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Late last year, I wrote a blog post titled “Your Podcast Is Not Your Pastor,” prompted by this comment from Russell Moore:

When I am talking to young evangelicals, often who are in ministry, and I say, “Who has been really influential upon you in ministry and on learning to preach and to do the things of ministry?” ten years ago, most people would have given me the name of a local pastor who had mentored them and worked with them. Now they are mentioning a disembodied voice that they have heard on a podcast. That’s a very dangerous thing…

The feedback from that post got me thinking about the men who have been most influential in shepherding me through different stages of my life. Here is a list of six pastors and what they’ve taught me.

1. Bob Kelley – Pastor Passionately

Until I was nine, my family belonged to a prominent independent Baptist church. Bro. Kelley was our preacher. When I trusted Christ on a Saturday morning, Bob Kelley was the man I called to tell the good news. I still remember his excitement on the other end of the line. A few years later, he baptized me.

The one thing that stood out to me about Bob Kelley was his passion. He was fiery in the pulpit, holding up the Bible and then giving every bit of his energy toward proclaiming it persuasively. He pounded. He yelled. He wept. He called for repentance. I didn’t always understand his messages, but I was never bored.

The big impression he left on me was that what we’re doing here is important. It’s life or death. It’s serious business. Not all pastors express passion the same way as Bob Kelley. But all of us should be passionate. And that’s something Bob Kelley got right. (Click here for some of his “lessons learned from a gospel preacher.”)

2. Ken Polk – Pastor Textually 

From the time I was nine years old until I left for Romania at 19, I belonged to a church where the pastor preached expository sermons every week. We started as a church plant meeting in a high school cafeteria and over the next decade grew into a church of 1,000. Careful, expository, text-focused sermons were part of that journey. I remember the first (and second) time Bro. Ken took us through the Gospel of John. I still remember his 1 Corinthians series and his sermons from Judges.

I cannot calculate the formative influence that Bro. Ken’s preaching had on my life. For 10 years, I listened to Bro. Ken preach. Ten years. Fifty weeks a year. Two times a week. That’s 1,000 sermons.

It’s no wonder that today I approach the text in much the same manner that he does, looking to discover what’s there, not invent what’s not. I see Christ in the Scriptures because he showed me Christ was there. I respect the Bible because of the way he always made the purpose of the text more prominent than the personality of the messenger. From Bro. Ken, I learned that there is no substitute for pastoring textually. The Scriptures are at the heart of pastoral ministry.

3. Rick Iglesias – Pastor Personally

The years I spent doing mission work in Romania were formative in so many ways. Yet there was a lingering loneliness that set in from time to time, the sense that you don’t quite fit in anywhere anymore – whether back home or on the field.

Pastor Rick visited our campus once or twice a year and led retreats for my college class up in the mountains. He impacted us because he cared about us. He wrote e-mails. He called from time to time. Always seeking to be an encouragement.

As the years in Romania went by, it was easy to feel forgotten by the rest of the world. But Rick remembered.

From Rick, I learned the power of personal contact. Just being there. Another pastor friend on the journey with you. (Click here for an interview I did with Rick a few years ago.)

4. Ted Traylor – Pastor Missionally

Another pastor who made an impact on me during my Romania years was Ted Traylor. I was in my first year of studying theology when Bro. Ted first visited the campus. Our group benefited from several classes with him.

I remember thinking then, What kind of pastor is this who, even though he has a large church to tend to in the States, would come all the way to Romania to pour himself into young Romanian seminary students? Every year after that, Bro. Ted returned. In 2005, he spoke at my class’s graduation.

Ted Traylor is passionate about the next generation. He loves the church. And he has the heart of a missionary. As long as the Lord has given me the privilege to know him, I have seen a missional heartbeat in Ted Traylor’s life and ministry.

Bro. Ted is also passionately devoted to fulfilling the Great Commission in his own city. He’s both a local and global kind of guy. And he has provided a wonderful example of a pastor with Great Commission focus.

5. Florin Trifan – Pastor Prayerfully

My father-in-law recently retired from pastoring two village churches. But during my time in Romania, I saw him in action.

If there’s any word that would characterize Florin Trifan’s approach to pastoring, it would be prayerful. Bro. Trifan is a constant pray-er. Always stopping to thank the Lord for His blessings. Always asking for the Spirit’s power to do God’s will. We pray together over Skype every week even now.

