Recently, I was listening to one of R.C. Sproul’s older teaching series Heroes of the Christian Faith. A few weeks later, I read Jeff Robinson’s excellent article “How to have Ministry Heroes without Plagiarizing Them”. That got me to thinking about the heroes in my life.
Growing up, my heroes tended to be sports figures. In baseball it was Mickey Mantle, in football it was O.J. Simpson and in basketball it was Wilt Chamberlain. Although these men achieved great things on the field or court, looking back at them now, their character left much to be desired (though Mantle did come to saving faith very late in his life). In high school my hero was Doug Collins, who played basketball at my hometown Illinois State University and would become an Olympic hero and the number one draft choice in the 1973 National Basketball Association draft.
One of the definitions of “hero” from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is “a person admired for achievements and noble qualities”. Robinson in his article states that “Scripture certainly gives warrant to have heroes, to study and emulate men and women of the faith whose lives are so marked by humble, courageous Christ-honoring character and grace-enabled skill in living the Christian life.”
Before looking at my heroes, I want to set some ground rules around people that I am not going to include. First, Jesus would be my top hero (of course). I’m also not going to include my parents, siblings, or my wife Tammy, though they would certainly make the list as well. Given those qualifications, here are people that I consider to be heroes in my life, some of which I know well, and some I don’t:
R.C. Sproul. As a new believer, I first began listening to cassette tapes from R.C. Sproul. His teaching was like a breath of fresh air. He had the rare ability to take difficult theological and philosophical topics and teach them in a way in which I could understand. He was a great communicator, who made his teaching not only informative, but interesting. Tammy and I were able to see him at many conferences over the years, before his death in 2017. I continue to listen to his teaching to this day, and consider him a spiritual mentor of mine.
Bob Smart. It’s easy to look up to someone whose books you read, or sermons you listen to online. It’s hard for a local pastor to compare with that. Bob Smart has been my pastor since December, 1994. During that time, he has faithfully preached through books of the Bible each Sunday, counseled many, taught classes and written books. He has also participated in both my mother’s and faither’s funerals, twenty-four years apart. He has been a faithful, loyal servant. Joni Eareckson Tada. You may be familiar with Joni’s story – at seventeen, she took a dive that left her as a quadriplegic, changing her life. Joni has told her story and influenced many through her many books and speaking and singing at conferences as well as through her ministry Joni and Friends. In his book J-Curve: Dying and Rising with Jesus in Everyday Life, Paul Miller writes “If we had Protestant saints, Joni would be one.” Amen to that.
Mel West. I reported to Mel twice early in my career. What he taught me helped form me as a servant leader. He was my career mentor, and was an early example for me on how to integrate your faith and work.
Albert Mohler. Mohler is the President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and host of The Briefing, which I listen to each weekday. He consistently contends for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3).
John MacArthur. MacArthur is the long-time pastor of Grace Community Church in California and teacher on the Grace to You radio program. Although he and R.C. Sproul disagreed on some issues (baptism, for example), Sproul indicated that it is MacArthur that he would want in a foxhole with him. He always stands for the biblical truth.
Scotty Smith. Scotty pulled me in with his first book Objects of His Affection, with his openness, honesty and transparency. In addition to enjoying all of his books, I had the pleasure of taking two classes with him at Covenant Seminary. I continue to be blessed by his daily prayers which arrive via email each morning.
Jane Reynolds. Jane is my mother-in-law, who I often jokingly refer to as my “favorite” mother in law. In turn, she calls me “one of” her favorite sons in law. Much like Joni, she has led a life of suffering from both physical and emotional pain. Numerous back surgeries have limited her for almost the entire time I’ve known her. Widowed for four years now, she continues to press on and is much loved by her family.
That’s my list of heroes. I could easily add people like John Piper, Adam Wainwright, Kurt Warner and Tony Dungy.
Who are some of your heroes?