As a seminary student and eventual church planter/pastor/etc., I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the men who most inluence[ed] my thinking, my theology, and my standard for preaching. Below is my Top 10 living, breathing, and mostly functional preachers in order of the influence they’ve had on my Christian life.

1. Paul Washer

   Washer is the Founder/Director & Missions Coordinator of HeartCry Missionary Society and also a Southern Baptist itinerant preacher/evangelist.

   At a time where I was really needing to develop a passion for Christ and His gospel after years of spinning my wheels as a casual church-goer, it was this man’s emotional, raw, fire and brimstone preaching that painted such a vivid picture of Christ to me that I could no longer ignore Him.

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2. John Piper

   Piper is the founder of Desiring God Ministries as well as having served as Pastor for Preaching and Vision of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota for 33 years.

   Around the same time I discovered Paul Washer, I also discovered a number of Reformed preachers, including John Piper. Through his bizarre quirkiness and passionate delivery, I found Piper almost impossible to pass-up on my weeknight walks with my preaching podcasts.

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3. Greg Laurie

   Once hailed as the “next Billy Graham”, Laurie serves as Senior Pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California and Harvest Orange County in Irvine, California. He also heads-up several large-scale evangelical gatherings each years known as Harvest Crusades.

   Greg Laurie just appeals to me. It’s as simple as that. He speaks in a simple, relatable way that people from every walk of life can easily understand. He’s also a former hippie and illustrator.

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4. Todd Friel

   Friel is the host of both WRETCHED Radio and WRETCHED TV, as well as the former host of Way of the Master Radio.

   Through these programs Todd Friel helped to refine my theology. He’s also super amusing as both a former stand-up comedian and massive germaphobe.

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5. Mark Driscoll

   Driscoll is the founder and current preaching pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington, co-founder of Churches Helping Churches and the Acts 29 Network.

   Often viewed as controversial, Driscoll is far from perfect. But darn it, his preaching is really good! Maybe I’m a jerk, but I relate to the guy. We need some macho men.

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6. Matt Chandler

   Chandler is the lead pastor of teaching at The Village Church in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and the President of the Acts 29 Network.

   What’s not to love about Matt Chandler? He’s sound, he’s witty, and he’s completely ADHD. If he could harness the energy in his hands he could power the entire Dallas/Ft. Worth are weeks.

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7. John MacArthur

   MacArthur is the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, the founder of the radio ministry Grace To You, and president of The Master’s College in Newhall, California and The Master’s Seminary in Sun Valley, California.

   Odds are, Johnny Mac makes everybody’s list. In recent times he’s appealed slightly less to me, but no one can argue his influence and accomplishments in evangelicalism.

   On a side note, I was a little disappointed to find out how short he is. I always assumed he was massive for some reason. Probably because he’s the Evangelical Pope.

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8. Ray Comfort

   Comfort is the founder of Living Waters Publications and The Way of the Master. He is also known to be one of today’s boldest street evangelists.

   Ray has guts. That’s why I like Ray Comfort. He’s got a cool accent, nerves of steel, and knows his Bible. He also hangs out with Kirk Cameron.

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9. Billy Graham

   C’mon… really? I’m pretty sure you know who Billy Graham is. Whether you or I agree with his theology, one thing is certain. God used him throughout his ministry in a powerful way!

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10. Pancho Juarez

   Juarez is the pastor of Calvary Chapel Montebello in California and the founder of On the Level Media.

   You’ve never heard of him, I know. But the guy call peel apart layers of scripture like few can. Not bad for a man who for a former God-hating, schizophrenic tattoo artist.

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   What about you? Amongst living preachers/pastors/evangelists, who has most help shape your theology? Comment and let me know!

   Goodbye, goodbye, good friends, goodbye, ’cause now it’s time to go. But, hey, I say, well, that’s okay, ’cause we’ll see you very soon, I know.

   It’s funny how you can be so sure that you’re right about something and then God decides to bonk you on the head and show you that you’re not nearly as smart as you think you are.

   Two years ago this month we moved to Kansas City with very little certainty. The only thing I knew for sure was where we would attend church. This came following a number of phone calls with the pastor of said church who was the exact type of pastor, in the exact type of church, with the exact type of doctrinal stance I was looking for. Rigid, traditional, and Calvinistic to the core. If I was certain of one thing, it was that this church was exactly what we, as a family, and me, as a seminary student needed. No nonsense. No frills. No topical sermons. No contemporary music. No programs. Yes… this was it.

