Our REACH Campaign is all about investing in a place (our new building) where we can share good news, people can learn to follow Jesus (be disciples), and help others do the same (make disciples). For some weird reason, God wants us to join him in his work of redeeming and renewing all things in Christ. I would think he’d do a much better job on his own! But God is a good Father, and he wants us, his children, to learn the “family business.” In the process, we learn and grow and are shaped by God’s grace and love while we live out our created purpose of loving God and neighbor.
As I’ve been reflecting on the mission/vision/purpose of our church, I’ve been thinking about the people that God has used to help shape the direction and character of my life and faith. Of course, God gets all the glory, but I wouldn’t be the man I am today without the influence of these men. 5 Men Who Influenced My Life:
1. My Dad
My dad has always been a faithful example to me of what a godly man looks like. He read his Bible (usually WAY before we woke up) and didn’t make a big deal out of it. He prayed and wasn’t embarrassed about it. He brought us to church and humbly served in ways that belied his education and intelligence. He stayed married and didn’t abandon his family. He worked hard and earned the respect of his coworkers. As a kid, he brought me along as he served lunch at the Salvation Army modeling the importance of serving the poor and those in need. He has supported me as a musician, a businessman, and a pastor and he loves my wife and kids well. Thank you.
2. Dave Lehman
I can now say with experience that being a pastor is hard but good. It’s not a higher calling than being a teacher, police officer, or engineer, for all can glorify God with their lives and vocation. But it’s an important job. My youth pastor, Dave Lehman, was very influential to me in middle and high school—a time when I was starting to take ownership of my faith. It was quite clear that Dave loved Jesus, his wife, his kids, and us squirrelly, sometimes serious youth group kids. He was a wild man who welcomed the nonbeliever, understood our culture, faithfully taught the Bible, and expected us, even at a young age, to get it (and we did!). Thank you.
3. John Hartenberger
In my mid-twenties, John Hartenberger was my senior pastor. John was another wild man with an unbreakable heart for the lost and the least among us. When John invited me to join the teaching team and preach every few months, I jumped in not knowing how much God would use this to change me. John spent hours with me talking about the Bible, my faith, and eventually, my calling to vocational ministry and church planting. John supported me publicly and privately, and I’m grateful that he took the risk of giving a young punk a platform to preach. Thank you.
4. Tim Keller
Influence can be up close or from a distance. Tim Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City and is an incredibly influential Christian author and speaker. Even though I don’t know him personally, I think I’ve read/heard just about everything he ever wrote/said. I was listening to his lecture Why Plant Churches when God called me to plant Appleton Gospel. Reading his book The Reason for God showed me that I could be a Christian and not check my brain at the door. His passion for the centrality of the gospel in life and his ability to preach with the unbeliever in mind has dramatically influenced my ministry. Thank you.
5. Chris Dolson
When I was born, my parents attended Blackhawk Church in Madison, WI. Years later, as I was starting to sense God’s call for me to vocational ministry, I listened to a sermon series from Chris Dolson and Tim Mackie at Blackhawk that would forever change my way of thinking about the Bible. The Story series opened my eyes to the reality that the Bible wasn’t just a collection of faith stories, but one great story—God’s story—that followed the narrative arc of creation, fall, redemption, and new creation. It was, as Pastor Chris said, a game changer. And ever since, I’ve had a driving passion to invite people into this story! Over the years, Chris went from being influential from a distance to becoming a mentor, generous with his time and wisdom. Thank you.
Part of the REACH Campaign is a commitment to becoming people of influence—disciples who make disciples. Our church will not let the next generation stumble blindly through life. Rather, we will be men and women in different roles, vocations, ages, and life stages who will model what it looks like to follow Jesus. In so doing, we’ll join our Heavenly Father in the good work of redemption and renewal that he’s doing in the world. And what could be better than that??