There is a phrase that you hear a lot and I think it’s true. The phrase is more is caught than taught. In other words, you can go to a class and you can hear this or that, but you really catch more than actually is taught. I’d like to suggest that that’s true.
It’s true when you’re young and it’s true when you’re old. I’ve got to share a story. My sister was dating a star basketball star. He was about four years older than me. So he was, I think, a junior and I was in eighth grade. His name was Rex. I’ve got to be careful here because Rex had the purest, most beautiful jump shot I’ve ever seen.
I played him one on one for hours and I could never beat him. He was 6’2” and a real big guy and he just kind of became my hero. He was sort of stocky and didn’t look like a basketball player except when he got on the floor no one could stop him.
But Rex had this unusual sort of posture and when he walked it looked like he was going to fall over. It was like that. When he was really trying to be cool with his leather jacket he would have that walk and he’d put a little dance into it. It was cool back in the 70s, okay.
So, it’s not like I said to myself I think I’d like to walk like Rex Gregg. I just hung with him. I tried to shoot like him. I wanted to be around him and he was at the house and eating meals. One day, I’ll never forget. Imagine if you would this is a stage where there’s a basketball court. They’re old time. There’s an auditorium and there’s seats where you could cut through that door in front of the stage to the auditorium to get to class.
I was coming through that door walking across and it was absolutely empty. All those theater type seats they had in the old junior highs. I didn’t know it, but apparently I had picked something up. I had caught it. I never asked for walking lessons, but being the cool eighth grader I was. [Laughter] I didn’t think anybody was up there and I hear from the balcony, it was dark and you can’t see, ‘Hey, Ingram, you idiot. Who taught you how to walk?’
I promptly went and walked off. I thought to myself it was only in the moment when I heard, ‘Hey, Ingram, you idiot’ did I realize that I unconsciously had picked up walking like Rex.
You just pick up whatever the people around you are. Now you would think that you only do that when you’re young and when you’re naïve and when you’re impressionable and when you get older you outgrow that, except I went to a Dallas seminary. A professor named Howard Hendricks had a big impact. In fact, I heard him preach once and said to myself that’s where I want to go to school. I want to preach like him.
God so used him in my life. So every class he taught I took. Every time he opened his home we went. Every retreat, we went. For three years it took me some time but finally I got to go on a trip with him. And, it developed into a relationship where he has mentored me for about the past 25 years.
The first couple years as a pastor, I was 28 years old at a little country church. I remember coming home one day and my wife lovingly, sweet woman that she is says, ‘Honey, you gotta knock it off.’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ ‘You sound exactly like Howard Hendricks.’
I said, ‘What do you mean I sound like Howard Hendricks?’ She goes, ‘Well, when you preach it’s like you just go into using his phrases and his mannerisms.’ ‘No, I don’t.’ Then, we put it on tape and I listened to it I had him down. I didn’t even know it. It reminded me of a time, I think about a 25 year period, where in one denomination because of one great pastor, everyone in the pulpit said ‘And Gawd.’ You’re obviously not from that denomination.
But all those young pastors said it because the guy with the biggest church in the denomination said it that way. The principle I want you to get is this timeless axiom: we become most like those we admire and those with whom we interact most frequently. Take it to the bank. You will be like whoever you admire and whoever you hang with.
If you want to move from good to great in God’s eyes, you long for your heart to be more tender; you want to be more Godly; you want to pray the way that we talked about; you want your motives to be what God wants them to be; you long to become in God’s eyes the kind of person with the kind of courage and boldness who would say Lord, I’d like to sit at your right hand. I want to be a great Christian.
Practice number three: pursue great people. Pursue. I didn’t say hang around. Go after them. Find a great Christian and pursue them. Hang out with them. The key text for this one is Proverbs 13:20. “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fool suffers harm.” I have heard it quoted: show me your friends and I’ll show you your future. It’s true, isn’t it? Show me your friends. That’s why as parents it’s critical you know who your kids hang out with and what their attitudes are ‘cause they’re going to become just like the people they hang with.
