Most Influential Ministers in My Life

This week while listening to a podcast I heard the following statement: “You are the sum of the five people closest to you.” I thought it was interesting thought and it got me to thinking of the ministers who have influenced how I minister. So here’s a list of the ministers who I believe have most influenced how I minister.

  • Mike Nuss – Mike was Pam’s and my campus minister when we were working on our undergraduate degrees at the University of South Alabama (Go Jags!). Mike is the type of minister that you would name your child after because of the influence he had on your life. Pam and I didn’t but he seriously is that type of minister. Mike taught me a lot of things but probably the most important lesson that I learned from him was that ministry involves equipping and enabling others to serve. Mike was a background guy. He was the one getting others to do things that they didn’t think they could do. I don’t really remember him doing anything “upfront”, though I am sure he did. He was always getting other involved in ministry. Obviously this is still true because Mike is now the head of Baptist campus ministries for the state of Alabama. College was almost 30 years ago for me and I still quote Mike in many of my conversations concerning ministry. Mike & Judy’s relationship have also influenced much of how ministry works within Pam’s and my relationship. Judy supported Mike’s ministry, and was involved in the student ministry, but she didn’t have to be at everything he did because had a different calling. She wasn’t ministry lagniappe that arrived just for hiring Mike.  She was, and is, her own person with her on gifting and call. So maybe the name on this point should have read “Mike & Judy Nuss”.
  • Rochelle Davis – Rochelle was the first pastor that I worked with as a youth minister, even if it was only for Summer. The Summer after my Freshmen year of college I went to Detroit and served for the Summer at the Temple of Faith Baptist Church. Rochelle taught me a lot about want it meant to be a pastor who cares for issues of justice and also to fall in love with whatever is true in the culture in which you live while confronting what is false. So much of what I do on a daily basis comes back to being a Summer youth minister at a black Baptist church in inner-city Detroit. This is also a shout out once again to Mike Nuss because I went to Detroit because of Mike.
  • Frank Morrow – Frank was the third pastor I worked with as a youth minister at the First Baptist Church of Covington, Texas. This was in the smallest town that Pam and I have ever lived in, around 150 people. Nobody cared if Frank was a good preacher or not because he was probably the best servant I have ever been around. “Hey the city of Covington needs some work, let’s organize a community day of service.” If there was a need to be met Frank was making sure it was being met. Old mister big stick himself Theodore Roosevelt said “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” I’ve often heard this used in reference to preaching. Frank lived it out. Frank could have stumbled through ever message he ever preached and nobody would have cared because he undoubtedly had been super busy during the week caring for the people of our community.
  • Kevin McCallon – Kevin was the second pastor that I ever worked with as a youth minister at Grove Hill Baptist Church. I only worked with him around a year so his influence isn’t day to day ministry. He was a very good pastor but his influence on me really comes down to one thing he said to me. One day he told me that ministry could either be the easiest job I ever had or the most difficult and I was the one who determined which it would be. I could go and play golf with the deacon once or twice a week and visit the “important” people every now and then and basically float through the rest of the week. Many ministers do this and they have nice cushy jobs with plenty of prestige. The other option was that I could allow Jesus to show me all that needs to be done and all that needs to be challenged. This option would lead to more trouble but a better ministry. There would never be enough hours or hands for the work, and there would always be something else to do or someone to visit. I had to choose which the job would be. I had to learn to add a focus on Sabbath to this but Kevin’s statement still influences me.
  • Paul Swadley – Paul was a long term interim pastor at First Baptist Carthage when I was there. Paul was probably one of the happiest people I have ever met. Seriously the guy smiled all the time. Of course, that smile had a strong amount of determination and grit that went with it. Paul used his time at First Baptist Carthage to take a healthy church and make it even better. He didn’t coast. He pushed forward. His year and a half at FBC Carthage was the best of my 6 years there. His preaching showed a great deal of love for the people he was preaching too. That love involved him calling out sin when he saw it because he believe that the sin was destructive to the people he loved. He did this, as he did everything, with a smile on his face and a great deal of love and grace for the people he was with.

There are other people I could throw into this mix like Pat Lee (who taught me a lot about delegating to others, she ran the best college Sunday School department I’ve ever seen), Andy & Elisabeth Leininger (who taught me a ton about missions and following your calling – the auctioning of all their worldly goods, including their dog, before they went on mission is a lesson that has stuck with me, in addition to teaching me to think creatively about culture and the gospel),My “suitemates” at Parkview Baptist Church in Baton Rouge (Jess, Meg, Alan, Clint, and Josh – I judge how effect ministry teams are based on y’al),  Bill Pruitt (who may well be the second-best pastor as a servant I’ve ever seen – Sorry but Frank wins first), and others. There have also been a few bad examples, who I won’t name, whom I wouldn’t trust Pam’s cats with, as well as a few bad mistakes (some doozies) that I learned from from some of the very same people I have mentioned as good examples. I am the ministerial sum of so many of these men and women, and for them I am thankful.

SIDE NOTE – the image associated with this post is of Billy Sunday who is not one of the ministers who has shaped how I minister.

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