Everybody has them.  Folks who have influenced you from a distance.  Here are some of mine:

1) Eugene Peterson.  A Pastor/Scholar who writes for Pastor/er….hack scholars like me.  I love Dr Peterson because he is old school, counter cultural and a poet trapped in a curmugeon’s body.  For him, pastoring is always extremely local and personal to the people in your church.  For books, I recommend, “Contemplative Pastor,” “The Pastor: A Memoir,” and “5 Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work.”    Also, search itunes for “Zondervan Podcast” and grab Peterson’s message at the 2007 National Pastors Gathering.  He asks the question, “What are pastors good for?” and then spends the next hour chipping away at the answers.  Vintage Peterson.

2) Fred Craddock  (actually, I’ve met Dr Craddock, but its not like I could call him up and invite him for tea…)  Craddock is the finest preacher you’ve never heard of.  He taught me to find my own voice and not try to be someone else.  he also taught the power of story, shock and most of all, the importance of helping people wrestle with the text.  Craddock says, “Don’t spend 10 hours wrestling with your message only to resolve it in 30 minutes for the people.  Instead, spend 10 hours figuring out how to let your people wrestle with the text.”  Craddock is the finest story teller I’ve ever heard inside the church.  His sermon, “What Shall We Do With the Gift” is vintage Craddock.

3) Philip Yancey and Fred Buechner.  Yep, they come in bulk at number 3.  Both incredibly gifted writers, both have wrestled with doubt and both became loyal companions on my own journey of doubt.  These guys write with a fresh and raw honesty that is rare in Christian publishing.  Buechner’s writing holds a beauty and an ache that resonates deeply.  Yancey asks the questions many are timid to ask.  I doubt I’ll ever meet Buechner, but Philip lives down the road, so maybe I’ll start stalking him…  Yancey’s “What’s So Amazing About Grace” is probably a good start.  Buechner’s fiction:  “Son of Laughter.”  His book on preaching, “Telling the Truth” is incredible.

4)  Tim Keller  (ok, so I’ve met Tim as well.  Yep, I’m sort of a big deal.)  Is there a finer pastoral brain alive today?  Brilliant, winsome, engaging, missional, Keller is the whole package.  I know no better example of a preacher who can equally engage the skeptical outsider and the long term insider.  His insights into the text continue to stun me.  His “Preaching the Gospel” talk at Resurgance 2006 is an excellent example of his brain and heart on full display.

5) Walter Brueggeman and N.T. Wright  Come on! I’m a 30 something post modern pastor, its almost obligatory to have these two guys on my list.  World Class Scholars and also excellent preachers.  They write phenomenal theology for the church.  They engage the text almost viscerally and they are shaping the modern church.

Well, there are others for shizzle, but these 5 7 hopefully provide some good resources for your journey.  Feel free to share your mentors that you’ve not yet met.