Now here’s what I’d like to ask. Why pursue great people? We’ve got the basics here, but why. I want to give you a biblical foundation for pursuing great people. The first reason is God’s word is emphatic about the company that we keep. 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be misled. Bad company corrupts good character.” You put one rotten apple in a basket with good apples and the rotting apple will do what? It’ll rot the others.
Notice what it says in Hebrews 13:7 ‘Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you.’ First remember, then consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Literally we get our word mimic. Mimic their faith.
We want to find leaders. We want to remember who they are. We want to consider, ponder, think about their life and just as I was unconsciously imitating how Rex would walk and how Prof would preach, the Bible says, ‘Get your eye on a Godly leader and imitate or mimic not their mannerisms, not their externals. Imitate their faith.’
Notice what it says in 1 Corinthians 4:15,16. It is the Apostle Paul writing to the Corinthian church. He says to them, ‘Even though you have 10,000 guardians in Christ, a lot of people that’ll help you and tell you what to do in your Christian life, you do not have many fathers for in Christ Jesus I became your father.’ How? It is through the gospel. ‘Therefore, I urge you’ same word ‘imitate me.’
The Apostle Paul knew the most powerful means of discipleship is modeling. Beyond teaching, beyond classes, it’s modeling. When you hang around a person if you pray with them you will end up praying like they pray. You will learn to give like they give. You’ll learn to make decisions the way they make decisions. You’ll learn to treat your wife the way they treat their wife. You’ll learn to raise your kids the way they raise their kids. You’ll learn to care about people the way they care about people. You’ll catch it.
The Apostle Paul says, and this is strong, ‘Imitate me. Follow me as I follow Christ.’ Proverbs 27:17, ‘As iron sharpens iron so one man sharpens another.’ Now I want to make one vital observation before I go on and talk about how do you pursue great people ‘cause I’ve made a point and some of you are thinking you’re pretty quick and you’re going to go let’s see, I’m going to be a lot like the people I’m around, alright. Mhmm. That’s really true. There’s a lot of verses. That makes sense; yeah; okay.
Then you’re thinking: the people that I’ve been around the most were my parents. The people that I was around the most were some brothers and sisters, and in a group this size, some of you had some parents that weren’t believers. Some of you had some parents that were and didn’t act like it. Some of you had some parents that walked out on you. Some of you had some parents that were abusive in their speech and others abusive physically and others abusively sexually.
Before I go on, you’re thinking to yourself: If I am going to be a lot like the people I hang around with, what about God? I don’t know God as a child, as a kid or a teen or a young adult. I didn’t get a lottery ticket on this. I just got born into this.
So I want to make some observations because if you don’t think this through you can really get stuck. The observations I’ve put on your teaching handout it’s that our baggage and our backgrounds demand that we pursue great people. Our baggage and our backgrounds demand that we pursue great people. We all have baggage and we all have backgrounds.
No one had a perfect parent. Anybody have a perfect parent? If you had one that never made a mistake please raise your hand and if so, please write the book and we’ll buy it tonight. No one had a perfect parent. Wounds and deficits are normal.
So, I wasn’t a perfect dad and I’ve got children who will give testimony. They can tell you a lot of flaws. So, I’ve given it my best shot. Your parent may have given it their best shot. My dad gave it his best shot, but how do you be a dad when you didn’t have one after you were 13? How do you be a dad when you’ve killed thousands of people and you have all kind of hang-ups and you don’t know how to deal with your own life let alone communicate it to your own son.
See, there’s some wounds and deficits that came from your dad, your mom, my dad, my mom ‘cause they weren’t perfect, but guess what? That’s normal. It’s normal. Unfortunately some of us focus on that the rest of our life.
The third observation is we must choose to deal with the damage constructively. We could spend a lot of time here and I’m not. All I want to tell you is there are some people that have been through some very difficult times and the focus of your heart and your life is always about what was done to you and what you’re working through.
