A pair of mighty oaks has fallen - Word&Way

A pair of mighty oaks has fallen

A pair of Missouri Baptist leaders of earlier years passed from the scene within a span of less than 30 days. Between them, they had lived for 194 years — years filled with service among Baptists in Missouri.

Homer DeLozier died on Feb. 11 at the age of 101 at the Baptist Home in Ironton. He was known across the state primarily for his service as superintendent — or executive director — of St. Louis Metro Baptist Association from 1955 until his retirement in 1976.

Thomas Field, who died on March 12 in a Springfield hospital at 93 (see page 2), may best be remembered as one of the former presidents of William Jewell College. He served from 1970 to 1980 in what has since been dubbed the college’s “Decade of Greatness.”

At their respective deaths, both have been referred to as Missouri Baptist statesmen and giants. That may be due in part to the fact that they fulfilled so memorably their calling as Baptist servant leaders.

Homer DeLozier had a passion for church planting in the metropolitan association he served for more than 20 years. He witnessed the start of 44 congregations in 22 years.

Tom Field had a gift — and the drive — to strengthen and grow educational institutions. Expansion in both enrollment and campus development characterized his tenure at Jewell over 10 years. He was well into retirement when Missouri Baptist College (now University) called on him to serve as interim president from 1991 to 1995.

Both men were more than single-dimensional in their service.

DeLozier had more than a passing interest in Missouri Baptist College himself. He was one of the initiators of the institution, and he remained an ardent supporter throughout his life. He held degrees from Southwest Baptist College (now University) and William Jewell College, and served as a trustee of both schools and Hannibal-LaGrange College.

Both men were prominent pastors. Field served First Baptist Church, Springfield, as senior pastor from 1960 to 1970, in addition to congregations in other states.

DeLozier served churches in Quarlls, Chilhowee, Leeton and Lamar before being called to Maplewood Baptist Church in St. Louis, a congregation he served for 15 years. Many from that church that he served more than a half century ago were present at his funeral.

DeLozier and Field both led the Missouri Baptist Convention as presidents, and both served on the MBC Executive Board. Each served in many more capacities.

Rudy Pulido, senior pastor of Southwest Baptist Church in St. Louis where DeLozier and his wife were longtime members, said of him: “He was distinguished; he was modest; he was transparent. He also grew from us our best.”

That may be the key to Christian greatness in the truest sense — to help others be at their best as Christians.

Current Jewell president David Sallee said of Field: “He led [the college] through a ‘Decade of Greatness’ that defined the college’s direction for the future and set it on a path of confident growth.”

Added MBU president Alton Lacey: “His many accomplishments set the standard for servant leadership. Setting his sights high, he inspired others through his own hard work and sacrifice.”

Both men loved expressing their faith within the ranks of Baptists, and their contributions helped Baptist institutions develop positive reputations.

DeLozier was a strong advocate of Baptist ideals, cautioning fellow Baptists to protect the “fragile freedoms,” including a free Bible, soul freedom, a free church and religious freedom, according to Pulido.

The highest tribute to servants of such stature may be the seeds they planted in the lives of people they influenced. While they outlived most of their peers — as well as their beloved wives — the fruits of their labors remain and will continue for generations to come. Homer DeLozier and Tom Field were among the finest of Missouri Baptists.

Bill Webb is editor of Word&Way.