by Stan Mitchell

“Honor such men” (Philippians 2:29).

It bothers me when our fellowship seems to lionize and quote leaders of practically every Christian fellowship except our own. This is not to suggest that people from other fellowships don’t do admirable things, of course. There is much to admire in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s courage, John Wesley’s devotion or Billy Graham’s personal integrity.

But our fellowship is filled with extraordinary heroism, men and women who gave heart and mind, sweat and tears for the cause of Christ. Is it possible we have taken greatness for granted? One difference, I suspect, is that our heroes didn’t laud their organization or foundation on YouTube. They served Christ in relative anonymity. Shouldn’t we be grateful for them and be inspired by their actions?

Here are some, but not nearly all of my heroes:

  • Augusta and Elaine Britell, sisters who raised hundreds of orphans in south western Zambia, teaching them about Christ.
  • Carl Spain, who spoke in the 1962 Abilene Christian College Lectures and declared that the time had come for ACC to admit African American students. He could easily have lost his job. Instead, within two years Lipscomb College, Oklahoma Christian and Freed-Hardeman followed suit and admitted African Americans.
  • Jonathan Chitendeni, a Zimbabwean who was offered the position of tribal chief, an influential and powerful position; he chose a higher calling instead – to preach the gospel.
  • Joe Cannon, missionary to Japan and New Guinea: Humorous, deeply devoted and thoroughly, completely undiplomatic when it came to shaming those who were “at ease in Zion.”
  • Dr. Neil Lightfoot, equal parts preacher and New Testament scholar. He held a generation of preachers and missionaries to the highest standards of biblical scholarship, and taught us how rewarding it was to deliver messages that were drawn from deep, prayerful study of Scripture.
  • Zelma Lawyer, whose husband perished in a horrific accident with a spear in southern Africa leaving her and two children. She returned to the USA and was dorm mother for generations of Abilene Christian College women.
  • Carlos Estevez, evangelist to Mozambique and Brazil. Though crippled, he was bizarrely incarcerated for being a “CIA spy,” thrown in a hole in Tete Province with scores of other prisoners. He served dozens of congregations comprising thousands of New Testament Christians.
  • Jaxie Palmer, wife of Roy Palmer, who followed him from Germany to Zimbabwe to Tanzania and back to Zimbabwe again. Joyful, hospitable, compassionate, and patient, she raised eight children at one time or another in the African bush.

We not only serve an awesome God, we do so alongside many awesome Christians. Once in a while, we should give “honor to whom honor is due” (Romans 13:7, ESV).

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