1974–1999 awards here. 2005 to follow.
2000: A.W. Tozer and John MacArthur
Tough one here, not because there aren't candidates, but because I can't remember what I read when. Nevertheless, I know that it was during this year that I read John MacArthur's Ashamed of the Gospel, which cultivated my distaste for both church growth evangelicalism and her less-hip cousin, revivalistic fundamentalism. I also know that I read A.W. Tozer's The Pursuit of God this year, but I forget whether it was for the first or second time. Regardless, Tozer lit a flame in my heart that has only gained intensity as time has passed and the flame has found more fuel.
2001: Kevin Bauder
In the spring of this year, a couple of my friends took "History of Fundamentalism" from Dr. Bauder at Central Seminary and were overwhelmed. Although I was still in Wisconsin, I felt as though I was taking the class second-hand through them. Dr. Bauder preached in chapel at Maranatha and spent a great deal of time with prospective seminary students sometime during the year, and I visited Central in the fall. Somehow, the entire experience cultivated my desire for further discipline and training in a rigorous academical and spiritual environment.
2002: Garry Friesen
Friesen's Decision Making and the Will of God transformed my thinking about how to make decisions that are not directly addressed by Scripture. A few years before I had listened numerous times to tapes of a series of messages on the subject taught at a college & career retreat by Dr. Greg Mazak of BJU, so the pump was already primed. Friesen's critique took me the next step by his thorough analysis of the traditional mystical view of God's will in light of biblical texts. His book also gave me the tools to apply biblical wisdom and prudence to non-moral decisions, which came in the nick of time for my seminary vs. ministry+seminary decision that summer.
2003: Frank Hamrick
This is an easy one. Dr. Hamrick began to tie together the questions in my mind that had begun to arise from reading Tozer and Piper. I had read bits and pieces of Piper over the years and had been profoundly affected. Tozer lit the flame, Piper fed it, and Hamrick helped me to use it. Seeing how Hamrick was attempting to apply God-centered teaching to the specific area of youth ministry was a priceless help towards cultivating a love for the gospel in my heart and life.
2004: Mark Dever
Ironically, everything that I've read by Dever, I read in either 2003 or 2005. What happened in 2004 is that I began listening to his 9Marks interviews. The interviews were a conduit for me to hear a variety of men (Piper, MacArthur, Duncan, Murray, Wells, Sproul, and others), most of them pastors, explain their passion and concern for the health of churches, the primacy of biblical worship, the centrality of expositional preaching, and the necessity to defend the purity of the gospel further reinforced my commitment to those values. I particularly appreciated their willingness to critique the faults in their own circles and to be honest about the destructive influences of evangelical heroes.
Note: Piper keeps coming up, but I can't peg him to a particular year. Perhaps when I'm old I'll start giving out lifetime achievement awards.
P.S. Anybody want to take a stab at 2005?