I spent a bit of time traveling down memory lane last week after coming across a sermon on my home church’s website of Homecoming 2010.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of Bible Belt Church Homecomings, you haven’t truly tasted heaven. Guest preacher, dinner on the grounds, afternoon sangin (not a misspelling), and probably more dinner on the grounds, this time with fried chicken and bonus salmonella poisoning. Yes, it’s enough to make a megachurch pastor want to run over himself with his own shuttle bus, but you get the picture.

The guest preacher for H2K10 was my “growing up” pastor. He arrived at the church when I was in sixth grade, shortly after I became a believer. He discipled me, he went along on lots of youth trips, he counseled me through major life decisions, he spurred on a desire for ministry, he officiated my wedding…

…in short, he had a profound influence on me during my teenage and early adult years.

Listening to that one sermon brought back a flood of memories. He was a man who tried his best to pass himself off as a tough, ornery old cuss, but we knew better. We knew that he loved our church, he loved our people, and he loved to see Jesus’ name made great in our little town. He was a master storyteller and had a knack for pointing us to the cross from any story in the Bible. He led our church to dream bigger dreams for the gospel than we knew were possible. He led us through building campaigns and seasons of numerical growth. He led us closer to Jesus.

He’s older now. Retired. He’s pulled his suit out of the closet for three post-retirement interim gigs. He’s still going as strong as ever, still preaching as well as ever, still trying to be as ornery as ever. But his love for our church – the church he left nearly 18 years ago – can’t be hidden. He said in his message that if he had one last sermon to preach, he’d want to preach it in my home church. And I believe him.

Reflecting on all that he did for our church…for me…forced me to reflect on other people who’ve profoundly influenced my life. Last week I buried my friend Curtis. I wish I had one more opportunity to tell him what he meant to me. How he led me to a deeper prayer life. How he made me a better dad…husband…pastor.

Too often we wait until it’s too late to express what people mean to us. We stand behind a casket or beside a grave and reflect on the kindness we’ve been shown or the legacy we’ve been left. We wish for one more opportunity, one more chance to say what has previously been unsaid.

Somewhere today, there’s someone who needs to hear from you. Perhaps it’s a teacher, someone who discipled you in college, maybe your old youth pastor, a parent, a former boss or a current co-worker. Somebody has had a deep and lasting influence on who you’ve become, and you don’t have to wait until it’s too late to say so.

Take thirty minutes today and write a letter or draft an email or make a phone call. Somebody out there needs your encouragement. As for me, I have an ornery preacher I’ve gotta write.

Who has influenced you? Honor their story. Comment below.