Leaders as Heroes

By Chuck Lawless

I usually think about heroes during two holidays of the year: Memorial Day and July 4th. On both days, I’m reminded of the cost many before us have paid so we might be free today. I know very few of their names, but they are nevertheless heroes.

Several years ago, I had the privilege of speaking to missionaries in Russia, and I commented that they were some of my heroes.  With a humility that typifies missionaries, they encouraged me not to see them as heroes.  “We’re just doing what God called us to do,” they told me.

I’ve heard the same words from pastors of churches that are genuinely reaching non-believers and making disciples of Christ.  It seems like the more the church is really making an eternal difference, the more likely it is that the pastor is humble and self-effacing.

Many laypersons in churches exhibit this same attitude. For example, these members of churches I’ve led come quickly to mind:

  • Sonney, a deacon who struggled to read but loved God’s Word
  • Ed, who taught me about the importance of small groups
  • Allen, who is a trophy of God’s transforming power
  • Christie, a children’s teacher who reached out to the most unloving kids

I could tell stories of my spiritual heroes for hours. Rather than make these missionaries, pastors, and laypersons feel uncomfortable, however, I have generally tried to be more cautious about speaking words of praise for them.

I’ve now changed my mind.  Ask our children who their heroes are, and I fear they will speak of a cartoon figure, a movie character, or a television superhero.  I hope they would name their parents, but I’m not persuaded that would always happen. I am fairly certain the children would not name their pastor, and I doubt most could even name a missionary. Our children can likely name others who attend church with us, but I’m not sure they would list them as heroes.

That reality, I think, is tragic. Who of the next generation will take the gospel to the ends of the earth if they don’t know the stories of missionaries? How many of our children will be open to a call to ministry because their a church leader has been a hero?  How many will long to be like their pastor who preaches the Word, lives a holy life, models personal evangelism, and loves God’s church?

Will our children know by heroic example they can be a strong Christian and a public school teacher? A well-trained CPA who models Christian integrity? A politician who stands up for righteousness? A bus driver who transports students during the week and teaches the Bible on Sunday?  A church elder and a police officer?

I want our kids to find their heroes among church leaders.

My point is not to rob God of His glory by being man-centered. Rather, it is to give God His due glory for the leaders He has given the church.  It is to praise Him for the men and women who have challenged us to follow God in radical obedience—to take risks necessary to do the Great Commission at a local, national, and international level.

So, missionary who is serving in the middle of nowhere, know that you are one of my heroes.  Church planter starting a congregation amid millions of people in your urban setting, you are my hero as well.  To the pastor who passionately shares Christ day in and day out, you, too, are numbered among my heroes. Faithful layperson who voluntarily serves the church each week, you are also in that group.

I know that makes all of you uncomfortable, but that’s part of what makes you my heroes.  You serve persistently and passionately without suffering from spiritual arrogance.  I call you my heroes without apology, knowing you will deflect any praise to the gracious God who has chosen to use you. I wish our children could know all of you.

Who are the church leaders who’ve been your heroes? Tell us about them in the comments below. Send them a link to this blogpost, with these words as the subject line: “I thank God for you.”  It’s okay to honor folks who honor God.


  • brucegrubbs says:

    Thom/Chuck.. actually brought tears to me eyes. So many good men and women serving God out of the lime-light… living long, fruitful lives of service and effectivness.. but lost from sight.. these are the heros/ and heroines … we need to hold up as models… many in small, unknown places doing great things with great impact. Let’s find them, tell their stories (in books, videos, on platforms and in conventions) and birth a new generations of willing servants who want to be heros!

    bruce grubbs

    • Thom Rainer says:

      I totally agree Bruce. There are some truly great heroes we need to introduce to the world.

      By the way, Chuck is on the international field this week. He may not get to the comments today. I am his unworthy substitute until he returns.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Bruce, thanks for the comments. I’m so grateful for the folks who are most concerned that Jesus’ name (rather than theirs) be remembered.

  • John Daly says:

    While we’re quick to sport Jordan or Lebron James gear, we’re not so quick to acknowledge our hero’s in the Faith. A little encouragement to one of our hero’s would no doubt make their day and cause them to thank The Lord for the opportunity to be used by Him.

  • Jon Reed says:

    I wholeheartedly agree. As I read your words I couldn’t help but think of my wife and dad, public schools teachers who point their classes toward Jesus through loving them. Or about my Mom who works in an apt. complex for elderly and low income people and sees it as her mission field. Or about my grandmother who devotedly prayed continually for her family. Or about many who serve in the church where I pastor, reaching out to many children who are less fortunate in the eyes of the world and making sure that they are fed and loved and that many of our shut ins know they are loved as well. These people are truly some of my heroes.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Great word, Jon. As an educator, I’m especially grateful you wrote about Christians who make a difference in the public school system.

  • Sarah DeJarnette says:

    George Siler, Jonathan Siler, and Derek Futrell are my local heroes. I am also quite fond of Chuck and Pam Lawless.

  • Thom Rainer says:

    My heroes are my sons, Sam Rainer, Art Rainer, and Jess Rainer. Though I am their dad, and many years their senior, I look up to them in so many ways. I am amazed to see the godly husbands they have become. They truly treasure their wives as gifts from God. I am in awe watching them interact with their children. They are better dads than I ever dreamed to be. I hold back tears when I see them serving and loving the bride of Christ, the local churches where they each serve as a pastor. The sons have surpassed the father in every good way. Their lives have been shaped by the God they serve and their mom, Nellie Jo. My sons are my heroes. And I am a most blessed man.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Thom, I know your boys also see you as a hero. That’s the way it should be: fathers who are heroes to sons, and sons who are heroes to fathers.

  • Scott Cassel says:

    Chuck and Thom:
    This story is my story. Growing up, my “heroes” where the people of my church. I might not have called them that at the time, but I recognize them as that clearly now. The men who treated me, a young boy, as someone who “belonged” and who always spoke to me (not down to me, just to me). The women who taught VBS, Sunday school, and who created all sorts of boy-friendly snacks and activities. Even the pastors, who talked, laughed, shared, and walked the journey. I am so grateful for those heroes now – more than they could ever know. I hope in my faith community there are young people looking around and seeing heroes. Not perfect robots, but people of a true and abiding faith.
    So to Mr. Gilbert, and Mr. Hilgeman, and Mrs. Crockett, and Mrs. Fields, and all the countless rest: thanks, you are my heroes.

    To Chuck and Thom: thanks so much for this very good word.

  • Dany Daniel says:

    A few heroes come to mind. They are older, but are all marked by a faithful commitment to serving God and proclaiming the gospel.
    A.M & Margaret Stone…He pastored for over 60 years in TX. Member and SS disciple maker at a church I served as interim. Mentored me constantly. Even showed up to a “youth” concert in their late 80’s. Stood the whole time and clapped. Said the music was not their preference, but if it reached students with the gospel they wanted to be part of it.
    Valeta Boyd…Been making disciples as a SS disciple maker for over 65 years. She is 92. Very strong, spry, and passionate about discipleship. Every Sunday she is uber prepared and has designed a creative intro to the lesson. She involves everybody in the class in preparation for lessons.
    I love to hangout with seasoned warriors of the gospel who are still passionate about being agents of transformation until their last breath. Praise God for His work in their lives.

  • Blu Berner says:

    My son Brad who is 17 lists Ed Stetzer as a hero because he is so willing to interact and converse with believers of all names (denominations). He enjoys following his adventures online and is constantly encouraged by his walk.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Ed has indeed been given a unique opportunity to speak across denominations. Glad he’s influenced your son.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.