If I were to write my own version of Hebrews 11, below are those would surely be on it. These are the pastors, theologians, and teachers who through their writings and lives have had the largest impact on me through the years. I’ve attempted to place them in chronological order as much as possible. (Click the link to see the PDF.)

My Great Cloud of Witnesses

And here are quotes from some of them:

Barth: “Church proclamation, as regards its content, cannot let itself be questioned as to whether it is in harmony with the distinctive features and interests of a race, people, nation, or state. It cannot let itself be questioned as to its agreement with the demands of this or that scientific or aesthetic culture. It cannot let itself be questioned as to whether it is contributing what is needed to maintain or perhaps even to overthrow this or that form of society or economy. A proclamation which accepts responsibilities along these or similar lines spells treachery to the Church and to Christ Himself. It only gets its due if sooner or later its mouth is stopped by some refined or brutal ungodliness. Far better no proclamation at all than this kind.”

Hauerwas: “Discipleship is quite simply extended training in being dispossessed. To become followers of Jesus means that we must, like him, be dispossessed of all that we think gives us power over our own lives and the lives of others. Unless we learn to relinquish our presumption that we can ensure the significance of our lives, we are not capable of the peace of God’s kingdom.”

Grenz: “The communal fellowship we have together as members of the church goes beyond what is generated by a common experience or even by a common narrative. The community we share is or shared participation, or participation together, in the perichoretic community of trinitarian persons.”

Wright: “If church leaders themselves spent more time studying and teaching Jesus and the Gospels, a good many of the other things we worry about in day-to-day church life would be seen in their proper light. It has far too often been assumed that church leaders stand above the nitty-gritty of biblical and theological study; they have done all that, we implicitly suppose, before they come to office, and now they simply have to work out the ‘implications’. They then find themselves spending countless hours at their desks running the church as a business, raising money or working at dozens of other tasks, rather than poring over their foundation documents and enquiring ever more closely about the Jesus whom they are supposed to be following and teaching others to follow.”

Peterson: “Every time the church’s leaders depersonalize, even a little, the worshiping/loving community, the gospel is weakened. And size is the great depersonalizer…. The only way the Christian life is brought to maturity is through intimacy, renunciation, and personal deepening. And the pastor is in a key position to nurture such maturity. It is true that these things can take place in the context of large congregations, but only by strenuously going against the grain. Largeness is an impediment, not a help.”

Newbigin: “It is often said that the Church ought to address itself to the real questions which people are asking. That is to misunderstand the mission of Jesus and the mission of the Church. The world’s questions are not the questions which lead to life. What really needs to be said is that where the Church is faithful to its Lord, there the powers of the kingdom are present and people begin to ask the question to which the gospel is the answer.”

Boyd: “But there is an alternative to this ceaseless, bloody, merry-go-round: it is the kingdom of God. To belong to this kingdom is to crucify the fleshly desire to live out of self-interest and tribal interest and to thus crucify the fallen impulse to protect these interests through violence…. It is, therefore, to opt out of the kingdom-of-the-world war machine and manifest a radically different, beautiful, loving way of life.”

Willard: “Nondiscipleship is the elephant in the church…. The fundamental negative reality among Christian believers now is their failure to be constantly learning how to live their lives in The Kingdom Among Us. And it is an accepted reality. The division of professing Christians into those for whom it is a matter of whole-life devotion to God and those who maintain a consumer relationship to the church has now been an accepted reality for over fifteen hundred years.”

Bonhoeffer: “No further content is possible because Jesus is the only content. There is no other content besides Jesus. He himself is it. Christ calls; the disciple follows. That is grace and commandment in one. Discipleship is commitment to Christ. Because Christ exists, he must be followed. Christianity without the living Jesus Christ remains necessarily a Christianity without discipleship; and a Christianity without discipleship is always a Christianity without Jesus Christ. It is an idea, a myth.”

Yoder: “Jesus was not just a moralist whose teachings had some political implications; he was not primarily a teacher of spirituality whose public ministry unfortunately was seen in a political light; he was not just a sacrificial lamb preparing for his immolation, or a God-Man whose divine status calls us to disregard his humanity. Jesus was, in his divinely mandated prophethood, priesthood, and kingship, the bearer of a new possibility of human, social, and therefore political relationships.”

And here are quotes from two who made the original list but not the final copy:

William Willimon: “There is no way I can crank the gospel down to the level where any American can walk in off the street and know what it is all about in fifteen minutes. One can’t do that even with baseball! You have to learn the vocabulary, the rules, and the culture in order to understand it. Being in church is something at least as different as being in a baseball stadium…. The point is not to speak to the culture. The point is to change it. God’s appointed means of producing change is called ‘church’; and God’s typical way of producing church is called ‘preaching’.”

J.K.A. Smith: “An idea-centric or belief-centric approach will fail to see the pedagogy at work in the mall, and thus will also fail to articulate a critique and counter-pedagogy… We are the sorts of animals whose orientation to the world is shaped from the body up more than from the head down. Liturgies aim our love to different ends precisely by training our hearts through our bodies.”

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