There’s unresolved shame and unresolved blame and unresolved issues. At some point in time you have to say, Lord, I want to thank you that in your sovereignty I was in this family and these good things came out of it. Lord, I want to tell you that there are wounds and deficits and pains and I need you to be my father. I need you to heal me. I need you to restore me. It’s a fallen world.
You know what? The best thing that’s happened to me probably in the last decade has been to walk a few miles in my parents’ moccasins. When you hit certain ages all of a sudden you think – see, when my dad was about 40 this is how old I was and this is what I went through and wow. I think he did a lot better than I thought ten years ago.
Let’s see now. When I was this age my dad was 48 or 50 and here’s the issues I’m dealing with and you know what? Boy, we had meals together and they cared about me and you know something? You know the confidence that I have, the drive that I have, the positive self-image I have, a lot of things were really, really positive and they all go back to my dad.
My dad and I started a little lawn business when I was eight. My dad helped me deliver papers. I had 130-150 papers to deliver in my route. Papers were stacked up to the rim of my Dad’s car when I was about 11 years old. It’s so easy to look at the minuses and the hurts and the pains instead of saying I had an imperfect parent and they gave me these good things. Thank you Lord, and only the healer, the restorer of my soul, God, can ever complete my life.
But you know how he does it? Sometimes you read the word and the Spirit of God does some deep things in your heart, but you know how God normally heals you? He brings the dad in your life that you didn’t have. He brings the cheerleader into your life that you didn’t have. He brings the sponsor into your life that you really needed. He brings the confident or the counselor. God brings someone in your life that’s been through something and God takes His word through the heart of another person and this person rubs up next to you and he makes you whole little by little by little through another person.
So what I’m going to tell you is you need to pursue great people first of all, because the Bible is emphatic that the company we keep will determine the kind of people we become and second, because we all came from dysfunctional backgrounds. We all have baggage. We all have wounds. It’s normal.
You can either choose to be a victim or choose to say I’m going to grow through it. There are people in the body of Christ who are going to love me in this new family called the church. I need to pursue the people that you want to use to heal my life and I want to be in turn a healer in the life of other people. Have you got it?
Every time I hit this part I wish I had a camera and could see the wheels going on inside your heads. It really raises stuff up, doesn’t it? It’s okay. It’s okay. ‘Cause see if you never bring it up and if you never deal with it what a lot of us do is push it down. When it comes up we go to the refrigerator. When it comes up, people open something and they start drinking a little bit. When it comes up, some people take some pills or when it comes up some people just go to work and work more and more and more. You just keep pushing down stuff that bothers you; that’s not dealt with; that are wounds.
I love Henry Nouwen’s book, The Wounded Healer. It’s when we begin to get forgiveness and healing from God in our imperfection that he allows us to pass it on to other people. Let’s get on the positive side then. How in the world do we go about developing these kind of relationships? How do you pursue great people? I don’t know about you, but they just didn’t line up on my door seven deep ringing the doorbell. Hi, I’m a great person, Chip. I’d like to be a sponsor in your life. Oh, okay; you already have one. Hi, Chip. I’d like to be a father figure. I know you went through some rough times. That didn’t happen to me.
You’ve got to pursue them. I’m going to give you a couple ways that I think will be very helpful. The first is I think you need to start in the rearview mirror. You ready for that? I think to pursue great people, start in the rearview mirror and mentally build what I’m going to call your own personal Mt. Rushmore of the four or five people who have most positively impacted or influenced your life.
See, what I want you to do before you think about who you need to go get to help, look in the rearview mirror. Say to yourself who are the pivotal people, maybe one, two, three or four people, maybe five who have been the most positive, influential because you’re going to ask then why and you’ll begin to recognize needs you have in your life. The reason they were influential is God used them. Some of them maybe even unbelievers.
So I’m going to challenge you to build kind of your own Mt. Rushmore. When you do you’ll recognize the value of people in your life. You’ll see the strategic needs that you have and then it will help you determine what kind of people you ought to pursue. So are you ready? I’m going to turn this stage into Mt. Rushmore.
