Over the years I have gained much from gifted men and women in the Body of Christ. I have come to see that what Paul describes in Ephesians 4 is in fact true. That spiritual growth abounds by receiving the ministry from the gifts God raises up.
There are some men and women that have impacted me in very deep and profound ways. Most of them are no longer alive. Fortunately much of what they ministered was recorded in the form of books and audio tapes. Many of these books and audios I consider to be some of my most precious possessions.
Here is a list of some of these ministers and what it was about their ministry that has impacted me the most (in no particular order).
Frank Viola: Organic Church, God’s Eternal Purpose.
Frank Viola has had a very significant impact on my life. In fact, it is through his ministry that I got introduced to many of the other ministers in this list. When I began the journey of meeting more simply with other believers, it was Viola’s work that helped me conceptualize what that could look like. Books like Finding Organic Church, Pagan Christianity, Reimagining Church, and God’s Favourite Place on Earth really gave me practical ways and scriptural foundations with which to practice church in simpler ways.
His podcast and blog posts were also extremely helpful in growing as a disciple of Jesus. Truths like the significance of the Cross, the centrality of Jesus, and the importance of reading the bible within its historical context were invaluable.
But the one truth that his work unveiled to me which has impacted me the most is that which relates to God’s Eternal Purpose. His book “From Eternity to Here” changed my life forever. It revealed to me the purpose of all of life and set me on a journey that has been centered on one captivating vision: that the lamb that was slain would have the reward of His suffering. That God would get what His heart has always desired. A Body, a Bride, A House, and a Family.
Watchman Nee: The Church and the Work
Watchman New is most well known for his simple way of explaining profound truths. Books like The Normal Christian Life and Sit, Walk, Stand have helped millions of Christians over the years to follow their Lord. Other books of his which I have also enjoyed greatly include Christ, The Sum Of All Spiritual Things, Spiritual Exercise, The Spiritual Man, and What Shall This Man Do?
Although I have gained much from Nee’s more popular work, it is his lesser known books that have impacted me the most. Although Watchman Nee had a wonderful way of nourishing believers with spiritual truths, he was also a prolific church planter. And as a church planter he spent many years learning how to work with churches and walk alongside other church planters.
During the some 30 years of his ministry he would often meet with other workers to fellowship about the churches and the work. During these times he would share both practically and scripturally that which he had learned about the Church and the Work. Fortunately some of those present had the mind to record this fellowship. Records that were later published in the form of books.
Those books, which have truly helped me the most regarding my understanding include, The Church and the Work, The Normal Christian Church Life, and Further Talks on the Church Life, to name a few. Nee’s fresh insights are truly profound as they bring together both theological clarity and practical understanding. Insights which can be attributed to a principle that he always lived and worked by, namely, testing all spiritual truths with experience before sharing it with others. Nee felt that until he had actually practically worked out spiritual truths in real life he had no right sharing them with others. Because of this, Nee’s work is filled with spiritual truth that is alive, practical and honest.
Witness Lee: Life
Witness Lee was a coworker of Watchman Nee. After Watchman Nee was sent to prison in communist China, Lee continued ministering in America.
Lee is probably most well known for his commentary of the entire bible in the Recovery Version, and his exposition of every book of bible known as the “Life Studies.” It was Lee’s view that God’s entire economy is based on dispensing himself into man. This is typified in the beginning of the Bible through the Tree if Life, which is a symbol illustrating God’s desire to impart His own life into man in the form of food. After losing access to God’s life through sin, Jesus came as the new Tree of Life, to grant access to man again. At the end of the Bible, in the book of Revelation, this principle is typified again by a Tree of Life which grows on both sides of the river of life.
What Lee does in his Life Studies is to show how each book of the Bible reveals, in different ways, how God desires to dispense himself into man. Other books like The Tree of Life, The Economy of God, The All Inclusive Christ, and so forth, also bring to light this marvelous reality in ways that are spiritually practical and biblically insightful.
Gene Edwards: the subjective experience of the Cross, the historical context of the New Testament
Edwards is a New Testament scholar that ministered in the latter part of the 20th century and early part of the 21st century. He planted churches and trained church planters. He is well known for his unique writing style that draws you in and brings truth to life in such a way that captivates your entire being.
One of his key goals was to bring the historical context of the new testament to life, and he does so amazingly in Revolution: The Story of the Early Church, and the follow up stories presented in the form of diaries written by Silas, Titus, Timothy, Priscilla, and Gaius. These fictional stories bring to life the historical context in truly magnificent ways, making it feel like you are right there with them in first century Palestine. If you have never read them I highly recommend you do.
In addition to wonderful works of historical fiction, Edwards also brings to life the experience of the cross in truly profound ways. Most Christians are well versed in their understanding of the objective experience of the Cross. The cross that Jesus died on for their sin. But not many are well accustomed with the subjective cross. The cross that the Father fashions for each of us to carry and die upon.