Bro. Trifan has been a good pastoral example in a variety of ways, but the biggest impact he has made on me is his relentless focus on the necessity and power of prayer in the pastor’s life. (Click here to see the testimony of how Pastor Trifan moved from Communism to Christianity.)

6. Kevin Minchey – Pastor Caringly

Along with Ken Polk, Kevin Minchey has had the biggest influence on my life. Kevin is a mentor at heart.

When I was on staff with him, Kevin didn’t only model care and concern for others, he instructed me on how to do the same. For years, I watched Kevin shepherd people, love on them when they were down, rebuke them when necessary, and cast a vision for the kingdom that pushed all of us out of our comfort zones.

For me personally, I was able to see up close the labor of love it is when a pastor chooses willingly to share others’ burdens and to walk through crises and trials. The pastoral wisdom, grace, and care on display in his life and ministry have taught me things that books could never capture. I’m thankful he cared for me. And I hope to shepherd others the same way.

What about you? Who are some pastors who have influenced your life and ministry?

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5 thoughts on “6 Pastors Who Have Influenced Me”

  1. Karen B. says:

    Trevin, this is a great post. I appreciate your concern about an increasing tendency to view those whose teachings we only hear / read from afar as being important “pastors” to us in terms of how they shape our lives.

    A pastor, almost by definition, needs to be someone whose authority we are under or whom we are in relationship with – someone who can correct and discipline us if needed.

    And yet, I think many of us would attest to the very significant role of various pastors, teachers, authors in shaping our lives and ministries through their teaching ministries. Perhaps the better word to use in describing such long-distance / impersonal relationships is a kind of “distance-mentoring.”

    For instance, I would count Elisabeth Elliot as one who has been a powerful mentor in my life over the years through her books. I have met her in person once at a conference many years ago, but it has been her books that have most shaped my life as a single woman and overseas worker and given me some foundational principles for my ministry.

    Once upon a time (before the days of widespread internet access and podcasts) I wrote a short article on how authors and books can have a role in forming and mentoring us, and certain criteria that make a book a good tool for such mentoring (for instance the author’s transparency in struggles and in sharing biographical details), but that is stored on another computer I don’t have access to this morning.

    Any thoughts on how to distinguish between “pastoring” and such impersonal “distance-mentoring?” Any lessons or examples from Scripture you can think of that would help in making this distinction?

    Thanks for your blog, it is a real source of encouragement, inspiration, and lots of useful resources.

  2. Jason says:

    1. H. Edwin Young – My family belonged to Houston’s Second Baptist Church when I was born, so I was raised under the teaching of Dr. Young. Since I have been listening to his preaching for over 33 years, I am left with many impressions from him. But I believe his best gift is personal, one-on-one, evangelism; he is gifted in that area. Our church has grown and been through many seasons, but Dr. Young remains faithful to Jesus, the Bible and his “mission statement” – which is simply the Great Commission.

    2. J. Kie Bowman – When I ventured off to The University of Texas at Austin I landed at Hyde Park Baptist Church. Dr. Bowman had just accepted the senior pastor position and his enthusiasm was contagious. From my years under Dr. Bowman I took away the lesson of God’s sovereignty in all things. Anyone who hears Dr. Bowman preach will come away knowing that Bowman believes in an all-powerful supreme God of our universe.

    3. D. Brandon Wright – Wright is now the preaching pastor at CrossRoad Church in Georgetown, IN, but he was on staff at as the Minister of Evangelism at Hyde Park Baptist Church when I met him. Because we were close in age we had more of a friendship than a typical pastor/member relationship. It was Wright who directed my love of reading/studying to the Bible and to Reformed theology. Wright encouraged me to study the Scriptures in my efforts to learn apologetics, theology and evangelism. Although I’d read the Bible many times in my life, Wright focused a new found energy the Lord had given me.

    4. Dave Riggle – Riggle is on staff at Second Baptist Church in Houston. After college I came back to Houston and reunited with the church in which I had grown up. Riggle was over the youth ministry when I was a youth, led a small study group I attended, taught a singles Bible study class when I was single, officiated my wedding and is available. Riggle has shown me humility more than any other pastor I have ever seen. He is a giant of a servant and very busy, but he always has time to help, serve, listen, etc.

  3. Tony says:

    Funny. Most if not all of the apostle Paul’s mentoring was long distance. Letters…their version of podcast.

    1. Probably long distance following a pre-existent face to face relationship.

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Trevin Wax

​Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher at LifeWay Christian Resources and managing editor of The Gospel Project. You can follow him on Twitter or receive blog posts via email. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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