Here are the people, outside of Jesus and my family, who influenced and impacted my life throughout 2011. This year’s list is vastly different from last year, but one individual is solidified in their spot. A lot of these people were timely when they were involved with my life. I’ve posted links to their various online presences so you can find out more about them if you’d like.
12. Nicholas Kristof (journalist, author, columnist) – An award-winning journalist for the New York Times, Kristof does not rest on his laurels. He continues to be on the front lines of news, whether it’s in the Middle East covering the various democracy movements or uncovering the social injustices half a world away. He’s not coasting by doing the talk-show circuit and/or staying within the confines of his world. He’s active in reporting news and sharing his informed opinions. He’s willing to share opposing viewpoints to his, and be open to being wrong. When I’m in my early 50’s, I hope to be on top of my game like Kristof is. I hope my trajectory is still going upward.
Twitter, Blog, Facebook
11. D.A. Carson (theologian, professor) – Through The Gospel Coalition, I listened to a number of Carson’s teachings this past year. I was keen to hear his thoughts about universal reconciliation in the aftermath of Love Wins. (Plus, he was part of a panel discussion about Love Wins.) I appreciated his talk about Melchizedek. However, most of all I liked his editorial on the improper use of what is typically called “Matthew 18”. Since I’ve been a Christian, I’ve witnessed and experienced the abuse of Matthew 18, so it was nice to see Carson succinctly explain the text.
The Gospel Coalition Resources
10. Joe Posnanski (journalist, author, columnist, blogger, podcaster) – The content he produces, at such a level of excellence, is mind-boggling to me. His opinions are well-thought out, engaging, and usually leave me wanting to find out more about a particular subject. This past year, he started a podcast. (Pozcast.) I always enjoyed the meandering talks he had with Michael Schur, a frequent guest, about everything and nothing. As a writer, he continues to have an impact on my work. As a sports fan, he makes fandom more thoughtful and fun.
Twitter, Blog, Facebook, Podcast
9. Omaha World-Herald (Rainbow Rowell, Ross Boettcher, Matt Wynn, Brad Dickson, Jeffrey Koterba, the entire sports staff and more) – I follow a number of World-Herald staff on Twitter, and have appreciated their thoughts about a variety of topics. They have embraced social media and are creating new online tools to engage readers. There is a passion for the community amongst the staff. I think I read the World-Herald more than ever before because of their efforts to adapt to the culture and times. Maybe it was a personal decision, but I understood why Warren Buffett had Berkshire Hathaway purchase the paper late in 2011.
8. Mark Driscoll (Lead Pastor, Mars Hill Church) – I know that by simply listing his name it will anger some of you. I can already hear the criticisms. Some of the criticisms are valid, but more often than not I don’t get the criticisms. I hear people take something he said out of context, and attack him for it. I hear people attack him because of a misrepresentation of him. People have a belief about him, and seemingly pick and choose what they want to fortify that belief. Driscoll is by no means perfect, and he’ll be the first to say that. Why do I have him here? This talk about Ministry Marriages, which is material from his new book Real Marriage. It should be standard listening for anyone in ministry. Whatever you think about his theology, and the execution of it, the guy loves Jesus and loves his family. More importantly, his family loves him. He also pastors his church. I’m more apt to listen to him than a number of Christian speakers who are pastors in title but appear more often at conferences than at their own church. (Plus, I am grateful for Driscoll making sure so much of Mars Hill’s resources are free to the public. That has been a huge blessing to me.)
Twitter, WWW, Facebook, Podcast, Mars Hill Church
7. Craig Groeschel (Senior Pastor, LifeChurch.tv) – This is more indirect impact, but his ministry was pioneering when it comes to online church. I’ve been able to point to his church as an example of what we are trying to do with aspects of the Online Campus. My new role is due in part to his life and work.
Twitter, Blog, Facebook, Podcast, LifeChurch.tv
6. Jonathan Dodson (Lead Pastor, Austin City Life) – On a cold, snowy day, I had the opportunity to listen to Dodson speak at a church planter’s meeting here in Omaha. His talk was on the failure of the missional church. What we have nowadays is the fusion of missional church values with traditional/institutional church structures. How do we adapt our church methodologies with the changing times, technology and culture, while not jettisoning our doctrine and mission so we can be effective in reaching, serving and pastoring people? It was a brilliant talk. I don’t think what Dodson had in mind with his talk would be applied to my situation as an Online Campus Pastor, but listening to him speak was one of many confirmations about the new role I was about to accept.
Twitter, Blog, Podcast, Austin City Life
5. Bill Hybels (Senior Pastor, Willow Creek Community Church) – This year’s Leadership Summit was phenomenal, and Hybels is synonymous with the event. His message was once again brilliant, but the Summit was all-around great this year. It had a tremendous impact on my life, and two of the spakers from this year’s Summit are reasons why. (I will get to them.) Beyond Leadership Summit, Hybels continues on the upward trajectory of life, family and ministry. I like seeing that.
Twitter, Podcast, Willow Creek Community Church
4. Steven Furtick (Lead Pastor, Elevation Church) – I have a post in the works about Furtick. For now, I’ll just say I’ve been pleasantly surprised how much I’ve come to appreciate and respect his life and work. He handled himself with aplomb at The Elephant Room and at Leadership Summit. I now subscribe to his message podcast. God has used him to grow me, but not in the way you may think. (Like I said, a post is forthcoming.)
Twitter, WWW, Facebook, Podcast, Elevation Church
3. Dave Weaver – It was an eighteen minute talk at TEDx Omaha. He was the first speaker. It may have been lost amidst some of the ideas, and noise, of the rest of the day, but it was a great talk. The RID Project. Every day, for an entire year, Dave got rid of something in his life and documented it. As he puts it, “Getting rid of the things you don’t care about to discover the things you do care about.” At the time, it had been roughly a year since I heard Joshua Becker talk about minimalism. Weaver’s talk reinvigorated me with minimalism, and I decided to do my own version of The RID Project. It is fun.
2. Mama Maggie Gobran (Founder and CEO, Stephen’s Children) – Her story of walking away from her life of privilege to work with homeless children, that live amongst trash, in Cairo, Egypt, was a dose of reality. It had me looking at my own life and wondering what was I tangibly doing to help in matters of social justice. Her talk was another thing God used to get me more involved with social justice.
1. Timothy Keller (Senior Pastor, Redeemer Presbyterian) – Just for authoring Generous Justice would have him in this spot. Yet there is so much more. Christ has used Keller to refine my thinking. In one of the epicenters of American thinking and culture (New York City) that runs counter to aspects of the Bible, Keller is having tremendous impact. His experiences inform and help me because of some of the circles I am in here in Omaha. With the platform he has, he is a brilliant example of Jesus and Christianity to the world. When I am in my early 60’s, I hope to have a degree of influence and impact that Keller has at the moment. I listen to his podcast, and download other teachings he gives. Listening to them is part of my commute. I’ve been impacted by his work, but his book Generous Justice pierced me this year. Jesus used it as a catalyst to change my life and to help a community.
WWW, Podcast, Redeemer Presbyterian