Recently I was asked to write about some of the people who have had influence in my life regarding the Restoration Movement and my enthusiasm about its principles. The first name that came to mind was Dr. Lloyd Knowles, one of my professors at Great Lakes Christian College. I had attended the Church of Christ since I was eight years old, but it wasn’t until I went to Bible College that I heard the term “Restoration Movement.” I remember reading The Stone-Campbell Movement by Leroy Garrett and Christians Only by J.D. Murch and feeling a kindred spirit with the early leaders of the Movement. I was thrilled by the stories of men with varied denominational backgrounds deciding to drop the names and creeds that divide, taking the Bible alone as their rule of faith and practice, simply calling themselves Christians. Dr. Knowles was the person who kindled my lifelong study of the people, principles, and history of the Restoration Movement.
Another influential person is my father-in-law Ray Merritt. He had a worldly background and was converted to Christ as an adult. He was schooled in Restoration principles in his formative days as a new believer. Later, he decided to answer the call to the full-time preaching ministry. I liken our relationship to that of the apostle Paul and his young protégé Timothy. Ray has been a constant encouragement to me in my faith and ministry. He has also introduced me to others who have shaped my thinking in profound ways.
Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” That verse reminds me of my friend David Willis from Newport News, Virginia. When we were rookie preachers, we spent countless hours together talking about preaching, the Bible, and how to communicate the principles of the Restoration Movement in our modern day. David was/is a fellow traveler on this journey.
Ray Bennett and George Faull were mentors and teachers in the early days of my ministry. I met them both at the Hillsboro Family Camp in Hillsboro, Ohio. Ray’s passion for preaching and zeal for the tenets of New Testament Christianity resonated with me. Listening to him thunder away about “one Lord, one faith, and one baptism” ignited a fire within me to follow in the footsteps of our Restoration Movement forefathers and direct my listeners back to the Bible. George modeled an open heart and mind, as well as a desire to get it right when interpreting the Scriptures. To this day, these brothers encourage me as a preacher of the gospel.
Several writers have shaped my understanding of theology and our Movement.
Authors like Dr. Jack Cottrell, Don DeWelt, Carl Ketcherside, Marshall Leggett and Victor Knowles have challenged and inspired me. The writings of the early pioneers like Thomas and Alexander Campbell and Walter Scott still have relevance today. Their plea for union among Christians based on the truth of the Scriptures is timeless.
The point is this; the mentors and people of influence in your life will be different than mine, of course. But choose them wisely, because other than the impact of the Bible and the Holy Spirit, the direction of your life will be largely determined by the books you read and the people with whom you associate.