Sunday, October 12, 2008

October Is Pastor Appreciation Month

Yesterday was National Clergy Appreciation Day, and this month is the overall Pastor Appreciation Month, so I want to recognize some pastors who have shaped and influenced me. You'll find permanent links to their churches on my side bar under "My Favorite Churches".

First in that line would have to come Pastor Jon Tolly. I had the joy of sitting under Jon's teaching for all the years I lived in Mitchell, South Dakota. Jon pastors Northridge Baptist Church which is part of the Baptist General Conference. Northridge is where I first got the taste for ministry, and it is from Northridge that I entered into Seminary. Pastor Jon baptized me in September of 2002. Jon has a great vision, and really led the church well through some major transitions. If you are ever in the Mitchell area, don't hesitate to check this church out. Jon preaches Christ and Him crucified with a personal application. It is engaging and challenging and made a huge impression on the formation of my theology.

Phil Print would be the next name that comes to my mind. Pastor Phil leads Crossroads Church of Cottage Grove, MN and now with a new campus in Eagan, MN! Within a few months Crossroads will be transitioning to a new campus in Woodbury, MN and will close down the original Cottage Grove site. Crossroads Church is part of the Evangelical Covenant Churches "movement". Pastor Phil has a blog, but in the busyness in this season of his ministry it has gone dormant since late June. I first got to know Phil when I was the teaching assistant for the preaching department of Bethel Seminary. Phil reviewed and graded the first sermon I ever gave publically. He was one of the instructors I recruited to review sermons for subsequent Intro to Preaching classes. I then became his teaching assistant as he moved into a more primary role in teaching at Bethel. A few years after making this initial connection we began to attend Crossroads Church. In Phil's time at Crossroads the church has grown more than 10-fold. Phil is one of the most gifted preachers I know. He has an almost magical way of crafting a message. He has also built up a great group of men around him on his staff and has without question taken all their preaching to places they probably wouldn't have reached otherwise. Being able to sit in on Phil's preaching on a weekly basis, added to a couple of years of listen to him teach preaching classes was wonderful in developing how I approach writing a sermon. There is nothing I would hesitate ask Phil, and any answer he gives I would would trust second only to my Bible. I'm not saying he is perfect, but he is wise and experienced and Christ-focused which gets you a long way in giving good counsel. It has been exciting to watch God bless his ministry the last 4+ years!

For the past 3 years, the pastor I have listened to more than any other is Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA. Mark regularly rocks my world with his teaching and preaching. I haven't met Mark, though I did stand 2 feet from him a couple of weekends ago at the Desiring God National Conference. Driscoll has enjoyed fantastic success by any measure, in one of the most difficult cities in the USA to do so. And he has done it with a sledgehammer - screaming Jesus at people for 50-80 minutes a week. Well more than that, but if you boil it down that's what he is about. If you cut him, he'll bleed Jesus. If he writes it, I read it. If he preaches it, I listen and watch it.

The last name on this list is by no means the last pastor who has influenced me greatly, but he ranks right there near the top. That man would be Dr. John Piper. Dr. Piper leads Bethlehem Baptist Church in downtown Minneapolis, MN. Bethlehem is also part of the Baptist General Conference. In Pastor John's time at Bethlehem the influence of that church has gone from a small neighborhood church on the edge of downtown to one of the most influential churches in the world. Never is it about Pastor John. It is solely because of, and to the glory of Jesus Christ. Dr. Piper's writing blew my mind early in my time at seminary. I spent many a late night enraptured by reading one of his sermons. The clarity and passion are as good as it gets. I have over a dozen of his books, and look forward to many more to come.

I pray that God would continue to bless these men's ministries as they have blessed me! May their passion for Christ and His bride (the church) grow, and may their may their ministry be guided, and led by the Holy Spirit.

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