6 Heroes Who Changed My Life By Investing In It

Outside of my own family, God’s provided an amazing list of mentors, heroes, role models, and second dads to help me through life over the last 3 decades.  These guys invested a great deal of their time, words, love and wisdom in me through personal relationship when they didn’t have to.  Here’s the list of 6 of the most influential mentors I’ve had outside of family, and some of the things they taught me:


Takeaway: In moments of celebration, devastation, and desperation, Jesus is enough.  And…. a close friend speaking His words and extending His hands is like water on a dry sponge.

Ron is a second dad of the first order.  After one youth ministry class with him at John Brown University, he became my discipler and friend.  He made me a priority and opened his heart as well as his brilliant mind to me.

Important thing he taught me: The humanity of Jesus is really a great deal of Ron’s life-work.  Experiencing a little bit of “heaven now” is something Ron longs for and is quick to make note of when we’re experiencing it.  Desiring to be led by the Spirit, Ron keeps a note pad and pen in his pocket to jot down thoughts when the Lord reveals something to him.

Huge lesson learned: Jesus is closer than our breath.  Breathe deeply.

A moment I still remember: Years after graduating from college, I still remember calling him when my dad passed away suddenly.  Ron flew out immediately.  I still remember getting married and having Ron as one of my groomsmen.  I still remember the birth of my first son and Ron flew out to celebrate.  I still remember the loss of my grandfather.  Guess who flew out to be by our side?

Net result: Sometimes you need Jesus with skin.


Takeaway: Pour out your life as a drink offering to other people and God will sustain you.

Eddie was my youth pastor in high school.  He overwhelmingly loved me to Christ.  He let me loose to do ministry almost immediately.  He performed my wedding.  He did my dad’s funeral.  He paved my way.

Important thing he taught me:  He loved people with every ounce of his being – kids and adults alike.  But he also learned to listen more to God’s voice than man’s voice.  It showed in his ministry then and in his missionary work now.

Huge lesson learned: When it comes to doing ministry, you must have a soft-heart, but a hard hide.

A moment I still remember: He’d picked me up to run errands with him just so we could spend time together.  I was wrestling with some difficult inner thoughts and, because he’d proven himself safe and trustworthy and loving, I opened up.  For 20 minutes straight, he put his hand on my shoulder and repeated, “I love you, Ron.  You’re not damaged goods.”  Over and over again.

Net result: I heard Jesus voice louder than his.


Takeaway: No matter how big or influential you get from stage, the most powerful things you may ever do are off-stage, in relationship.

The brand new host of The Tonight Show, for whatever crazy reason, reached out to me as a teenage aspiring comedy writer in 1992.  He asked to read some of my stuff, gave me a little contract to submit material independently, and spent the next 6 years giving me comedy, performing, and life direction in just a handful of chit-chats.  He taught me about leading with my chin.

Important thing he taught me: He told me to do some hard study on comedians I admired and could relate to.  He said when I started to perform I would sound a lot like them, but then eventually I’d find my own voice the more comfortable I got.

Huge lesson learned: Somebody who believes in you makes you more comfortable, more ready to study your craft, and more able to find your own voice.

A moment I still remember: As a freshman at UCSB, I got a phone call in my dorm room from Jay saying he had my stuff and was taking it home right then to read it.  It became the first of several calls that changed my perspective on my future.  I still remember listening to him tell me to work hard and never give up on my dreams, after telling me he’d actually lived in his car for extended seasons as a young comic committed to making his dream reality.

Net result: It made me work harder.


Takeaway: Allowing people to become dependent on God and His Word is better than allowing them to become dependent on you.

Phil became my youth pastor at the end of my senior year of high school.  I was on my way out, but he wasn’t going to let me go.  He was a top shelf leader AND communicator… and yet, somehow, he also managed to be a phenomenal family man.  Interning under him for the next several summers, I learned more is caught than taught.

Important thing he taught me: Other than telling me we should always be living in view of eternity, Phil was quick to remind me that only God’s Word and God’s people really matter.

Huge lesson learned: My life and my ministry should focus on things that last because the rest is going to disappear.

A moment I still remember: I was sitting on a fence overlooking Hume Lake, pretty sure that God was calling me into full time ministry.  Feeling inadequate about it, Phil sat down next to me and gave me tons of encouragement, tons of direction, and one simple call from John 15 – make sure I abide in Christ and he’ll take care of the rest.

Net result: I settled more into who Jesus was than who I needed to be.


Takeaway: I’m not okay, you’re not okay, but that’s okay.

I definitely laughed so hard I peed a little when I watched Ken’s comedy show A Twisted Mind in high school.  After meeting years later, we had the chance to do some writing together and a whole lot of laughing together.  He’s responsible for teaching me how to speak to youth and keep them awake at the same time.

Important thing he taught me: He’d just spoken in chapel at my university.  I got to meet him afterward and he asked if I wanted to get a coke sometime later in the week.  I did.  Weeks later he called (using a fake accent) and asked how I was doing.  He kept that up.

Huge lesson learned:  Who you are on stage is as valuable as who you are off-stage.  What you say is important.  How you live is more important.

A moment I still remember: Ken was performing in San Diego for National Youth Worker’s Convention.  He got me a hotel room where he was staying and invited me down to spend the weekend writing and brainstorming together.  Just he and I.

Net result: I discovered discipleship happens in a variety of ways.


Takeaway: Just being there is enough.

Al was the dad of one of my best friend’s growing up.  He filled a gap in a crucial life-season throughout my elementary years.  He is responsible for my love of Mountain Dew, and also gave me the nickname “Donut Hole.”

Important thing he taught me: Whenever we’d be riding in the car listening to the radio, we’d start with Al’s music.  In order for him to change the station, we had to guess the name of the song and the artist singing it.  Cool thing was, in order for him to change the station off of our music and back to his, he had to guess the title and artist of our stuff.

Huge lesson learned: Respect for each other’s music is good, but respect for EACH OTHER is what counts.

A moment I still remember: One summer, they took me on a camping trip.  While Al and his wife were away, his son and I accidentally ripped a hole in the screen door of their tent trailer.  We got in trouble, but Al held me close in the aftermath, knowing I felt badly.

Net result: One of the first times I found out I could be honest, get in trouble, and still be loved.