LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Shirley Lindsay, the late wife of the late Homer G. Lindsay Jr., longtime pastor at First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., was honored posthumously with the 2009 Willie Turner Dawson Award during the Ministers’ Wives Conference June 23 at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Louisville, Ky.
Lindsay’s daughter, Peggy Lindsay Hyatt, wearing her mother’s shoes, accepted the award for Lindsay, who died May 1, 2008.
“Shirley Lindsay was the ultimate Romans 12:1 woman,” said Diane Strack, president of this year’s conference and co-author of “Quiet Influence: The Romans 12:1 Woman” Bible study. The study also includes chapters by Debbie Brunson, Jeana Floyd, Donna Gaines, Susie Hawkins and Lisa Young.
Based on a passage of Scripture that urges believers “to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship,” the study focuses on six historical women, — from the Old Testament’s Deborah to Lindsay — who have personified the verse.
In the book, Brunson, wife of Mac Brunson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, wrote that personal evangelism defined the life of Lindsay, a pastor’s wife for more than 40 years.
“Shirley made sharing Christ the priority of her life. She did not want to leave anyone without an opportunity to know His love, and she set about praying for, visiting and finding those she could tell the Gospel,” Brunson wrote, pointing to examples like Lindsay intentionally parking at the back of the grocery store parking lot in order to have time to share the Gospel with the bag boy or standing in line more than two hours to get celebrity musician Liberace’s autograph so she could give him a Bible.
“She has been a great inspiration to me for over 25 years since I first met her,” Janet Hunt, who nominated Lindsay, said. Hunt’s husband Johnny Hunt is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga.
According to Hunt, Lindsay was adopted at age 3 by Walter and Clairbell Tillman. She met Homer Lindsay while attending the 1952 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, where she sang in the Stetson University choir. She and Lindsay, who had just graduated from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, knew God had called them to marry, even though they had just met, and they were wed in September that year.
The couple went to Miami to serve at Allapattah Mission Church — later called Northwest Baptist — where Shirley courageously admitted she was lost, accepted Christ and was baptized by her husband.
Afterward, she became an active pastor’s wife, serving as the leader of the children’s choir, a teacher in the bus ministry, a door-to-door evangelist and mother of four children.
In 1969, leaving a church that grew from 45 to more than 3,200 members, they moved to First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, where Homer Lindsay served as co-pastor alongside his father until his father’s retirement in 1975. According to First Baptist’s website, the church’s Sunday School enrollment skyrocketed from 2,385 to 14,172 members between 1969 and 1988.
During that time, Shirley taught the new members’ class and often visited each new member in their home. She rarely missed an opportunity to bless someone through a gift or a kind word, Hunt said.
“Knowing a person’s name was important to her, and she made everyone feel valuable to her and to God, calling them ‘precious’ in genuine love,” Brunson said. “Speaking of God’s love and salvation was her way of life and her constant conversation. Only eternity will reveal the hundreds and hundreds of lives she touched through her soft voice, sweet smile and genuine love.”
The Dawson Award was established in 1963 when the ministers’ wives group posthumously honored Willie Turner Dawson, wife of J.M. Dawson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Waco, Texas. Willie Turner Dawson was a teacher and lecturer who in 1930 challenged the Southern Baptist Convention to give more to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. As a result, the convention saw a large increase in the international missions offering.
Each year the award recognizes a minister’s wife for making a distinct denominational contribution beyond the local church and for her Christian character and service to others.
To nominate a minister’s wife for next year’s award, send a 500-word nomination essay by March 20, 2010, to Rhonda Kelley, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, 3939 Gentilly Blvd., New Orleans, LA 70126 or by e-mail to [email protected].
Shannon Baker is the national correspondent for BaptistLIFE (baptistlife.com), newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.