Mt. Rushmore has four great faces on it, right? I’m a Christian. I’m adding five. See, I can do anything I want with my own personal Mt. Rushmore so I’m going to have five faces. I want you to know I’m going to have face number one, face number two and I’ll tell you about them. Then I’ve got face number three and face number four. In my Mt. Rushmore they’re all tilted inward and they’re going to look toward the middle of face number five ‘cause face number five is the one that’s had the most impact on my life.
I just want to go through the exercise personally for a few minutes and as I do I want you to ask yourself who would be my Mt. Rushmore. Who are the people that most positively impacted my life.
My first one over here on the left etched in stone in my heart and soul is a guy named Neil Lance, my junior high coach, PE teacher. I’ll never forget the first time I met Neil Lance. I was a cocky, insecure, mouthy kid who desperately wanted attention because he couldn’t figure out what was going on inside.
I walked into his PE class and I was mouthing around. ‘Ingram, shut up! Give me 20.’ That was my first experience with Neil Lance. As I was just like this and then I started to bend down, ‘Ingram, button it up.’ Like ten minutes later I’m still doing this. He never said another word to me. ‘Get a shower.’
Then he saw some desire and over time he took me in the gym and he closed the curtain. This guy could play ball and he knew that’s where my heart was. When I was in seventh grade I was 4’11” and then I shot up to 5’1” in eighth grade. I wanted to play basketball. This is not looking good. By ninth grade I was 5’4 ½ “ and ready to take on the world.
Coach Lance would come in the gym and he’d throw me the ball. We’d play one on one. He taught me how to play defense. Taught me how to play offense, but more than anything else you know what he taught me? He taught me what a man looked like.
I’ll never forget as I was going through my insecurity, cocky stage, mouthy part of life and some of you are looking at me like, ya’ know, I can really imagine you like that. Not very hard, is it? I had shot off my mouth one too many times. Some of the guys will appreciate this. Remember the old locker rooms, you’d go in and have the big public shower and then on the wall there would be all the lockers. The coach would have an office on the side that smelled like gym shoes.
He’d get his head out, ‘Ingram, in here, now.’ I walked into his office. ‘Sit down.’ Then he got his nose right next to my face and I mean he began to ream into me and then he said, ‘Okay, stand up.’ He was so angry because I had shot off my mouth one more time. Then I was just getting ready to leave and he just – he loved me so much that he cared. He took me by the shirt. This was long before you got sued as school teachers. He grabbed me by the shirt and then he lifted me up against the wall and I slid down on the chair.
He said, ‘I’m going to tell you something. You got great potential and your mouth is going to get you in trouble. You could go over to that high school and be a good player, but they’re going to freeze you out because you’ve got a mouth and you’re arrogant. You could be somebody, but you know something? Your mouth is going to be the ruin of you. You’re an arrogant jerk. You understand?’
We built a bond. I painted houses all the way through college with Neil Lance. Neil Lance taught me what it meant to be a man because he confronted me on man issues and he was strong and he invested in my life. He’s in my Mt. Rushmore. I think early on God brought this man into my life so that I would learn. Real men stand up to the truth. Real men speak the truth. Real men are strong. Real men face tough issues and real men don’t let stuff go under the rug.
The second person on my Mt. Rushmore is a girl named Punky. It’s her almost real name. Her real name’s Harriet, but I shouldn’t say that publicly. She was my sister. She’s only about a year and three months older than me. I’d never heard of Campus Crusade for Christ. We were a religious family. I went to a church that did not teach the Bible and no one, as far as I knew, were Christians, but we were religious, went through motions, very hypocritical and I got turned off by the church.
