Relevant Magazine has a great article up about favorite theologians that has me thinking.
The premise of the article is that people tend to follow a person more than a theology. We may struggle to fully grasp Calvinism but we can look to John Piper to get a living example of how it plays out. Many of you have questions about how to live more simply and generously so you look to Francis Chan or David Platt as embodiments of these ideals.
We tend to lean on the examples of theologians/pastors/authors/bloggers more than we do on the cold hard facts of theology. Or as the article puts it..
We align ourselves with theologians instead of theologies because they are warmer, friendlier and actually personify a complicated idea. We can use them as easy references—accessing their books, podcasts, websites and seminars. And even though we don’t always have an authentic relationship with them (most people have never met their favorite theologian), they present themselves—and their ideas—in a relational manner.
And this got me thinking about my favorite theologians – the people I look to in life to “personify a complicated idea.” These men have shaped the man I am. My heroes.
When trying to answer the question “What would Jesus do?” I often ask “What would Jon, Billy, Wess and Brian do?”
I met Jon ages ago after we moved to the Nashville area. Today he pastors a church movement that began in New York City. Jon’s a smart guy, reads fat books without pictures constantly. He’s a gifted speaker too, but it’s his vulnerability and teachability that have shaped me most.
When my brain broke a while back, Jon was one of the people who walked me through those dark days by phone and in person. He flew in fter I made it through the worst of it, to share his own similar struggles with me, to counsel me on how to make the most of the scars, to detail how pain shapes our understanding of ourselves and others and God.
And Jon taught me how his own pain transformed him into a “sensible charismatic”. I guess you could call me one of those too now.
When I’m not sure how to counsel those in pain or how to make sense of my own, I ask myself, “What would Jon do?”
Today, Billy helps churches learn how to be churches. And he was the first one to teach me how to spend time with Jesus. It’s something I honestly didn’t invest much time on until I was married and Billy was our Sunday school teacher. We met weekly for a couple years to learn how to spend time with God.
Billy calls it “abiding” because in John 15 Jesus tells us to abide in Him because apart from Him we can do nothing. But what is abiding and how do I do it?
When I lose my way I ask myself “What would Billy do?”
Wess is the president of Compassion International. I was able to spend a week in Ethiopia with Wess in 2007 and it was there that I learned important aspects of leadership for the first time: Inspiring others with enthusiasm and joy. Noticing the beleaguered and filling them up with encouragement. Telling stories again and again that teach what the organization does, why it does it, and what it values along the way. Serving, serving, serving. Spending time with Wess is a master class in pastoring – not just leadership – for anyone who’s paying attention.
And in a dark time Wess spoke potent words, telling me about his own, and how he’s navigated them with God. He believed God had a plan when I didn’t believe in God – I lived off that belief.
And when I’ve been wrong (it happens), Wess has kindly told me so in a way that expressed his seriousness and even a little disappointment but also his love for me and confidence that I could be better. Wess has a way of teaching, leading, correcting that doesn’t feel like leadership. It feels like relationship.
When I don’t know how to go about correcting someone’s or something’s course effectively and gently I ask “What would Wess do?”
Brian is my brother-in-law and much more. He’s worn lots of ministry hats over the years but today he manages relationships between Compassion and various artists in much the same way I connect with bloggers on behalf of Compassion. But the job he does best is fathering.
I really struggle as a parent. I’m not as patient and intentional as I’d like to be. I find it harder to lead those inside my house than those outside. So, thank God, Brian will always parent the next stage of life three years before I will so I can copy! Brian has never once butted in to tell me how to parent my kids, but by his example I’ve learned how to father an emotional tween girl, to teach boys how to treat women, to handle chores and allowance, to punish without spanking, to parent an adopted child, to have conversation with kids, to play.
When I’m stuck in my parenting (and usually wracked with worry over it) I ask “What would Brian do?”
Now it’s your turn. Who are the best theologians in your life? Who personifies the complicated for you?