   Perhaps for a while I was right. They embraced us and the pastor took an interest in me and my studies. All was well. That is, until I announced that the Lord had called us into a ministry of church planting.

   Things soured quickly.

   Church planting, in the mind of that pastor was not a valid ministry. It was a gimmick intended to harm established churches. I was told that I needed to forget this calling and take over the pulpit from him once he retired. Thanks, but no thanks.

   Not only did things sour between him and myself, but things began to sour within me. I found myself loathing even walking in the door. I was disinterested in the sermons and had a heart unable and unwilling to worship during the hymns. I also had a problem. My family loved the church and did not want to leave.

   In retrospect I’m glad at the time they didn’t, because things needed dealt with.

   In the meantime, my buddy Tim and I embarked on what would become known as Ben & Tim’s Not My Church Tour. It was these adventures that helped initiate a change in me. For the first time I was able to see and experience worship in ways that I had always bemoaned as trite and insincere. Moreover, I was able to see how wrong I had been! From churches in parking garages to ornate Cathedrals, I saw people who’s hearts were truly full of the love of Christ and who worshiped Him not out of obligation, but out of gratefulness and joy. We witnessed everything from Catholic Mass to upbeat Pentecostalism to hipsters trying to live out their rock n’ roll dreams by way of songs by Matt Maher, David Crowder, and Matt Redman. But each had one thing in common (doctrinal differences aside)… they were all sincere in their worship of God.

   Knowing that I was lacking this worshipful heart made me sad. Sincerely sad. I knew a change had to come.

   Finally I did what I should have done much earlier. I made amends with my pastor. I explained that his statements were hurtful and that I disagreed with him, but I was no longer angry and I still loved him and was grateful to him for all he had done for my family and I. For the first time in months we had a good, heartfelt talk that day.

   Almost immediately, the Lord seemed to show me that He was finally happy that I’d stopped being an arrogant, jaded, knot-head and did the right thing by opening the door to transition into a new church. A church so far removed from what I wanted when we moved to Kansas City that they almost seemed to be different entities altogether.

   In January of 2012 I was happy with nothing less than a traditional church in a traditional church building with classically reverent hymns (on your choice of piano or organ), a pastor who held tight to the Doctrines of Grace (five points of Calvinism) and was rarely seen without a pressed suit and tie, and sermons preached from Ye Olde Authorized King James Bible (which I still like, mind you). Now however, in January of 2014 I find myself in a very non-traditional church which meets in a dance studio (although there are stained glass windows, so that’s cool), dies neither on the hill of Calvinism nor Arminianism, has a worship band with both contemporary music and electric instruments, a dress code that essentially asks that you please wear clothes of some sort, and that doesn’t believe that all non-KJV Bible translations are penned by the hand of the devil. And you know what..? I noted this past Sunday that I was finally truly, sincerely, humbly, and exuberantly worshipful!

   God is so much smarter than me.

   In closing, if you would like to read more about Ben & Tim’s Not My Church Tour, go here: http://benjaminsdennis.tumblr.com/

   Also, if you would like to visit my new church, go here for info: http://www.legacychurchkc.org/

   Farewell humanity and Godspeed.

 

   Being that I’ve only recently returned to the world of self-promotional blogging, I feel that it’s only fitting to introduce myself in a way that other forms of social media tend to fail in. However, to make it fun, here’s what I’m going to do: I will list eleven things about myself. One of these things will be a lie. I repeat, ONLY one. It is up to you, the reader, to discern which one. Shall we begin?

