So, Jesus and the apostle Paul are givens and I am not one to offer super-spiritual thoughts in things like this. Here are my five biggest influences in the way I think and work.
#5 – P.T. Barnum
For all of his quirks, P.T. Barnum was probably the greatest showman and entrepreneur of American history. He knew what people wanted before they knew they wanted. Some of his skill was learned, but most of it was just innate. He gave an unbelievably hurt and broken nation a form of entertainment they had never imagined and changed the world around him with performers and presentations. He single handedly brought America into the global entertainment market.
#4 – Bill Bryson
A few years ago, my wife bought me a book as a birthday present. The book, A Walk in the Woods, was by an Iowan who had lived in England for twenty years and at the time lived in Hanover, New Hampshire. His name was Bill Bryson and he made me laugh – made me laugh so hard I fell out of bed. Since then, I have bought or traded for almost every book Bryson has written. Bryson has influenced my style of humor and writing more than anyone else I’ve ever encountered.
#3 – Donald Miller/Brian McLaren
I know, they’re not one person; but I read Blue Like Jazz and A New Kind of Christian back to back and I think of them as one book, even if they aren’t. The composite of these two writers gave me permission to pursue Christ as I am rather than becoming something distinctly ‘Christian’ to follow God. They catalyzed my faith and my ministry.
#2 – Michael Card
Michael Card is one of the best Bible teachers of our generation, and he is a staggering musician as well. While his style is not a popular one, he has taught me more in his music than I learned in Bible college. Every time he is in the area, I am there – in the front row if possible.
#1 – Rich Mullins
If there’s anything to be said about struggling faith, Rich Mullins said it and said it in meter. Good musicians are rare in Christianity, and good song writers are even more rare. Rich Mullins was both – more poet than theologian, with a heart’s longing for Christ that few Christians could ever lay claim to. My wife introduced me to him, and I own every CD of his work.