Missouri is a land of giants. Baptist giants. Lots of them. Many are deceased, but many are very much alive.
About 70 of these giants were identified several weeks ago by about 30 respondents to an e-mail asking people simply to name persons they regarded as giants in Missouri Baptist life and to explain what made them people of such stature. The were given no definition of “Missouri Baptist giant.” The responses came in a rush. The first one came 23 minutes after the request was e-mailed, and the rest followed quickly.
Most of the people named by respondents received one nomination for giant, but 11 respondents agreed on one of these giants. These were people who came readily to mind, so the list could hardly be called exhaustive.
This little exercise struck a positive chord. The e-mailers were not hesitant at all to name Baptists they admire from the past and in the present. Most named more than one. They seemed to have been waiting for someone to ask. With their choices, they came up with keen insights into what makes great Christians great.
The qualities of spiritual giants that were mentioned tend to overlap. Thanks to our readers, here are 30 of them:
1. Baptist giants have long track records of service. Rarely does one grow to be a giant overnight. The specific tasks may vary, but Christian service is a lifelong calling.
2. Baptist giants nurture others. Baptist heroes are recognized as such because they share their lives. They allow their giant-qualities to rub off on others.
3. Baptist giants are prophetic. In communicating God’s will and demonstrating God’s ways, Missouri Baptist giants have helped people in issues of the day such as race relations, poverty, war and peace, freedom, faithfulness and others.
4. Baptist giants are well-regarded in their own communities and often well beyond. The best qualities of Christian giants do not go unnoticed by those they meet.
5. Baptist giants lead from spiritual strength. Spiritual depth is a defining characteristic of a Baptist giant. Such people are preoccupied with knowing and doing the will of God.
6. Baptist giants confront conflict with peacemaking. True Christian giants understand that conflict — especially unresolved conflict within the Christian body — stands counter to God’s will and sabotages the work of the Holy Spirit and God’s people. Such giants are agents of reconciliation.
7. Baptist giants treat others with respect. This is a Christ-quality at the heart of a relational faith.
8. Baptist giants emerge during tough and trying times. People seek them out. Under the leadership of God, some Baptist giants emerge for “such-a-time-as-this” situations.
9. Baptist giants serve quietly and confidently. A person who seeks the limelight in his/her Christian life is of considerably less stature than a Christian giant, whose confidence comes in relying upon God’s strength.
10. Baptist giants sometimes pour their lives into a single Baptist cause. They focus their volunteer or vocational life primarily around a single worthy ministry.
11. On the other hand, some Baptist giants may serve several causes in their lifetimes.
12. Baptist giants are not lean on character. Every spiritual giant is tattooed with personal integrity, a quality that shows from a distance.
13. Baptist giants do not seek the largest stage for ministry. Need and heavy responsibility seek out spiritual giants, not vice versa.
14. The influence of giants always outlives them. Subsequent generations sometimes forget the names, but they still see the ripples of spiritual giants.
15. Baptist giants are visionary. Under the leadership of God, they see what is possible and envision how to get there.
16. Baptist giants are inclusive. Significant Baptist leaders work tirelessly to involve as many saints as possible in the work of God.
17. Baptist giants are innovative. Baptist giants find a way to reach God-sized goals and seek out the best thinking of others to do so.
18. Baptist giants leave legacies. We recognize and remember Baptist giants and the lasting results of their lives.
19. Baptist giants are able to rise above adversity. Such leaders are not surprised by adversity. They expect it, confront it, deal with it, move forward and don’t look back.
20. Baptist giants are statesmen and stateswomen. These are the people to whom we naturally look for leadership. They are people of experience and wisdom.
21. Baptist giants are marked by humility. Spiritual giants recognize they are not self-made but refined by God. They successfully imitate Christ’s nature.
22. Baptist giants are trustworthy, whether charged with little or much. Others would trust them with their children or their life’s savings.
23. Baptist giants empower others to empower others to empower others…. They long to see others assume responsibility and realize the joy of service and faith for themselves.
24. Baptist giants love God and contribute to expanding God’s kingdom.
25. Baptist giants value people. They recognize others as created in the image of God. One of the best ways to get on the wrong side of a spiritual giant is to mistreat other people.
26. Many Baptist giants aspire only to serve behind the scenes. Some giants find their way into history books or official records, but some of the finest are less visible.
27. Baptist giants see the big picture. Spiritual giants do not get bogged down in minutia.
28. Baptist giants see the potential in people and in fledgling Christian enterprises. They see the spiritual giant possibilities in others.
29. Baptist giants are people of courage.
30. Not one true Baptist giant has ever claimed that title for himself or herself.
Next issue: What are the names of some of these spiritual giants? Check out the next issue of Word&Way to find out. If you are so inclined, e-mail the names and distinctive qualities of people you regard as Missouri Baptist giants to Bill Webb at firstname.lastname@example.org or mail them to him at Word&Way; 3236 Emerald Lane, Suite 400; Jefferson City, MO 65109.
Bill Webb is editor of Word&Way.