Jesus was clear that if you wanted to follow him you would need to pick up your own cross daily. In other words, you would need to die daily to your self, your flesh, and your selfish sinful nature. The problem is that we generally avoid topics and situations that involve pain, which dying on a cross certainly is. But yet, that is what God desires for each one of us. For it is the way he gets what he wants in us. He gets rid of our self life by killing it, and replaces it with his own resurrection life.
What Gene Edwards does in many of His books is bring to life the reality of the Cross in the lives of others in ways that are truly powerful. Books like A Tale of Three Kings, The Prisoner in the Third Cell, and Climb the Highest Mountain, are some of the most powerful I have ever read.
Michael Peters (Jesus Life Together): community life, absolute devotion to Jesus
Although he often writes with others, and does not add his name to his work, it is his conversational style of writing that helps one recognise his work. The work of Mike Peters and the saints who write for Jesus Life Together is often designed to exhort. To help believers come out of sin, apathy, and the self, and press on to love Jesus more absolutely.
There are a multitude of stories, emails, and books all with one purpose: to help believers love Jesus with everything that is within them. In addition, there are many audios that record conversational ministry times which expound further the realities of what wholehearted devotion looks like practically, and how to live this out in the context of close-knit community life.
In addition, I have appreciated some of the thoughts relating to a community life that is centered on relationship with one another and Jesus rather than on meetings and liturgy. An organic life that happens spontaneously and intentionally everyday we seek to allow Jesus to be the living head of His body. Books like Meetings in His Kingdom, and The Day of Small Beginnings were especially helpful.
Bill Freeman: oneness, the supplied life
What is unique about his written work is the many insightful explanations of the various Greek words used in the New Testament. Insights that reveal wonderful revelations about the deeper aspects of what the New Testament writers were trying to convey.
His audio messages have also been such a blessing to me and other believers that I have spent time with. I have witnessed the truths in his his audio series on The Supplied Life actually change people’s lives forever. Changed them from living the Christian life in their own strength to living it by the Lord’s life instead. It was truly magical to see.
But by far, the book that has had the most impact on me is one entitled “Our Common Oneness.” At the time of reading it I was searching the scriptures and seeking the Lord on the matter of oneness. The oneness of the Body of Christ and ALL believers. I was actually a little stuck in my pursuit because although I could see God’s desire for oneness to be expressed practically in the earth by all believers, I could not fathom how this could happen. That is, until I read this book. It opened my eyes to a higher vision of the oneness we have in Christ, and gave me practical handles to see it fleshed out in reality. I am truly grateful for the light that has shone into my heart through his work.
All his work is available free of charge in this Google Drive Folder.
Stephen Kaung: Christ in all the scriptures, God’s ways with his people.
Stephen Kaung was also a coworker of Watchman Nee in China until he moved to America at which point he also worked very closely with T-Austin Sparks. Certainly one of Kaung’s most significant contributions is his exposition of how Christ is revealed in every one of the books in the Bible, known as God has Spoken. The way Christ is hidden in the books of the Old Testament were particularly wonderful to see. The audio messages he spoke concerning this work can be downloaded free of charge.
Kaung’s absolute and tender love for the Lord can easily be noticed when listening to his audio messages. They ooze with the humble and reverent love of a man that was clearly sold out to the Lord. A man that spent his life loving the Lord and ministering to his people. You cannot help but feel more in awe of the Lord when listening to him speak.
Although Kaung delivered thousands of messages, of which hundreds of books have also been compiled, there is one book in particular that has had a great impact on me, namely, The Splendour of His Ways. This book takes a fresh look at the book of Job. Instead of commenting on the nature of suffering in an objective and outward way, Kaung looks at the story in a different way. He sees Job’s journey as a picture of God’s dealing with man to bring him into maturity. A way that involves using the sufferings of life to deal with man’s self in the mind, will, and emotions to the point that man transitions into living in his spirit in order to commune with God more intimately. It is truly a profound book with profound insights.
T-Austin Sparks: The centrality and of supremacy of Jesus Christ, the Testimony of the Church
T-Austin Sparks was a Birtish preacher and contemporary of Watchman Nee and Stephen Kaung. He ministered faithfully for many years all over the world, and particularly at the Honor Oak Baptist Fellowship in London.
Sparks was a prolific speaker and writer producing many volumes of books and audio tapes during his ministry. Although his work covers a myriad of topics there is one that runs like a golden thread throughout it all, namely, the Supremacy and Centrality of Jesus Christ… in the heart of God, in God’s economy, in the Church, the Earth, the believer, and the entire universe. You cannot help but see Christ as all and in all when savoring his work. No matter what he spoke or wrote about, Jesus Christ was always center and supreme. The foundation, the goal and the means.
If a golden thread could have two sides, then on the other side of the thread woven by Sparks would be that of the Testimony of the Church. This does not primarily refer to the believer’s history of coming to the Lord, or even how a believer portrays Christ towards unbelievers, but rather the purpose of the church in this world. Which, as unveiled by Sparks is something much higher than many believers have ever imagined.
