Five church leaders I admire

For this leadership issue, Christian Courier asked a pastor to identify a few top church leaders of all time and explain. Pastor Mike Abma responded with the following thoughtful list.
We asked several historians the same question; their equally interesting answers are on page 20. If you have other ideas for who should be mentioned here, we’d love to hear them! Email your thoughts to ac.reiruocnaitsirhc@rotide.

Mary, the Mother of God

Even if Roman Catholics tend to over-adore her, we Protestants tend to over-neglect her. And we should not. Mary became the meeting place of the old and the new, of heaven and earth. The incarnation is a mystery we will never fully fathom. Mary was, in many ways, the first disciple, there at Jesus’ birth, his life, his death and his resurrection. Mary was also there at Pentecost, as the Spirit breathed life into the community of Christ. And, I suspect, Mary was a source for more of what we find in the Gospels than we realize. Blessed is she among women.

Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (354-430)

Augustine had it all and did it all. He began his career as a Rock-Star Professor. Then, after a high-profile conversion, he became a leader in the church. He was theologically brilliant and has been called the patron saint of the Reformation. But he did not live in some ivory-tower. He was a bishop, meaning he had to deal with many very human and mundane problems plaguing the church. Even David Brooks of the New York Times calls Augustine the brightest mind he has ever read.

Jan Laski aka John a Lasco

(1499-1560) Born into an aristocratic Polish Roman Catholic family, Laski could have had a lucrative career in the Catholic Church. But he turned his back on that in order to reform the church. Early in his career he was leading the East Frisian Protestant pastors while at the same time helping the Archbishop of Cologne reform the Roman Catholic Church. Eventually Laski became the leader of the Dutch and French Protestant Refugees who fled to London, England. Laski’s liturgies and church polity did more to shape future Reformed practices than practically anyone else.

Dorothy Day (1897-1980)

Dorothy Day began life as a rather wild journalist. It is when she became pregnant and wanted her child baptized that she began down the path of conversion. Dorothy Day founded the Catholic Worker newspaper and became a tireless advocate for women’s rights, civil rights, the rights of the poor, the immigrants and the refugees. She was a pacifist and called on Christians to practice radical hospitality. Is it any wonder that Pope Francis recently called Dorothy Day one of four great Americans?

Andrew Kuyvenhoven (1927-2015)

You may know Andy from one of his devotionals, or study guides, or from his time as Editor of The Banner. You may know him as the passionate preacher who liked to take off his glasses and twirl them in his hand as he preached. But for 18 years I knew him as a member of my congregation. I knew him as someone who never tired of talking about what were the real pressing issues for the church. I knew him as someone who was teaching his hospice care-giver about Jesus in the last weeks of his life.


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