A friend of mine is working on a paper for some class she’s in. The paper’s point is to list the ten people the writer of the paper thinks have been most influential in “church history” from 100 AD up until today. Being a Bible College paper, there are some names she pretty much has to use or it looks like she hasn’t been listening, whether she wants to include those name or not, ha ha. But since I’m not a student in that class, I’m able to pick people who aren’t listed in the syllabus…so I’m going to do that, just for fun. Here’s my ten, in no particular order of influence.
- John Calvin. — I am by no means a Calvinist…but there’s no denying Calvin’s impact on the church. He’s most famous for talking about predestination (as it applies to Heaven). Entire church movements are named after him. You’ll find Calvinists in pretty much every denomination (including the “non-denominational” churches). His impact was huge.
- Jacobus Arminius. — Calvin’s counterpart. He was vocal in voicing the other side of the story, arguing staunchly against three of Calvin’s “five-principles,” most notably registering his strong disagreement with the concept of predestination. Pretty much, in this day and age you’re either a Calvinist or an Arminianist, even if you don’t know those names. Can’t have a list like this that includes Calvin without also including Arminius.
- Barton W. Stone. — I am part of the “Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement.” Barton W. Stone is the “Stone” in that… (Though it is worth noting that any of the men involved would be shocked and offended to know that a religious movement had been named after them, thereby causing most of us to simplify it to “Restoration Movement.”) You may notice as you get further down that I do not include anyone by the name of Campbell. That’s mostly because there were two Campbells (a father and son) and I forget which is which, but also because I only really feel it necessary to have one representative of the early days of the Restoration Movement on hereand Stone fits the bill as well as either those guys. Stone is most famous for describing the plan of salvation in five steps, using the fingers on one’s hand to remember them. So…there’s your representative for my (more-or-less) “tradition.” 🙂
- Mother Teresa. — I mean…come on. It’s Mother Teresa. I don’t need to tell you of her personal sacrifice and life’s work. I’m not sure where she stands in respect to the rulebook, but if the Catholics don’t make her a Saint, I’m sure God will of His own accord.
- Pope John Paul II. — (I had to resist the urge to add “Electric Boogaloo” to his name, there.) John Paul II was an amazing Pope and man. I’m not Catholic and don’t really put much theological credence on what the Pope says…but John Paul II lived an amazing life of faith and devotion to helping people. Apart from having been the only Pope to widely acknowledge and apologize for the Catholic apathy to the Holocaust (thereby admitting that Holy Mother Church had MADE A MISTAKE!), John Paul went out of his way to serve people. A Pope is supposed to be protected by armed guards at all times. However, John Paul would often sneak out in the middle of the night, dressed in plain clothes and do benevolence work, usually not identifying himself as Pope. He was an amazing, progressive leader the likes of which I’m not sure the Catholic Church will ever see again. We need people like John Paul II, regardless of with which religion or denomination he affiliates himself.
- James Dobson. — Let me state this upfront… I do not like James Dobson. I find him personally objectionable on almost all levels. I think his treatment of any version of a family that does not meet his “focus” criteria is shameful. I think his abuse of the pulpit to spread a political agenda is inexcusable. I think the fact that he and his “Focus on the Family” cronies have organized picketing at funerals (for God’s sake!) is damnable. I think his haircut is stupid. I think his suits are cheap. I don’t like the person he is, nor the media notoriety that he has attained in recent years…and that’s exactly why he’s on this list. Anyone who can stir up that much trouble is certainly note-worthy. And let’s face it, if not for the black sheep, we wouldn’t recognize The Lamb. In that sense, church history owes Mr. Dobson a huge debt. He shows us Jesus every day by giving us a living example of what He would NOT do. …but he did write some good books in the 80s and 90s. I’ll give him that. (Sorry to anyone that offends…but it wouldn’t be my blog if I didn’t express my opinion. To be fair, there are some issues on which I agree with Mr. Dobson…but the man has done some things that I just can’t get over and for which he has never even attempted repentance. If it helps, I’m sure he wouldn’t like me much, either—and rightly so.)
- Billy Graham. — I have some minor theological issues with Billy Graham’s teachings…but name me one person over the age of about 18 who hasn’t heard of him. He’s made a HUGE impact on the church via his “crusades” and has taken the Gospel to countless people. Whether or not I always agree with his methods, what he does works on a massive scale, and I respect that. Countless lives have been changed via the “crusades” (which is really a terrible word in the post-9/11 world, I guess…but right on…) and his work will be talked about for generations to come.
- Martin Luther. — Okay…someone would have led reform and nailed a thing to a door if Martin Luther hadn’t done it…but he did it. He’s pretty much responsible for all of the non-Catholic faiths existing today, which though it may be a mixed blessing in some respects, is certainly historically HUGE.
- Constantine…or any of the “church fathers.” Whatever…take your pick. One of them needs to be here, and I like his name.
- Lottie Moon. — As any good Baptist will tell you, she was a pioneer in missionary work, having spent about 40 years ministering to the Chinese (in the late 1800s, mostly). She’s pretty much responsible for the Baptist church having a solid foundation for sending out missionaries because of her unprecedented work (I mean…a female, Baptist, church-leading missionary in the 1800s? Whodathunkit?), and to this day the Baptist Church takes up annual donations to the Lottie Moon Fund, named for her. A true missionary pioneer.
So that’s my ten…one really noticeable exclusion that many would argue is Martin Luther King, Jr. I have limitless respect for Dr. King and I recognise his work in the church, especially in turning blacks toward Christianity and away from the Muslims…but I mostly think of him as a political figure. If it makes you feel any better, I only bumped him because I felt like I needed a “church father” on the list…so don’t blame me. Blame Constantine. 🙂
If I were able to add someone I personally know, by the way, it’d be Larry Doggett. I had the pleasure of serving alongside Larry when I worked at Ferguson Christian Church. I continue working with him today (but not there or in the same capacity). He’s a good man…but he was also a missionary (along with his wife, Nancy) in the Congo for about 25 years. They paved some MAJOR way for mission work in Africa, and if nothing else are notable for having brought the FIRST printing press into the Congo. They survived wars, invasions, any number of personal crises, plane-crashes…you name it. The only reason the Doggetts aren’t in the history books is because they don’t particularly WANT to be. But, if we’re talking about walking, talking, living representatives of Christ, Larry and Nancy rank pretty high on my list. (They’ve also left a legacy of their work, now having children and grand-children who are grown adults, active on the mission field doing pretty much the same work they were doing 25 years ago.)
- The re-mix of Pearl Jam’s “Ten.” I’ve gotta say, I prefer the old mix (which the band has always thought sounded “too 80s”). The new mix brings out a LOT of mistakes and inconsistencies. Apparently, there’s a reason they had so much reverb on the first release. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a completely passable mix…but I don’t think I would have fallen quite as supernaturally in love with this version as I did the original mix in the 90s. Sounds more like a rough-mix that they didn’t have time to properly “treat” and just sent out for mastering. I’m not saying that’s bad…I’m just saying that’s what it sounds like. 🙂