Ryan Phipps’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 Ryan Phipps, lead pastor of Forefront Manhattan in New York City.


I know my Bible. I know how to articulate what I believe. Where I find myself forever lacking, however, in a melting pot of all things like New York City, is how “to understand, rather than to be understood.”

I take the time to learn from people who “understand” more than I do. Some are in the field of comparative religion, and others are ecumenical. Here are the names of two (with two of their influential books):

Stephen Prothero, Department of Religion, Boston University

God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World—and Why Their Differences Matter

Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know—and Doesn’t

Richard Rohr, Franciscan friar

Adam’s Return: The Five Promises of Male Initiation

Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life

I also (still) love dusting off the cobwebs of my own faith and reminding myself why Christianity is at the center of my life.

The following people continue to reignite my commitment to Jesus:

Joe Boyd, founder and president, Rebel Pilgrim Productions, Cincinnati, Ohio

Joe has spoken at our church in New York a number of times, and my ongoing conversations with him, coupled with his sermons and writing, have had a huge impact on me.

Toney Salva
Toney Salva

Toney Salva, senior pastor, Discovery Christian Church, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Toney’s leadership over the years has given me a richer love for Jesus and a greater commitment to interpret the Bible on the Bible’s terms, not my own.

Jared Witt, pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Fort Scott, Kansas

Jared is a walking library of knowledge. He is also a faithful friend. Jared has become a pastor to me over the years, and has been a great guide for how to keep the gospel inviting without compromising its purpose.

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