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Homer Lindsay Jr. succumbs to cancer; SBC leaders remember his testimony

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP)–Homer G. Lindsay Jr., co-pastor of First Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Fla., died Feb. 13 as a result of complications from cancer. He was 72.

Lindsay, who pastored one of the Southern Baptist Convention’s largest congregations, was diagnosed with lymphoma on Feb. 4, just one day after the funeral of his son, Homer Lindsay III. The younger Lindsay died Jan. 28 after suffering a heart attack.

The elder Lindsay was admitted to St. Luke’s Hospital early Feb. 13 in grave condition. He had started chemotherapy on Feb. 6 for a cancerous mass found at the base of his spine. Hospital officials said Lindsay died at approximately 10 p.m.

He is survived by his wife, Shirley, and three daughters.

Southern Baptist leaders from across the country expressed their appreciation for Lindsay and sympathy for his family.

“One can easily imagine what heaven was like last night when Dr. Homer G. Lindsay Jr., one of the great soul-winners of all Christian history, entered its gates,” said Paige Patterson, president of the SBC.

To “hundreds of thousands of Southern Baptist pastors and laypeople,” Lindsay was “a shepherd, a prophet and a hero,” Patterson said.

“Our prayers are with Dr. [Jerry] Vines [who served with Lindsay as co-pastor] and the people in Jacksonville, but our hearts rejoice today for Dr. Lindsay, who now enjoys the reality for which he gave his unrelenting energy in the attempt to make Jesus and heaven accessible to all,” Patterson said.

John Sullivan, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, said Lindsay was the most single-focused pastor he knew. “His entire life and ministry was soul-winning,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan noted that Lindsay’s church baptized more persons than any other church in the Florida Baptist Convention. In 1999, 860 new believers were baptized there.

“Dr. Lindsay believed and preached the Bible consistently. You never wondered about his commitment to the Bible as God’s Word. One of his meaningful contributions to our denomination was his insistence on the inerrancy of Scripture,” Sullivan said.

“First Baptist Church of Jacksonville is built on the solid foundation of Scripture and evangelism,” he added. “First Baptist Church was Dr. Lindsay’s life; integrity was his character; and a godly walk was his desire.”

Adrian Rodgers, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., said his friend will be greatly missed. “I’ve known him for many years and I can say unequivocally he was a monumental man and in many ways the great First Baptist Church Jacksonville is a testimony to his life and his faith,” Rodgers told Baptist Press.

“Dr. Lindsay was a man of deep convictions and boldness. No one ever had to guess what side of the fence he was standing on … his passion was Jesus.”

Homer Gentry Lindsay Jr. was born July 10, 1927, in Nashville, Tenn., to Ruth and Homer G. Lindsay Sr. When Homer Jr. was 13 years old, his father moved the family to Jacksonville where the senior Lindsay accepted the call to fill the pulpit at First Baptist Church.

Lindsay Jr. accepted the call to the gospel ministry at the age of 16 and his first ministry assignment was to teach a Sunday school class of 9-year-old girls.

After briefly attending Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tenn., Lindsay transferred and later graduated from Stetson University in DeLand, Fla. From there, Lindsay attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He graduated in 1952.

That summer, Lindsay met Shirley Tillman, his future wife, at a Southern Baptist Convention meeting. In September of that same year, they were married and he accepted the pastorate of a 42-member church mission in Miami.

Lindsay returned to First Baptist Jacksonville in 1969 to become co-pastor with his father. Lindsay’s arrival at First Baptist marked an era of unprecedented growth. From 1969 to 1988, Sunday school enrollment increased from 2,385 to 14,172.

In 1982, Jerry Vines joined Lindsay as co-pastor and the growth continued. In 1993, the congregation moved into a 9,200-seat auditorium. The worship center is part of a church campus that covers nine square blocks of downtown Jacksonville.

The church has 18 ordained ministers, an annual budget of more than $9 million and a full-time staff of 142. Its land and other assets are valued at about $60 million, according to church officials.

Just before Christmas, Lindsay stunned the congregation and staff by announcing his decision to step down after 31 years at First Baptist. His official retirement was scheduled to begin at the end of March.

Lindsay began to feel ill around Thanksgiving and doctors originally thought his weakness resulted from a virus. Additional tests revealed the cancer.

The announcement came while the family was mourning the sudden loss of their only son. Lindsay III, who worked for a Jacksonville funeral home, collapsed during a ceremony honoring his father at the church’s annual Pastor’s Conference. He later died at a Jacksonville hospital.

A celebration service for Lindsay will be held Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. in the main auditorium of the church. He will lie in state from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m.

The family will hold a private graveside service.

(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at Photo title: PASTOR HERO.

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  • Todd Starnes