Men Of Influence
© 4.27.05 By D. Eric Williams
Every man is a man of influence to some extent. He may be a power for good or for ill, but most men have a sphere of influence wherein they have enough clout to shape someone’s life to one degree or another. Normally that is within a man’s own household. In my own experience there were a number of individuals of influence who had a hand in shaping my worldview.
My parents were born again in the mid 1960’s when I was in grade school. One of the first things they did was pull my siblings and I out of the public school system and enroll us in a private Christian school. As a result, most of my education took place in the context of a “conservative Christian” day school.1 One might think that I emerged from that experience with a firm theological foundation and a well developed Christian world view. Yet, that wasn’t the case. I was spared the anti-God world view of the public system (thank God), but the Christian school I attended really didn’t provide me with much of a theological education. Admittedly, part of the problem was that as a youngster I had little interest in things academic; my world revolved around basketball in those days. It wasn’t until I was married that my theological education began in earnest.
Realizing that I was ill-equipped to provide proper leadership to my wife and (future), children, I began to study the Bible with genuine attention soon after my marriage. I also embarked on a reading program in the early 80’s that I continued for nearly twenty years. By the late 1980’s my theological foundation was firmly in place, but I continued to read a minimum of one “solid” book each week (this excluded fiction or any other reading done purely for entertainment), until my ministry “career” was placed on hold for a few years in late 1998. After that I no longer kept track of my reading; there wasn’t much to keep track of - until the last two or three years anyway.
The reading program that shaped my theology and world view found its beginnings in a book list that Ern Baxter published in the late 70’s or early 80’s. Although Ern was a pioneer in the Charismatic movement and part of the driving force behind the Discipleship movement2, the list he published was dominated by Reformed and puritan writers. Before long, I left the Baxter list behind as I began to read more widely within the context of Reformed thought. I read John Calvin, Richard Baxter, Benjamin B. Warfield and Charles Hodge early in my quest, but I also “discovered” a number of modern writers that contributed to my education.
One of the “modern writers” was Gary North. Throughout this period it was my practice to read from several books each day. There were times when nearly every book on my “current” shelf was a tome written by North.3 In addition to writing dozens of books himself, North published the work of other writers; David Chilton, Ken Gentry, Gary DeMar, Greg Bahnsen – each of these men also played a part in my theological instruction.
Now, it may seem that the greatest men of influence in my life were distant figures - authors of books or preachers of sermons with whom I had no personal relationship. Yet, the fact is that, like most men, the man who wielded the greatest influence in my life was my Father, Dave Williams.
At 6’7” and nearly 300 pounds my Father has always had a commanding physical presence. Yet his character impacted my life far more than his titanic size. My earliest memories are those of a man of towering strength who stooped to serve others. He was an elder in the Church of my youth and although he was never an accomplished writer or speaker, his passion for Christ and his unwavering commitment to the Gospel provided a bulwark of strength to our local fellowship that no one else could have supplied. Yes he was "able to teach" as an elder should be and he taught well. Nevertheless, it was his teaching done without words that carried the greatest weight.
As my theological knowledge increased I, in my youthful folly, began to consider his lack of interest in the “deeper things” of doctrine a weakness. Later I came to realize my error; alarmed at my arrogance, I have strived to add to my own life that better part of Christ-likeness which my Father modeled so well.
My Father taught me that we don’t need to write books nor preach stirring sermons to be men of influence. What we need to do is to express Jesus Christ to those around us. I’m not suggesting that we neglect theology; it is important – and if God has gifted you with an interest and talent in the area of academic study then you are required to pursue it. Nevertheless, as Paul says, “if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know” (1 Cor. 8:2). All the theological knowledge in the world is useless without the servant attitude of Christ. My Dad has taught this truth consistently for nearly forty years. I have no doubt that when the roll is called up yonder that there will be many who take the time to shake my Dad’s hand and thank him for the example he provided to them in this life. I also have no doubt that my hunger to be evermore like Jesus stems primarily from the influence of my Father.
So, if you want to be a man of influence look no further than your own living room. Moreover, if you want your influence to have eternal consequence, it is imperative that you model Christ-likeness to your wife and children (and anyone else within your sway). I’m not saying that you should neglect your studies – of course not. I’m not saying that my Father neglected the study of God’s Word either. No, I’m saying that Dad got his priorities straight. Go and do likewise.