5 Christian Leaders with Amazing Stories

Written by: Kelly McSparran
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I’m fascinated by biographies and documentaries. I’ve always been drawn to the extraordinary successes and the messy humanity of famous people’s lives. From their daily habits to their life-changing decisions, each subject’s story makes me pause and reflect on my own life.

While I am most influenced by my direct community—my family, friends (a small but meaningful circle, like any true introvert’s), and church—these stories of powerhouse leaders inspire me to a life of more intentionality.

Here are five Christian leaders with unique stories and the lessons I’ve learned from them.

1. Corrie ten Boom

Born in 1892, Corrie grew up with her faith-filled family in the Netherlands. When the Nazis arrived in 1940, the ten Boom family hid many Jews as a part of the Dutch resistance. They were discovered, arrested, and sent to a concentration camp, where Corrie’s father and sister died. Corrie’s devotion to Jesus and reliance on Scripture is chronicled in her famous book The Hiding Place. Corrie ten Boom survived her horrific experience and became one of the greatest evangelists of her time.

Lessons to learn:

Evil is no match for the hope that is found in Jesus. Corrie ten Boom’s legacy proves that we can find our true hope and strength in God no matter what challenges, wrongs, or injustices we face.

Verse to Memorize:

The Lord is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.
Therefore my heart celebrates,
and I give thanks to him with my song.

Psalm 28:7 CSB

2. John Rockefeller

John Rockefeller grew up in New York. His mother tried to maintain a stable and Christ-loving home, but his father lived a double life with many side schemes, a second family, and erratic parenting. Studious and hardworking, Rockefeller took after his mother. After some early career achievements, he bought out his partners to create Standard Oil in 1870, which multiplied his wealth exponentially. Adjusted for inflation, he remains the richest-ever self-made American.

Rockefeller was a devout Baptist who taught Sunday School and attended Friday night prayer events. His faith led him to become one of the most influential philanthropists of the twentieth century. He invested his vast fortune in higher education, medical research, and a lasting foundation that continues his legacy of charitable giving.

Lessons to learn:

When God grants us unique abilities, opportunities, and even wealth, we can use those resources for his kingdom rather than for our own selfish gain. When we keep our eyes focused on eternity and our hope in the Lord alone, Jesus will help us to release our worldly wealth for the sake of honoring God and loving others.

Verse to Memorize:

Instruct those who are rich in the present age not to be arrogant or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy.

1 Timothy 6:17 CSB

3. Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman was born into slavery in Maryland in 1822. As a child, she was required to work long hours and was whipped when the baby she was forced to watch cried. When she was thirteen, a slave master threw a heavy weight at an escaping slave, but it hit Harriet instead and broke her skull. Harriet experienced dizziness, seizures, and headaches for the rest of her life.

After escaping slavery, she daringly returned thirteen times to help guide other slaves to freedom, earning her the nickname “Moses.” Harriet was Methodist, and her faith was central to her courage and compassion for others. Though she could not read, she memorized long passages of Scripture, sang gospel songs, and prayed regularly. She relied on the voice of the Lord to guide her and gave him the glory for her incredible work on the Underground Railroad.

Lessons to Learn:

We are called to live boldly for God and to care for the oppressed in our world. Harriet Tubman’s enduring legacy shows us that God will work through us most powerfully when we rely on his strength and guidance.

Verse to Memorize:

The Lord is my rock,
my fortress, and my deliverer,
my God, my rock where I seek refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation,
my stronghold.

Psalm 18:2 CSB

4. C. S. Lewis

The famous author of the Chronicles of Narnia was born in Ireland around the turn of the twentieth century. His early years were marked with difficulties. His father was demanding and often distant; his mother died from cancer when he was nine, and he struggled physically and socially at boarding schools in England. He experienced the horrors of trench warfare when he was drafted to fight in the First World War at only nineteen years old.

These experiences led to his atheist beliefs which he held firmly until his friendships with J. R. R. Tolkien and others at Oxford began to change his mind. C. S. Lewis’ distinguished career included authoring over thirty books and nearly thirty years of teaching at Oxford. Countless children can better picture God’s love because of Lewis’ enduring characters, like Aslan.

Lessons to Learn:

Engaging in meaningful community is a powerful way to understand theology and experience God’s goodness. Fellow believers can spur us on to deeper faith, hold us accountable, and encourage us to use our strengths to share the gospel with those around us.

Verses to Memorize:

And let us consider one another in order to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.

Hebrews 10:24–25 CSB

5. John Mark Comer

John Mark Comer has a master’s degree in biblical and theological studies from Western Seminary and was the founding pastor of Bridgetown Church, a megachurch in Portland, Oregon. In 2019, he realized that the pace and expectations of his “success” were not worth the emotional and spiritual toll he was paying. He stepped back at work and documented his experience in his book The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry. Now he continues to write and lead others to pattern their lives after Jesus.

Lessons to Learn:

As we become weary of chasing worldly success, there is always an opportunity to pause and reorient our lives around Jesus. His desire is for us to draw near to him in all seasons of our lives and leadership.

Verses to Memorize:

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28–30 CSB

Reflect: Stories like these should create an opportunity to look inward.

How does my life story reflect God’s goodness to the world? Where do I need to invite God in to heal my wounds or develop my character? How can I rely on Jesus to shape my leadership and legacy?