Sunday, November 10 is my birthday. I will be 56 years old. It’s safe to say that I’m beyond midlife, not quite to twilight, but at that place where I’m seriously “numbering my days” (Psalm 90:12). It’s been a good life thus far; I’ve been quite blessed, way beyond what any person deserves. And while I have no regrets if God called me home right now, I still think that there are greater contributions yet to be made for my family, my church, and the Kingdom of God on earth. What I am very grateful for, in this moment, are the people who have invested in my life over the years: my mentors. Where would I be without them?
Last week I shared my top ten “saints” who are now in the heavenly realm. Today, I just want to say thank you to ten people (or couples) – still alive – who have poured into my life; some of them over many years, some for just that strategic moment. It’s risky to just stop at ten because there have been many more than that. And I’m not going to count family or my close friends, whose impact on my life would be difficult to recollect because of the myriad of ways we’ve experienced life together. And I’m not going to include my music mentors or teachers because that’s a whole ‘nother universe to look at.
These are mentors in my spiritual and ministry life. Some of them are pretty big names in some circles and some are obscure – probably known only to a small group of people. But all of them have big hearts and have been examples of godliness and humility to me. They are in chronological order from my distant past (which is increasingly becoming more “distant”) to most current:
1. Orvil and Eloa Kroeker – actually, I’m not sure if they are still alive on earth or if they are in the Lord’s presence. These were my neighbors who lived across the street from my house where I grew up as a kid and teenager. They constantly invited me to VBS, Pioneer Boys, and their church. They taught me a lot about Jesus and God. But even more important, I saw Jesus in them. I seriously wonder if I would have become a Christ-follower without them.
2. Larry Liggett – was my youth group leader in High School. I think he was from Oklahoma because he has a twang wider than a Mack truck. But, man, did he teach me so much about Jesus and how to live for Him! I met him as a brand new believer at 16. By the time I left for college I was on fire for the Lord! Jesus was the “match,” and Larry was the “kerosene.”
3. Rich and Ed Hong – Rich was the InterVarsity staff worker at USC during my undergrad years. Ed was his younger brother (a year older than me). We were roommates for a couple of those years. Rich taught me inductive Bible Study, Quiet Time, and ministry leadership. Ed showed me how to experience God personally through prayer, reflection, and journaling. They both exposed me to great authors of the faith: Lewis, Tolkien, Bonhoeffer, J.I. Packer (actually got to meet him), and John Stott.
4. Bob Logan – was my first pastor after college. I can’t say enough about Bob, who is still my mentor to this day (30 years later). I think to summarize, Bob taught me to “practically” take God at His Word, what the Bible calls “faith.” Through Bob, I experienced traction in transformation: in my finances, my time, and in my character. Bob also infused in me a “mentoring/coaching” mindset, as well as a multiplication orientation to the expansion of the Kingdom. Bob continues to equip leaders, churches, and denominations worldwide through “Logan Leadership.”
5. Byron Spradlin – mentored me in worship leading. As the Pastor of Worship at CBC, he gave me opportunities to grow as a worship leader. He was the first to teach me that worship was more than just the music or the service. He also modeled to me how to lead a ministry with integrity, vision, and love for the people who serve with me. Byron now leads a worldwide missions/arts network, “Artists in Christian Testimony.”
6. Clyde Hodson and Ed Carey – we were all associates together on staff at CBC. Clyde taught me how to become an intercessor in prayer. We must have prayed a thousand hours together in our six-year partnership. And we saw God do amazing things during that time. Ed taught me “reality in ministry:” how to deal with needy people, how to navigate church politics, how to bring change and vision. Clyde and Ed showed me the two sides of the same “Kingdom of God” coin.
7. Richard Foster – OK, I’m not name dropping (maybe a little … LOL!), but one of the most powerful times of my life was around the 2 year period (1993-94) that I was around Richard. I took his two week intensive at Azusa Pacific and I actually led worship for him at a Renovare Conference. But he opened my eyes to spiritual formation and to the varied approaches and practices of Christian spirituality throughout history. God began to go deep into my life, thanks to Richard.
9. Neil Cole – when I left CBC to plant a church, God connected me (thanks to Bob Logan) to Neil. What started as a new church incubator became the Organic Church Greenhouse. Neil coached me as I started The Fountain Chapels (we started about 20 organic house churches within a six year period). Neil radically changed my view of the Church, the power of the Gospel, and how the Kingdom of God operates. Neil is also global, having catalyzed a world-wide organic church multiplication movement.
10. Ruth Haley Barton – I’ve only known Ruth personally for less than a year, but her impact on my life has been nothing less than remarkable. When I first read, “Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership,” the resonance was profound. Her integration of spiritual formation to life is the most “spot-on” assessment I’ve ever encountered. And now, through being in her Transforming Community, I am reading her mentors (Richard Rohr, David Benner, Robert Mulholland). I am encountering God in ways I never thought possible; and I’m finding my soul, as well.
11. Rob Acker – OK, so I can’t count to ten! But I have to include Rob (whose birthday is tomorrow, Nov. 9th) because he has been the biggest sponsor in my life. He has given me numerous opportunities to lead, teach, preach, and start ministries. We have a great partnership in ministry at CBC, which over 25 years has grown through the crucible of various trials and misunderstandings resulting in powerful reconciliation and alliance. As Senior Pastor, I’ve learned to trust his leadership and his decisions. As his worship pastor, he seriously listens to my perspective – as crazy as I can be sometimes. It’s a beautiful dance, even if we step on each other’s toes every now and then.
Well, this has gone longer than most of my blogs. Thanks for letting me reminisce. It helps me to give thanks to God for all the amazing people he’s brought into my life. Hopefully, this will jog your memory to give thanks for the people God’s brought into your life. He’s so good!