But my sister went to this little meeting, Campus Crusade something something. She became a Christian. She was never preachy, but my Sister taught me what it looked like to be a Christian. I can’t tell you that she ever preached a message that I ever remember, but my sister loved me. I would come in with friends and she would say, ‘Guys, do you want some sandwiches’ and ‘Can I get you a Coke?’ And ‘Chip, how did the game go.’ She’s real gullible and I’d say, ‘Oh, I hit five home runs.’ ‘Oh Chip, that’s so good.’ ‘Well how did it go?’ ‘I scored 42 points.’ ‘Oh Chip, I’m so proud of you.’ Unbelievable.
Then I would yank her chain and she – ‘Oh Chip, why do you do that.’ We ended up going through high school – the classes – we got to take some classes together. I was in that era in the early 70s where everyone was doing soapers and smoking dope--all the athletes in the area. I had an opportunity to do all that.
Isn’t it interesting? I wasn’t a Christian, didn’t have any big moral reason not to and I still remember a guy giving me a joint and saying ‘Do you want this?’ and saying no. I remember in my mind I thought what would Punky think? She was the most loving person. She showed me Jesus. She showed me. She lived it. She’s the kindest person that I’d ever met and she’s my sister and my friend. I later became a Christian because of her testimony.
Number three in my Mt. Rushmore, the third person in my rearview mirror, is a guy named Dave Marshall. I prayed to receive Christ at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes camp.
I was 18 years old, had never opened the Bible and landed on campus. There was a brick layer trained by the navigators. He was what I would call not cool. Everyone’s wearing white socks now, but he wore them back then and it wasn’t cool. Blue collar, strong worker and he had a little Bible study in his house. He’d been there for three years. This was the fourth year. If the ministry didn’t grow I learned later he was going to quit and go do something else.
He would lay bricks all day and open his home at night and do Bible study with a few students. After three years he had four students in the living room. Football player on the football team was the fullback and found out I was a Christian. Said, ‘You’re coming with me.’ He was very big so I went. [Laughter] I found myself in a living room with about five or six other people that were not very cool.
This brick layer said, ‘I heard you just became a Christian.’ I said, ‘Yeah, it was this summer.’ He said, ‘Would you like to learn to study the Bible?’ I looked at him and I thought not with you. Sorry. But then I thought I’m a Christian. I don’t know the Bible. I ought to want to study the Bible. He’s offering. So I said yes.
Every Tuesday morning Dave would come, knock on my dorm room. To my shame sometimes I pretended I couldn’t hear him, and I would sometimes put my pillow over my head. But over time, he got this lazy, arrogant, insecure, young believer and we went into the little kitchenette and he taught me how to read the Bible. Then he taught me how to memorize a few key passages.
Before long I got involved in the ministry and those four or five people ended up 250 students in personal Bible study. Then Thursday nights I would go up to Dave’s house and eat dinner. I’d watch. He had three boys and a girl. I’d watch his kids and he went out every Thursday on a date with his wife. You know what? If Neil Lance taught me what it looked like to be a man and my sister taught me what it’s like to be a Christian, Dave Marshall taught me what it meant to be a man of God.
I learned to treat my wife the way he treated his wife. I learned to stop for people who were broken down on the road the way Dave always stopped. I learned to discipline my kids and love my kids the way Dave did. I learned to get up in the morning and spend time with God the way Dave did. I learned to deal with crisis when his wife went in the hospital the way I saw Dave do.
I remember getting to work with him for a few months. I watched him build a whole a foundation. It was off, just barely out of square. The inspectors are never going to see this. We spent two days on it and I watched him rip it down. I said, ‘Dave, man, what are you doing?’ I said, ‘That’s not off enough to make any big difference.’ He said, ‘I’m not doing my work for inspectors and I’m not doing my work for these people. I’m doing my work for the Lord and I don’t think that represents my best work.’ I learned to work the way Dave worked.
See, more really is caught than taught. Who are the people in your Mt. Rushmore? Mine was a coach, another my sister, another Dave and the fourth over here is Howard Hendricks.
