Mentors, Friends, and Luminaries

What kind of influencer are you? There is a great deal of talk today about being an influencer. Social Media has provided a financial forum for some individuals to capitalize on their ability to influence others. They may make a lot of money but let me suggest that their lifetime impact on the lives of others will be minimal. There is a difference between influencing and transforming.

I woke up one morning at about 4:00 am and had an overwhelming sense of how blessed I have been by those men and women who have poured themselves into my life. As I thought about these individuals in those early hours, it became apparent to me that there are four kinds of influencers that have fueled transformation in my life:

  1. Individuals who intentionally mentored me in some area of life.
  2. Friends & colleagues who peer-mentored me as we worked together.
  3. Authors whose wisdom and knowledge influenced me through their writing.
  4. Individuals whom I passed on what I received from the three previous groups.

I am sure many in all four groups will never know the extent they have impacted my life.  Previously, I have written about my eighth-grade math teacher, Mrs. Brown, and several other educators who challenged me to grow beyond my own self-imposed limits.  As I wrote this blog, it became obvious to me that who I am today is the result of the input others have had in my life. I am totally indebted to each of these groups of people. I am blessed because I have had the privilege of individuals serving as models, mentors, friends, and confidants, who guided me in becoming the person I wanted or needed to be. When I failed, as I so often did, they continued to point me forward rather than condemn where I had fallen short.

Let’s lay it on the table that my parents and wife Mary Kay surely had a dramatic impact on who I am today, but for this post, they aren’t the subject.

Intentionally seeking others to impact me began after a visiting professor at Michigan challenged me to find a much older person (close to retirement) whose life expressed what I desired and simply ask them what they did to become who they were. Since then, I have done this in many and varied ways. It began during my last two years of college. I had four individuals: Bob Peabody, Chuck Heater, Jeff Spahn, and Kurt Kampe, take a lot of time and effort in guiding me in the basics of a relationship with Christ. All of them were roommates at one time, and the trajectory of my life was changed forever.  What a privilege!

As I reflected on the first group of individuals who intentionally invested in me to become the person God desired for my life, I came up with this abbreviated list:

Name                                     Age              Role of impact
Ernie & Lenora Walters     22-26             Spiritual priorities of life
Don Loomer                       22-30             Spiritual, Disciple Making & Pastoral
Dave Grubbs                       26-30             Preaching, Leadership
Frank Tillapaugh                28-32              Pastoring, Leadership
Chuck Singletary               32-45              Church Planting, Disciple Making & Catalytic
Reggie McNeal                  45-55              Leadership, Catalytic
John Boedeker                   45-55              Leadership, Heart
Paul Borden                        46-62             Leadership, Church models
Al Ells                                   46-present    Leadership, Spiritual/Mental Health, & Marriage

Almost all of these were formal and intentional relationships, where the mentor and I clearly knew what I was seeking to become through their life. It is dangerous to make a list because some individuals are left off the list accidentally or, by my memory, recall flaws.  However, I hope this gives a general sense of the number and roles of influence that others intentionally played in my life. As you will notice, often, the years overlapped. Each person brought a different component of growth to my life. They were all very different. Some I paid money for, and some I didn’t. Some started through fees and then developed into an informal non-paid relationship.

They all modeled for me characteristics that they attempted to manifest in my life. None of these people were perfect, but I had so much to learn from each of them. I am a combination of all their attributes, behaviors, wisdom, and perspective. I shared something different with each of them; for some, it was a personality trait. For others, it was a philosophy of ministry, while still others, it was a desire for personal health or a combination of the three. However different these influencers were, they each brought about a deep transformation in my life.

The second group is composed of those whom I would consider peers, friends, or colleagues that spoke into my life for a season or two. These peer-mentors are those I worked with side by side. They opened their lives to me in a way as we worked together. Their attitudes, hearts, thoughts, and behaviors became a part of my essence without notice or special attention. I didn’t know it at the time, but now as I look back, I can see that their lives dramatically influenced and transformed me.

I listed the names of over thirty of individuals in this category as I reflected on this group. These influencers are those individuals whose personal lives intertwined with mine from beside me. Some worked with me at General Motors or taught with me at The University of Central Florida and Warner University.  Others were on staff with me at the three churches I had the privilege of serving.  Some were pastors I have worked beside here in Florida; others were staff and colleagues while I was State Pastor for Florida Church of God Ministries, Healthy Growing Churches, and Healthy Growing Leaders. 

As I reviewed the list, I found it interesting that these individuals were divided between men and women, Anglo, African American, and Hispanic, and across every age group from their early twenties to late eighties.

The third group of individuals who influenced me did so from a distance through their writings. Though I never met any of them personally, I have read deeply and widely about individuals across ancient and modern times. I have read thousands of books by hundreds of authors. I have read books from many different faiths and topics as diverse as quantum mechanics to psychology, statistics to spiritual formation. Though I have been challenged in my thinking by all of the authors in this third group, a subset has worked a deeper life change. These are the few whose works I have read across most of their books written and whose faith spurred me on. People like:

  • David Seamans
  • Gordon MacDonald
  • CS Lewis
  • JB Phillips
  • Bobby Clinton
  • Edwin Friedman
  • Eugene Peterson
  • Dallas Willard

have impacted my life by causing me to make shifts in thinking, ministry, or personal habits over a long span of life. Obviously, there have been so many authors whose one book caused me to think differently, but these few caused major paradigm shifts in my life.  And I am not done…

The fourth and final groups include those in whom I have intentionally invested my life into.  These are those that I tried to invest in people, what others had so graciously given me.  This is my kids, grandchildren, students taught, small groups led, premarital couples, congregants who endured my preaching, clients served, and individuals who have learned from my videos or read my posts. As anyone knows who has mentored others, I often received more than I would have ever dreamed possible. 

My perspective is so biased and limited on this fourth group.  This is where I must trust my Lord.  I am intentionally devoted to my family.  I am intentionally devoted to those in my small group right now.  I am intentionally devoted to those on my HGL team right now. I will be intentionally faithful in the little things and trust my impact on others to Him.

As I reflect on each of these four groups of influencers in my life, there were less than ten in the first group, thirty to forty in the second group, hundreds in the third group, and I have no clue how many in the fourth group.






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