Note: We’re preempting our usual “Throwback Thursday” installments this week and next for this five-part special.
The unbelieving world loves to idolize “successful” people. Those who were the “best” at their profession or who were the most influential in a particular cause or movement are put on pedestals to be admired and venerated. There are a multitude of “halls of fame” throughout the world that have been established to recognize successful or exemplary people in various categories. Inductees are said to be “enshrined” and are honored with a painting, photograph, or sculpted bust with some words about their accomplishments. Many of us are familiar with the various sports halls of fame and the rock ‘n’ roll hall of fame, they’re a big business, but there are many, many other such institutions.
Believe it or not, there’s even a Christian Hall of Fame! Yes, there is! I learned about this institution while recently reading the biography of John R. Rice. In 1964, Pastor Harold Henniger (1924-2004) of the Canton Baptist Temple (Independent Fundamental Baptist) in Canton, Ohio was lying in a hospital bed recovering from a heart attack and reading Hebrews 11, which some refer to as the “faith hall of fame,” with its many references to notable Old Testament saints. Henniger was familiar with the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which had opened the previous year in Canton, and got the idea to establish a Christian Hall of Fame within the facilities at Canton Baptist Temple. The church inaugurated the Christian Hall of Fame two years later in 1966 with a special room and an original oil painting* for each inductee. To date, 108** persons have been inducted into the Christian Hall of Fame at Canton, Ohio.
One of the things I love about the Bible is God shows us therein that we are all unworthy sinners. While people like Noah, Abraham, Moses, Gideon, and David were greatly used by God, they were also revealed to be weak and sinful. Their “greatness” was only in their ultimate faith and dependence on God. I’m so glad that God reveals in His Word that those Old Testament “heroes” were “mess-ups” just like me. We are not to put Christian leaders, men or women, on pedestals. We know this, yet we do it anyway. In that regard, we still have much of the world in us.
Independent Fundamental Baptists had/have a proclivity for leadership idolatry and Henniger no doubt believed this Christian Hall of Fame concept was a grand idea, but it leaves a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.
“So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” – Luke 17:10
The Lord dispenses His gifts to the body of believers as He sees fit, however, those who are in leadership roles can be especially tempted by pride. The rest of us don’t help by placing them on pedestals and creating halls of fame for them. But there’s no need to take a radically iconoclastic stand on this. The lives of faithful servants of God CAN BE inspiring examples for us.
Although I’m not in agreement with the concept of a “Christian Hall of Fame,” I thought it might be interesting to review who Henniger and his associates selected for inclusion. To that end, I will be “clearing the deck” and devoting most of next week’s posts (Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday) to the hall’s “enshrinees” in four installments of twenty-seven individuals each, with a few bio-facts and links to their respective Wiki articles. I’ll also surely have some comments regarding some questionable selections.
Postscript: I imagine all inductions into the Christian Hall of Fame are done posthumously because accepting such an honor while still alive would appear as shameless self-aggrandizement. It’s my contention that many/most of the 108 enshrinees in the Christian Hall of Fame would have objected to being venerated in such a manner.
*Eight of the portraits hanging in the Christian Hall of Fame were painted by the controversial independent fundamental Baptist pastor and firebrand, Peter Ruckman.
**A 2009 article (see here) states that 124 persons have been inducted into the Christian Hall of Fame, but the list on the Canton Baptist Temple’s web site includes only 108 individuals. Either the article is wrong or CBT is no longer prioritizing its Christian Hall of Fame web page. 🧐
This entire series can be accessed via the links below: