I learned an important lesson many years ago: to be successful in a particular endeavor, learn from those who have been successful in the same endeavor.
For example, I don’t seek parenting advice from folks with no children.
I don’t seek financial advice from people who are serving prison terms for tax evasion.
You get the idea.
Follow, and learn from, people who are where you want to be in life. Follow successful people.
Having said that, I offer a quick list of the people whom I admire, respect, and learn greatly from. This is not an exhaustive list; just the top 13 made it. And please note: this is a list of theologians/pastors. I have different folks I follow re: leadership, church growth, missions, etc. So here you go, and I hope you find this helpful.
1. Tim Keller Website: http://www.redeemer.com/ Podcast: Yes
Keller is pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC; if you want to be challenged, stretched, and intellectually stimulated, Keller is your guy. A straight-up theological heavyweight, Keller leads a church that is biblically grounded and mission-focused. His The Reason for God is a book I re-read on a regular basis.
2. Michael Horton Website: http://www.whitehorseinn.org/ Podcast: Yes
Mike Horton has been my theological grounding point for a number of years, and I listen to the podcast of the White Horse Inn frequently in my travels. His writings have greatly influenced my view of scripture, especially regarding the synthesis of Old and New Testaments. Horton and his team hold a high regard of scripture, much like Luther and the reformers, with whom they hold a deep affinity.
3. Matt Chandler Website: http://theresurgence.com/authors/matt-chandler Podcast: Yes
Chandler is not everyone’s cup of tea; he is articulate, driven, and boldly passionate. He has an amazing personal testimony, and lives and breathes the preaching of the Gospel. If you need a biblically-drenched personal wake-up call, Matt is your man.
4. Andy Stanley Website: http://www.northpoint.org/ Podcast: Yes
Andy leads a very large, multi-site church in metro Atlanta, and is often criticized for not being ‘biblical’ enough (which I think is unfair). As his latest book, Deep & Wide, makes clear, Northpoint Church is targeting a specific audience; what God has accomplished at Northpoint cannot be ignored, and Andy and staff continue to create (and re-create) a ‘church that unchurched people love to attend.’ His teachings fall into a more practical application category. Great communicator.
5. John Piper Website: http://www.desiringgod.org/ Podcast: Yes
I consider Piper the pulpit polar opposite of Andy Stanley; Piper hammers scripture home for 45 minutes straight. And that’s a good thing. Piper is best known for his book Desiring God, an important theological work in my spiritual upbringing. His concept of Christian hedonism is frequently mis-understood, but Piper remains an evangelical giant as he nears the end of his active ministry.
6. John Stott Website: http://us.langham.org/ Podcast: No
Stott remains a voice I return to again and again; his is a voice of simplicity, reason, and deep theological roots. A gentle Scot, Stott died in 2011, but his legacy lives on. His The Cross of Christ is one of the underpinnings of my theological house. We don’t agree on everything (his views on hell have long been debated), but I have always longed to be able to communicate the Gospel with his clarity and conviction. One of my heroes.
7. Sinclair Ferguson Website and other resources: http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/bio/ferguson.html
Ferguson’s The Holy Spirit remains, to me, the best introduction to a very difficult subject. Take Ferguson’s podcast with you as you travel; his Scottish accent will make you want to move to Edinburgh. One of the un-sung heroes in Christian circles. A true gem.
8. Henri Nouwen Website and other resources: http://www.henrinouwen.org/
Nouwen has long been a favorite of mine, not only for his gentle life of service, but for his total transparency. He deals with tough subjects in a biblical, practical way. If you find yourself dealing with loss and grief, Nouwen is a good place to find some solace. Not widely embraced by evangelicals, his is still a voice that needs to be heard.
9. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Website and other resources: http://www.dbonhoeffer.org/
A German theologian, pastor, and martyr (among many other things), Bonhoeffer has profoundly influenced my thinking as regards the role of the Christian, and more specifically the role of the pastor, in the world. His The Cost of Discipleship remains one of the best-selling (and most influential) Christian texts of the 20th century. Prepare to be challenged. Life Together should also be required reading for all believers.
10. C.S. Lewis Website and other resources: http://www.cslewis.org/
Known today more for his allegorical writings (Chronicles of Narnia), Lewis has left us a library full of Christian apologetics, the most popular of which is Mere Christianity. Like Nouwen, Lewis was not afraid to tackle the issues of life: death, suffering, pain, loss, etc. A witty intellectual, Lewis will challenge the way you live your mere Christian life.
11. Fredrick Buechner Website and other resources: http://frederickbuechner.com/
It’s hard to summarize Buechner; let’s just say his writings might jostle your settled beliefs. A Presbyterian minister, Buechner covers the edges of theology and faith. Most of us don’t like living on the edges, so I find it helpful to keep Buechner in rotation to keep me from getting too stale.
12. D.A. Carson Website and other resources: http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/bio/dacarson.html
Don Carson is quickly becoming the theologian I turn to first when exploring difficult subjects. His ‘For the Love of God’ daily devotional email is superb, and you can subscribe here. Learned and lucid, Carson stands head and shoulders above most others. Where Buechner covers the edges, Carson stands firmly in the center.
And the Grand-daddy of them all…
13. Jonathan Edwards Website and other resources: http://edwards.yale.edu/
Edwards has always held top honors in my book, not only for his glorious (and glory-filled) theology, but for his example as a pastor and father. Often caricatured as a ‘the spider dangling over hell’ guy, Edwards was the father of American revivalism, and had a far deeper and wider theology than he is given credit for. A tough read, but worth it.
Others, old and new, you may find helpful:
John Calvin, John Wesley, Martin Luther, Kevin DeYoung, G.K. Chesterton, Mark Driscoll, James MacDonald, Tim Challies, Spurgeon, Rick Warren, N.T. Wright, Augustine, Lesslie Newbigin, Alvin Plantinga, Timothy Laniak, Hans Kung, and so many more…
I intentionally listen to theologians/pastors who run the gamut from conservative to liberal; I believe it dangerous to only listen to people with whom I agree. That can become a dangerously (and dangerous) tightly-focused theology. Did I mention dangerous?
I also did not include popular Christian authors, like Osteen, Yancey, Lucado, etc.; not because I have an aversion to them, but because that was not the focus of this list.
Check these folks out, and seek out their podcasts on iTunes. Learn from others. Listen.
I’m not an expert, but I’m learning from those who are. Happy reading and listening! Peace…Pastor Greg
*Picture credit to theresurgence.com*
Who did I leave out?