If I ever take the time to put a list together of the men who have had the greatest influence on my life, Brad Johnson would be right up there near the top. I became a follower of Jesus in 1988 and Brad was one of my earliest mentors in what I still refer to as the time when I grew the most in my relationship with God.
I've never met someone who was better at firing up or motivating a crowd. He took a group of college students and literally helped to change the trajectory of thousands of lives. Brad was the area director for Young Life on the east side of Cincinnati for years, and there are still tons of areas, and even regions, that are led by people who were under the leadership of Brad. We were at a conference where they asked people to stand up if they'd been led by Brad, and then people who were led by the people standing were asked to stand...and so on. Roughly 700 people (out of maybe 720) ended up standing. Sadly, I don't often see the same kind of mentor-ship or influence out of the church world. It's easier to speak from a stage and hope people follow - it's more exciting to put on the big events...but I'm just not sure that we'll see the same influence in the long run. We could learn a lot from Brad.
He was great at leading a crowd too. He's one of the top speakers I've ever heard. He's absolutely the best leader of small to medium sized groups that I've ever seen. I'm not sure that I've ever had the opportunity to see anyone lead quite like Brad.
Beyond his abilities, Brad is just a good guy. As I was leaving his area to move out of town Brad found out that my car had broken down. He decided that we were going to fix it. When "we" fixed it, we drove to Columbus and Brad bought all the parts and then proceeded to replace my clutch. I can say that I helped to put in a clutch, because I stood next to Brad and periodically would hand him a wrench.
It said tons to me that he was willing to leave town and help me out, even in the midst of me leaving his area. He's one of the greats, and I'm a better friend, husband and father because of my time spent with him...