Hebrews 13:7 reads: “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” While this instruction is surely given to the congregation of believers, I have seen it evidence itself in me-as-preacher. Everyone is influenced by those they admire. Preachers are no different – especially the young ones. It’s almost funny, but I can near categorize my last 20-plus years of teaching/preaching by certain men who, at different times, impacted me the most. Indeed, I could diagram that influence in a line of preachers – each name representing a season where I sat under their teaching in the hopes I might learn the Bible better and yet, I found myself being influenced by their preaching style (intentionally or not) Here’s my line:
John MacArthur —> Tommy Nelson —> John Piper —> Timothy Keller
1988-1993 1993-1998 2004-2006 2007-2009
Each of these men did different things for my preaching.
- During my college years, the Lord used John MacArthur to give me a greater love for God’s Word and a passion for verse-by-verse expositional preaching.
- Over my seminary career, God used the teaching ministry of Tommy Nelson to emphasize that sermons must be more than a running commentary on a Bible passage, but a message that is both insightful to the text and understandable to the listener.
- In my initial years after seminary and beginning my tenure at my current church, God reminded me through the ministry of John Piper that passion behind the pulpit is not peripheral but essential to preaching.
- More recently, I’ve have seen God’s grace to me via Tim Keller’s gospel-centric pulpit ministry. It has reaffirmed my commitment to making sure there is a reason why Christ’s death is necessary in every message I preach.
- Bruce Wesley is the pastor I share the pulpit with (every other weekend to be exact). God has used Bruce to teach me more things about preaching than I can ever fully list. However, a few things stand out at the writing of this post; the sermonic power of wordsmithing, the utility of manuscripting, and the strength of anticipating the objections of your listener.
Truth be told, early on in my ministry I probably idolized many of these men instead of seeing them as models. Time and maturity has wisely led me to abandon that approach. I also realize there is a great difference between learning from someone’s preaching style as opposed to cheaply copying it (see my Resurgence post on “Being You in the Pulpit“). Still, I admire these men in various ways today. Their influence on me behind the pulpit is inescapable. But that is true of anyone we allow close to us or look to for guidance. The question is not will you be influenced by others but who will influence you? In the role of preaching, I am grateful for my line of influence.
Who is in your line?