  1. From an early age I had a burning desire to become a member of the R.C.M.P. (Royal Canadian Mounted Police). It was not until 3rd grade that I was told that in order to do so I would have to become a Canadian citizen and learn to ride a horse (the latter of which I can do to some feeble degree).
  2. I was once sitting on a sofa that was lit ablaze without my knowing. It was upholstered in what appeared to be green polyester and became nothing short of a roaring inferno in mere seconds. No, this was not indoors. I’m from the Ozarks where outdoor furnishing is not uncommon.
  3. I met my wife as a direct result of professional wrestling and frankly, I was annoyed that she kept showing-up with her brother on “Man Night”. Nearly 15 years of marriage later I have learned to forgive her.
  4. Several friends and I used to play a game where we would lay across the hood of a 1985 Plymouth Reliant and hang-on for dear life as it was driven by another irresponsible teen down a stretch of poorly maintained dirt road. The objective of the driver was to shake the person off of the hood. Many times we ended-up lying bloody and battered in the ditch. Mercifully, none of us were ever ran over. Again, this was the Ozarks.
  5. I have tinkered and toyed with the idea of becoming a professional comic book illustrator for much of my life. For various reasons I’ve never really given it my full effort, but if ever I do (which I won’t), I have over 40 original characters in my arsenal to choose from.
  6. I have an unnatural fear of amputation and amputees.
  7. In high school, some classmates and I engaged in a project wherein we fabricated a band in the vein of Spinal Tap and created a “Rockumentary” to introduce them as well as post fliers and such to promote a concert that would take place free, for all students on a particular date. Ultimately, students did not realize that the whole thing was a sham, done strictly for a grade, and showed-up for the aforementioned concert, which was not to be. That, coupled with some of our song titles and lyrical content made for an unhappy administration.
  8. In keeping with my would-be careers that never quite panned-out. After high school I had every intention to pursue a career as a professional wrestler. I got as far as finding-out how “fake” it actually was before heading home to lick my wounds and formulate a new career directive.
  9. In the late 1980’s I was imprisoned in an abandoned mine shaft by members of the lackluster Hair Metal band White Lion. I only survived because I was able to use my enchanted harp to summon a team of Pegasi (more than one Pegasus) to lift me to safety.
  10. I have more useless knowledge in the matters of pro wrestling, Doctor Who, and Rock N’ Roll than any ten nerds rightly should.
  11. In the year 2000 I worked for a local grocery establishment as a stock person. On a certain Tuesday afternoon with the store teeming with elderly women, I squatted to pick-up a flat of canned beans and my cheaply-made belt snapped. Startled, I stood-up quickly, however my pants chose not to come along for the ride. I garnered far more attention that day than I ever desired from the geriatric community.

   There you have it. Which is the lie? Comment below!

   Good night and remember…Tell the world. Tell this to everybody, wherever they are. Watch the skies everywhere. Keep looking. Keep watching the skies.

 

   As I mentioned in my last post, I’m just not a very good Southern Baptist. Or, more accurately, I’m not a very good Southern Baptist according to SBC tradition.

   One of what could potentially be many examples of this is my view on consuming alcohol. You know… booze, the hooch, firewater, the sauce, aqua vitae, the hard stuff. Frankly, I see no proof that the Bible condemns drinking such adult beverages.

   Sure, people have their arguments about wine in the Bible having a lower alcohol content or people diluting it with water. Sure. Maybe. Honestly I have my doubts, but that’s not the point. The fact is, I cannot find enough evidence to take the same hardline stance against alcohol consumption that the SBC historically has.

   To clarify, I am not talking about getting poo-faced or drinking until your armpits smell like gin. I’m talking about a drink after work with friends, a glass of wine with dinner, or a beer (or two) at the ballpark (although you may need to take out a loan to purchase said beers). Naturally these scenarios do not apply to lightweights that start seeing flying pink elephants and singing Cher karaoke after one PBR. We’re referring to grown-ups here.

   So what’s with the SBC’s stance then? Well, the fact is there wasn’t always such a stance. For that matter, alcohol consumption was nothing less that common amongst Christians for most of Christian history. Some of the iconic figures of alcohol innovation were indeed Christians, including clergy. So, what changed?

   In the early half of the 1800’s there was a little thing called the Temperance Movement that basically tried to rid society of booze as a whole. It was actually quite effective, at least in limiting the sale and transport of alcohol. From this came Teetotalism, which was a full abstinence from any and all alcoholic beverages. It was this mindset that infiltrated several denominations, although many soon lost their gusto for it. But not the good ol’ Southern Baptist Convention. The SBC officially denounced strong drink in 1896 (with the order to excommunicate anyone known to imbibe or sell any form of libation) and have largely held onto the stance ever since.

   What’s my angle? I really don’t have one from a personal perspective. I’ve never been much of a drinker. I’ve historically been a fan of a shot of tequila (no salt or lime, please and thank you) or whiskey here and there, but that’s about it. I suppose if I have an angle, it’s this: We in the SBC have, for far too long, used the Bible to support a stance that the Bible simply does not support, and that needs to change.

FACT: The Bible does not condemn the responsible, moderate consumption of alcohol.

