Others have been musing about the most influential people of the past several decades in the life of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. I lack the breadth and depth of perspective to evaluate such determinations, but the lists of names have been interesting to me and thought-provoking. They have given me pause to consider the people who have been most influential in my own life. It seems appropriate to acknowledge my appreciation for some of those folks, and that is the purpose of the following list of "the most influential pastors in my life."
There are plenty of other influential people in my life who are not pastors, but I found it helpful to limit the scope of my considerations here. As a pastor myself, I have been most shaped in that vocation of mine by the men who have served me as pastors. What is more, because the defining work of the pastoral office is the preaching of the Gospel, these men who have served me as pastors have given me something uniquely significant, not only for my life here in time on earth, but unto the life everlasting. Of course, others have also spoken the Gospel to me, and the Lord continues to serve me through truly evangelical family and friends, for which I most grateful; but those people would comprise a different sort of list. Anyway, on this festival day of St. Matthew, the Apostle & Evangelist, it is fitting to remember with thanksgiving some of those men who follow in his train as shepherds under the Good Shepherd.
There are also plenty of other pastors in my life, a number of whom I count among my dearest friends and closest colleagues, but whom I have not listed here. It is simply the case that some of those who are most kindred spirits have not been as influential in shaping my life, precisely because we are so much alike to begin with. It is a good and pleasant thing to abide in unity with such brethren, but to identify all of them would be a different and more subjective sort of undertaking. The pastors I am listing below are men who have challenged me and helped me to grow in my faith and life, and especially in my own office as a pastor, in ways that I would not have experienced without them. I am thankful for that, not only for my own benefit, but for the sake of those I am called to serve.
Not all of these men have been my own pastors in the narrow sense. I've included some of my seminary professors, for example, as well as several key individuals from long before my life-time who have influenced me significantly through their writings and faithful example. I've also included friends and colleagues who, even as peers and brothers, have served me as fathers in Christ. All of these men have in common that they have given me Jesus, which is the best and most important thing that a pastor is given to do.
There are perhaps others who should have been included on this list, whom I have forgotten in my frailty, or whose influence I have not fully realized. With apologies for my weakness, I give thanks to God for those men, too.
"Remember those who led you, who spoke the Word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith" (Hebrews 13:7). Here, then, in alphabetical order, are 40 of the most influential pastors in my life:
Basil the Great
Cyril of Alexandria
Ignatius of Antioch
Arthur Carl Piepkorn
Polycarp of Smyrna
Don Stuckwisch, Sr.
Lord Jesus Christ, You have always given to Your Church on earth faithful shepherds to guide and feed Your flock. Make all pastors diligent to preach Your holy Word and administer Your means of grace, and grant Your people wisdom to follow in the way that leads to life eternal; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.