You’ve heard lots of stories, but I learned from Howard Hendricks that you could take your gift and you could dream a dream. I can still remember on the board him writing objectives, priorities, schedule, discipline. God will never love you more than he loves you right now, gentlemen’ he said. ‘But his blessing is dependent upon your obedience. You can never earn God’s favor. There are no brownie points; no gold stars on the refrigerators in Heaven, but every man needs to make up his mind what do you want to do with your life. So you need to have an objective and a target.
You want to be a man of God, then, determine, I want to be a man of God. If you want to be a man of God it has to be a priority more important than anything or anyone else. Then you have to put that in your schedule and say what does it look like, when will you get up, what will you read, what will you do.
Then you’ve got to discipline yourself to do it. Not to earn anybody’s favor, but God’s. Those four things.’ We were getting out of a van in Chicago at Founder’s Week just a couple weeks ago. Then we had breakfast and we got talking. I said, ‘Prof, you probably can’t believe this, but you know those four words you put on the board that day at the brown bag lunch’ and all that. He said, ‘Remember? ‘I’m putting the same four words on the board for students right now.’
Prof taught me that you’re given gifts in life of stewardship and God really does want to bless ordinary people. Who’s on your Mt. Rushmore mentally right now? Who are those people because it’s going to tell you where the needs surface. It’s going to tell you what antennas because those needs that those people met are going to be the needs also probably in the future.
Well I’m going to give you my last one. Right in the center where everyone else looks is the person who has impacted my life more than Howard Hendricks or Punky or Dave Marshall or coach and that is my wife.
My wife has had more impact on my life than anyone else because she has more integrity than anyone I know. She has more devotion to God evidenced by watching her get up for years in the wee hours of the morning, even when we had small kids. I’ve seen her on her knees and I heard her cry out for God. I’ve watched her pray and I’ve watched her support me.
She is more mentally tough than any player in any game on any team I’ve ever played on and it’s something I admire. There just ain’t no give up in Teresa. And those of you that know her story, she was a single mom for awhile and she had a tiny little boy on each hip and no way to support herself, trying to figure out what to do. She clung to God and came to Christ and God supplied.
I tell you what, we’ve been through times, digging quarters out of the backseat; five, six, seven eight dollars in a co-op and taking the fruit and vegetables to live on. I’ve never heard her complain about our lifestyle.
So far every time we move she knows for sure it’s God’s will and she knows she doesn’t want to do it. It’s just a pattern. ‘Don’t take me out to that little place.’ She cried in the Chinese restaurant. Then when we went from Kauffman all the way out to California she and all the kids cried, all the way to Amarillo.
Then when it was California back to Atlanta she cried. You know what? There’s a lot of women who say, ‘Honey, if you want to go you just go ahead. My family’s here. Things are here.’ My wife submits to God and does what he wants her to when it feels good and when it’s terribly painful.
When you live with that kind of loyalty and courage and integrity and devotion, it rubs off. Exaggerating in messages you can only do that so long. After each time you do it, she would say, “Chip, why did you lie to those people today?” She looks really sweet and everything and she is. But she’s a very, very tough and she has changed my life more than anyone else. God has use her to filled the gaps and the wounds and the deficits more than anybody else.
If you want to pursue great people, start first with your rearview mirror. I would encourage you as just a little discipline – you can change the faces, it’s okay, but go through and jot down the four or five people that have most impacted your life and you will begin to see exactly who God has used and likely the roles that he’ll want to use in the future.
Next I encourage you to look out of the windshield of your life. Out of the windshield we all need three kinds of people. Since Howard Hendricks was my mentor I want to give credit here.
Prof Hendricks would tell you and tell me we all need three kinds of people. Number one, we all need a Paul in our life. We need someone to learn from. Second, we all need a Barnabus, a friend, a peer. Someone to share life with. Someone that you’re just hand in hand, arm in arm. You’re on the same page at the same level.
Third, we all need a Timothy. We need someone that we’re helping grow. A Barnabus, someone you share life with, a Timothy, someone that you give life to, and a Paul, someone who helps you.