FACT: The Bible does strongly condemn drunkenness. Numerous times.

   That, in my opinion should be our stance, otherwise we’re sort of just being legalistic jerk-bags who people just roll their eyes at. What about you? What do you think? Comment and let me know.

   Good night, Westley. Good work. Sleep well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.Image

 

 

  

It’s a peculiar thing, one’s theology. It’s the means by which we know and understand the God of the universe. Yet, even though He is NEVER changing, my theology seems to be EVER changing.

So, here is a short and far from exhaustive list of the things I’ve learned since the Spring semester of 2012 that have helped to mold my theology. When you hear the chime, turn the page…

  1. Though having spent the majority of my life as a Southern Baptist and currently attending a Southern Baptist seminary, I am very likely the worst Southern Baptist in the history of the convention. When referencing the term in your thesaurus, you will find my name under “antonyms”. It’s not even that I’m opposed to SBC polity and standards. I simply just stink at being Southern Baptist. Don’t even get me started on the Teetotalism thing… (look it up kids).
  2. I’ve played on both teams, but now who’s jersey do I wear? I was raised in a very Arminian church and in recent years have waved the flag of a 5-point Calvinist, but now I’m neither. Or I’m a lesser degree of both. I’m not sure. There’s a good chance I’m a Molinist… (look it up kids).
  3. Contrary to what I’ve always been taught, I don’t believe Southern Baptists have an exclusive stake on Heavenly real estate. Though not explicitly taught it, I would now gladly stand with any member of any denomination with a right understanding of Christian essentials. These would essentially be summed-up in the 5 Solas of the Protestant Reformation… (look it up kids).
  4. It’s okay to be a little charismatic, even if John MacArthur disagrees. Within reason. Nothing too weird.
  5. The Authorized King James Bible was not handed down by angels on a golden thread to be the only reliable source of God’s communication to us. Mind you, I like the KJV. I really do. However, let it be said that any pastor preaching from a biblical translation (not paraphrase) in modern language is not necessarily apostate.
  6. Women can be deacons. It turns out it was in the Bible the whole time. Who knew? Although it should be stated that a clear understanding of the intended definition of the office of deacon should be applied here.
  7. We cannot expect the lost to come to us. We must go to them. Kinda makes sense. Why would a lost person with no interest in religion casually stroll into a church on Sunday morning apart from a potluck?
  8. Hyper-Calvinists are mean and Hyper-Arminians really know nothing about the God they serve. Let me explain here before I get stoned by the masses. Hyper-Calvinists tend to show little concern for the lost by leaving salvation firmly in the sovereignty of God. Therefore they’re mean because they never personally show the love of Christ to anyone through evangelism. On the flip-side, Hyper-Arminians don’t know the true nature of God because they view salvation as a choice man makes with God merely waiting on the sidelines hoping they choose Him (like the fat kid in P.E. who really wants to play dodge ball).
  9. I have zero interest in a doctorate. At first I thought it would be cool to be Doctor Benjamin. However, after seeing the toll it takes on these poor men and women who commit years to earning the title of “Doctor”, I think I’ll pass.
  10. The “social gospel”, which I spent years bemoaning… is actually a part of THE Gospel! Ain’t that something? It turns out that while evangelism is our number one priority, we have a direct, irrefutable command to also feed the hungry, clothe the poor, care for the destitute, and love those who we so desperately want to hate. More on that it future posts.

So, that’s it for now. There’s so much more I could include, but then what would I have to write about later?

Sleep well planet Earth.

Once there was a young man who started a blog about moving from his home in Southern Missouri and against all good sense and on nothing more than faith, relocating his family to Kansas City for the purpose of heeding God’s call and attending seminary. As with all things, the young man took to his blog with gusto and determination to make it the best blog possible. Yet, in time, the blog was a distant memory with a log-in name he couldn’t remember and a password long forgotten. His blog, kindled and thoughtfully written from the young man’s passion for the communication of his faith and shared life experiences fell into the dark recesses of the internet abyss, never to be heard from or given much thought again. This is my life…

This is the life a mind swirling with obscure pop culture knowledge, half-read books, ideas for stories never to be written, and confused/confusing logic. This is the story of a young man with a history of statements said aloud that result in the hearer staring like a milk cow stares at an oncoming train in the night. This is indeed the story of me with my many quirks, idiosyncrasies, and eccentricities.

Come along for the ride. It could be a good time, or at the very least confusing.