Although I have not read many of His books, I have found that his work always sets me back on course. No matter what I read or listen to, it brings my focus back to the Lord Jesus and places him back as center and supreme in my life and pursuit. In addition it charges me with a a much higher vision and purpose regarding my place in God’s grand Testimony on the Earth. And for that I am eternally grateful.
Torben Sonengaard: preaching the gospel, making disciples
Torben Sonengaard is an evangelist from Denmark that started a ministry known as The Last Reformation. It is his view that we are entering the last reformation before the Lord returns. A reformation that will see the Church get up from its lethargy and begin to walk in the spirit-filled life of love and power that Jesus modeled while on Earth. A life that, as seen in the book of Acts, the disciples continued in after Jesus ascended.
Instead of only walking this way himself and drawing lots of crowds to himself, Sonengaard has made a point of teaching others to do the same. His ministry is centered on equipping believers to walk as Jesus did in everyday life. This could mean praying for the sick, sharing the gospel, baptizing people into Christ, setting people free from demonic oppression, or walking alongside other disciples in living daily unto the glory of God.
While his book, The Last Reformation sets out his thinking regarding these topics, it is his YouTube videos that are particularly inspiring and practical. In some videos he teaches, whereas in many others there are snippets of real time ministry situations where people are being baptised, or set free from demons, or healed of sicknesses.
I am personally grateful to his ministry for giving me the freedom to function in the gifts of power in ways that have brought life to people and made Jesus visible.
Shane Claiborne: The poor and oppressed
The poor and the oppressed have a very special place in God’s heart. These are people that live on the fringes of society and have in many ways been rejected and cast out. Usually because they do not meet the standards or expectations of society, due to illness, class, or some form of disadvantage or disability. People that often fall into this category include the poor, the homeless, and those addicted to drugs.
Today, there seems to be very little concern for the poor and the oppressed among God’s people. And when something is done for them it is usually in the form of a “ministry” that we can contribute money to, rather than getting to know them ourselves. This is not the heart of God at all. His heart is that the poor and the oppressed would be “with us.” (See Matthew 26:11)
The work of Shane Claiborne has really impacted me in a big way in this regard. His book The Irresistible Revolution helped me see just how important the poor and the oppressed are to God, and how clearly the scriptures reveal their place among us. They are not to be helped from afar with little scraps of food or coins, but instead God desires them to be drawn near. Drawn near to see His love for them as His people draws them near… into their homes, into their lives, and into their hearts. Shane really reveals the heart of God and unpacks ways in which we can enter into His love and care for the poor and the oppressed in practical ways. In ways that actually change us and help us grow in the love of God.
Another person who I have also gained from greatly in this regard is Heidi Baker. The way that she has allowed God’s love for the poor and oppressed to dwell in her has been an inspiration. If you read her books or watch any of her messages you cannot help but be filled with God’s great love, especially for those who society deems “unworthy” of it.
If you have never really entered into the heart of God for the poor and oppressed I highly recommend receiving from these ministries.
Andrew Murray: The Deeper Christian Life
Andrew Murray ministered in South Africa in the late 19th century. He had a great heart for Christian missions and went to great lengths to serve those under his care. One way in which he did this was to write. At the time, many of those under his care lived on farms and for this reason could not often meet with other Christians and were not easily reachable for visits. His solution to this problem was to write books and booklets that the believers could use to be nourished spiritually. In order to make it simple and easy to do, he often structured his books in the form of daily readers with small portions to read each day.
Some of the classic works include Abide in Christ, Humility, Absolute Surrender, With Christ in the School of Prayer, and, Waiting on God. What has had a major impact on my life is not one particular book, but rather Murray’s approach to life and the Lord. It is a spiritual approach which he unveils somewhat in his book The Deeper Christian Life. A concept which authors like Jeane Guyon and Brother Lawrence also wrote about, namely, a constant and intimate fellowship with the Lord.
The deeper Christian life is one that goes beyond the week to week rituals, religious practices, or church-related events. It values a daily, and even moment by moment awareness of the Lord’s indwelling presence. A constant inner communion and fellowship with the Lord. One that involves practices like calling on his name, turning your being to him, singing to him, speaking to him, surrendering to his leading, and listening to his voice. A moment by moment mutual indwelling if you will. A life that is lived with the Lord, rather than for the Lord. In the Lord, rather than about the Lord. A life of oneness with the Lord.
Although it takes some practice to live this way (in terms of developing new spiritual habits), it is truly one of the most satisfying ways to live. A way that Jesus perfectly modeled in the gospels and alludes to when he says, “I do only what I see (presently) the Father doing, and say only what I hear (presently) the Father saying.” Based on authors like Murray, Guyon, Lawrence, and others, a deep daily fellowship with the Lord is what we we born to have and enjoy, and which, thanks to Jesus, we now have access to again in spirit.
Have you gained from any of the ministers I have mentioned?
Are there any that I have not listed that you have gained from?
Share your gains in the comments section below.