Follow the steps of good men instead, and stay on the paths of the righteous. (Proverbs 2:20)
Relate: One of the first “real” books I read after I got out of college was Christ and Culture by Richard Niebuhr. It forced me to evaluate how I view the interaction between God and the world. it also got me on a serious neo-orthodox kick. I started reading pretty much I could get my hands on from Richard and Reinhold Niebuhr, Karl Barth, Emil Brunner, and Paul Tillich. For the next few years these guys became my mentors. One man from that generation seemed to rise to the top not only because of what he wrote but because of how he lived and died. Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his magnum opus: The Cost of Discipleship also rose to the top of my most influential books list.
A combination of poor work habits, warped priorities, and crippling debts sent me on what I now call my time of purgatory. First in Houston TX, then Springfield MO (which was a beautiful time in many other ways) and finally in Long Island, I was on a downhill spiral emotionally and spiritually. One bright light that kept meeting me where I was and probably kept me from becoming far worse was the existentialist works of Soren Kierkegaard, especially Fear and Trembling. I can’t read today’s reading of Abraham and Isaac without the multifaceted thoughts of SK coming fresh to mind again. He makes it so real.
Once back in Binghamton and working my way through some healing and restoration, I discovered the works of Thomas Merton. His work No Man Is An Island is one of the three books that have shaped the most important part of my life. The other two are Prayer by Richard Foster and The Hour That Changes the World by Dick Eastman. It is that last book along with All In by Mark Batterson that had the greatest impact on me being here, in Istanbul, Turkey.
React: So there you have it. Outside the Bible, these are the seven books that have had the greatest impact on who I am today. These men are seven of my mentors and I would recommend everything that any of them have written. There is a lot of talk about the mentor/disciple relationship. This is a very good thing. An absolutely crucial part of the Christian walk is to have a healthy mentor/disciple relationship. Each of us should have someone who we are learning from as we follow Jesus. Each of us should also have someone we are mentoring. This isn’t optional, it is a Biblical command over and over again in the epistles.
Beyond that we need to be intentional in who our other influencers are. Who we listen to, what we watch, and what we are reading can and should be spiritual mentors helping us draw closer and closer to God as well. I could have mentioned the pastors whose podcasts I listen to: Chris Hodges, Rick Bezet, Perry Noble, and Steven Furtick. (Will Hampton, when you get off youtube and finally get a real podcast I’ll be adding you to the top of this list.) I could mention what music I listen to: Jesus Culture, Bethel, Hillsong, United, Shane & Shane, etc. The fact is, every relationship, every form of media that bombards us is influencing us for good or evil. Some of those we can’t help. I don’t have much control over who my coworkers, neighbors, and family are. I can only hope that I am being the light I need to be to them. What I can control are those one way mentoring relationships. I don’t influence the actors on TV, but they are influencing me. Is it for good? I don’t influence the authors I read, but they are influencing me. Is it for good? What about you? Who are your literary mentors? What books have best shaped your life and how?
God, I am so grateful for the “great cloud of witnesses” who have walked this journey of following You before me. I am so grateful for those You have placed in my life who have mentored and counseled and taught me and for those You have given me an opportunity to mentor as well. Beyond that, I am grateful for those who have set spiritual wisdom to paper, or who have stood behind a microphone to share Your truth with the world. Help me to learn what You would have me learn from the best of them. Help me to be intentional and wise in choosing these mentors.