Relevant preaching. Authentic worship music. A community atmosphere. Many American churches today use those phrases to advertise the uniqueness of their “worship experience.” We didn’t use that terminology at the small Baptist church in Michigan where I grew up; but for a little boy, it was certainly a memorable experience to go there.
First, there was the Hammond organ. It was about the same size as my mom’s piano, but somehow it had enough sound packed inside to shake the auditorium. I was fascinated watching the organist as he played with both his hands and his feet, manipulating the deep tones into music offered up to the Lord.
There was also the tank at the front of the building where, every so often, the pastor would don his maroon robe and dunk people underneath the water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For a boy who couldn’t swim, baptism was scary stuff.
Then, there were the giants. The giants are what I remember most.
They were farmers, businessmen, and factory workers. Some were wealthy, others were not. But all of them were giants in my eyes, not because of their height or social status, but because of their moral stature and the strong stance they took for the Word of God.
Qualities of Leaders
Like the deacons the apostle Paul described, these men were “reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience” (1 Tim. 3:8–9). Though possessing feet of clay like everyone else, each one had an impeccable testimony for Christ in his home, workplace, and community.
These were leaders—not bombastic or authoritarian—but men who knew God’s Word and sought passionately to edify the congregation and reach the community with the gospel. They served, they taught Sunday school, they drove the church bus, they set up for Vacation Bible School, and they helped children in the youth program learn their memory verses. They strove to rightly divide the Scriptures and help others do the same.
Moody Bible Institute professor Dr. Rosalie de Rosset wrote of similar giants in her church when she was growing up in the 1960s:
In my home church there were historians, keepers of the gate, guardians of my soul—those who understood that people my age should not run the format of a church or be the measure of what is important. These were the people who understood that when adolescent heat and trendiness pass, we must retain in our memories something bigger and better, something not adolescent to have in our keeping as treasures for when we grew up. They made sure our inheritance was not swallowed up by what seemed important in the sixties or at sixteen. These guardians of our souls knew that popular trends and teenage moods come and go, and that they must give us a solid memory and understanding of what was better, more mature, classic.1
Giants, historians, keepers of the gate, guardians of our souls, pillars. Whatever we call them, the church needs them. It has always needed them. And today it needs them desperately.
Assaults on truth abound. The dense, cultural fog of skepticism and doubt has crept through the church walls in the West. People are questioning the inerrancy of Scripture, the deity and sufficiency of Christ, sexual identity, the need for marriage, the value of human life, man’s purpose, and the very nature of what it means to be human.
We need men and women of substance who know the Lord intimately—and who know His Word and how to rightly divide it—to guide a generation floundering in a sea of moral relativism.
How do we develop these giants in our local churches? How do we grow to become them ourselves?
1. We devote ourselves to God’s Word.
American Christians have no lack of books about the Bible. Bookstores and online retailers offer thousands of titles, many of which cater to a niche audience within the Christian community.
Let’s not forget, though, that the Scriptures alone are God’s means of instruction for His church (1 Pet. 2:2). I’m always inspired and, yes, convicted when I read how the Bereans analyzed what Paul and Silas were teaching in the synagogue, daily searching the Scriptures “to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).
We must remember that the authority of Scripture is not merely an item we include in our church doctrinal statements; it’s a life-or-death belief for the body of Christ. As individuals and congregations, we need to devote ourselves to the Scriptures, letting the Spirit of God freely apply them to every area of our lives.
2. We serve in our local churches with purpose.
It’s easy to serve aimlessly in ministries! The work at hand—what we do—can quickly blind us to why we’re doing it. Parking cars, passing out bulletins, playing our instruments, teaching a class, baking cookies. None of these things, in themselves, are bad; to the contrary, they are all good (especially the cookie-baking!). But we must not do them simply to be doing something. We need purpose.
Before engaging in any act of service, we should ask ourselves why we are there and then ask the Lord to use us for His glory (Col. 3:17). The Lord equips willing, not necessarily talented, people to accomplish His will.
3. We disciple other believers.
When I was 19, the pastor of our small church, one of the “giants,” began discipling me. Originally, we met every Tuesday for an hour or so to go through a lesson from a book. That formal discipleship, however, quickly developed into an organic, honest relationship. We went to lunch and talked over doctrinal questions I had. He took me to visit sick members of our congregation and to pray with them. We attended a men’s conference together, and I think I learned more from him during the drive than I did attending the conference.
Paul charged Pastor Timothy not to keep the things he had taught him to himself, but to “commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2). As well-known Bible teacher Warren Wiersbe wrote, “We are stewards of the spiritual treasure God has given us. It is our responsibility to guard the deposit and then invest it in the lives of others. They, in turn, are to share the Word with the next generation of believers.”2
Discipleship is a lot of work; but it’s how the Lord develops spiritual giants for His church.
4. We teach apologetics to our congregations.
Skepticism and agnosticism seem to be the gods of our age. Certainly, our culture’s incessant scoffing at the notion of absolute truth and the church’s seeming emphasis on style over doctrine have contributed to this problem.
It’s difficult to imagine when apologetics have been more crucial. So we should “be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks [us] a reason for the hope that is in [us], with meekness and fear” (1 Pet. 3:15).
In my opinion, we need to put more of our time and financial resources into equipping the saints, rather than entertaining them. To be sure, there are many grounded churches that are faithfully equipping their young people, and we thank God for them; but we need more. A generation of believers who cannot articulate what they believe and why will set the church afloat in perilous waters.
Developing giants requires the power of the Holy Spirit. But if we commit ourselves to the Lord, His Word, and His will, I’m convinced He will use us to accomplish His purposes for the good of His church and for His glory.
- Rosalie de Rosset, Unseduced and Unshaken: The Place of Dignity in a Young Woman’s Choices (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2012), 120.
- Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2007), 775.