Big. That’s what we called him. It was really Don Williams. But we always called him “Big Don” or “Big.” Why did we call him “Big”? It’s because he was big. He was tall. And he was…big. But I liked to think that he did everything bigger than life. Whether it was eating, preaching, sports, laughing or whatever—he did it big.
When I think back upon Big Don, he was one of the two biggest influences in my ministry life. I can honestly say that I always wanted to be like him. He traveled around doing retreats. That’s what I do now—I did twelve last year. He made his sermons full of personal stories. That’s what I try to do now. I can rarely make mine as funny or as sad as Big Don though. When he was funny, no one laughed more than he did. But when he was telling a poignant one, he was the first to have a tear in his eye. He gave himself to the marginalized whether it was because of race, income, or disability. I now give myself to helping the hopeless and helpless with Christian Relief Fund. But most importantly, he had a religion that was focused on Jesus Himself. In a world full of peripheral issues and hot topics, Don got me to go back to the gospels making sure that Jesus was central to my message and lifestyle.
I will never see a box of See’s Candy without thinking of Big. He especially liked the raspberry pieces. He loved little kids. I loved the way he loved mine. I miss our special funny stories. We would tell them over and over again. They never seemed to age, and they got “Bigger” with every telling. Don was kind. He was a servant. He would never let you pick up the check. He wanted to treat you. It never seemed to be about him.
The pulpit of the Broadway Church of Christ in Lubbock is legendary. Not so much because of the size or the look of it. No, it is famous because there is a little plastic sign on it that you can only see if you are speaking from it. It says, “Sir, we would see Jesus”. It is from the passage in John 12:21 where the Greeks came looking to see the Christ. However, on the pulpit—it means that whoever is standing there should not have the preeminence. If anyone is looking at the pulpit, they should see Jesus not some human personality. It was a reminder to anyone who ever walked behind the pulpit that it wasn’t about him—it was all about Jesus. The sign simply appeared one day as legend goes. No one ever knew where it came from. If people knew, they didn’t tell it.
Big Don died last week. His memorial was today. If it is still a secret, the word should be out now. Big Don put the sign on the pulpit—“Sir, we would see Jesus”. It was not only on the pulpit. It was as if it was figuratively hanging around the neck of Big Don. Big, you wore it well. When I look back, all I can say is– “We saw Jesus.”