the narrative we construct.

Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, has spent the past decade studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. Her testimony on leaving faith in her academic setting and then coming back to faith are fresh, real, and ridiculously relevant for any conversation of faith with today’s culture. Her work in particular validates the community dimension of discipleship/spiritual formation. The fruit of the Spirit is not experienced alone, but in community. Needed words in a nation that prides development of the individual.

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