On the way home, I began to notice that there were two prominent recollections that stood out among the rest. The first was the powerful testimony of how Randy lived his life relationally. In the Vantage Point 3 (VP3) gathering, as well as the Celebration of Life service, I heard story after story of people who said essentially the same thing. “Randy always made me feel important and valued.” “He took time to be with me. And when he was, he named things in me that I didn’t know were there.” He had a priestly way of speaking and praying over our lives and anointing us with his words of affirmation, encouraging us to allow God to do what he wanted to do through us.
Randy never stopped seeing the “one” before him. He always gave priority to being with the “one” and would go to great lengths to do so. One woman on the VP3 board spoke about having lost her husband and how Randy drove 90 minutes just to have coffee with her and see how she was doing. Another man spoke about how Randy was supposed to be in Southern California next week and, of his own initiative, was going to get together with this man’s son. Just this last week, I received emails from two pastors whom I had asked Randy to reach out to—people I just knew needed to meet him and he them. I never knew if the meetings happened; but sure enough, each pastor told me how they had talked at length with Randy and found him to be a remarkable man.
Randy’s habit of focusing on the one and “particularizing” him or her was a unique feature of his life and ministry. As I’ve observed Christian leaders today this habit is a rare one. Most leaders who have growing responsibilities with organizations or churches seem to back away from people, not continue to move toward them. In order to “organize” the organization and try to maintain control, they withdraw from the lives of people. What a tragedy! Not Randy. His leadership was always relational. As Rob Loane put it, “Randy would say, ‘We’re friends first. After that, we’ll figure out the other stuff.’”
The second recollection that has equally arrested my attention is that while Randy gave himself to people, he didn’t try to live a heroic life. He wasn’t driven to prove himself; he wasn’t about building a kingdom for himself. He wasn’t ambitious in the way that I observe many leaders today, including myself. He really did believe that the work of God’s Kingdom is a slow and deep work and he was faithful to that work.
Randy’s untimely death has brought the reality of death close again. It’s reminded me that I will die; we all will die. This fact is a great equalizer and reminder that it is futile to “win the whole world” and in the process to lose one’s soul. Randy didn’t lose his own soul to an ambitious, ego-driven ministry or life. He played and laughed a lot. He hung out with his family and friends a lot and ate good food a lot—including all kinds of chips because he liked “crunchy”—and drank lots of coffee. He didn’t take life too seriously because he didn’t see himself as the end all, be all.
In this era of mega church, multi-site and the ever-expanding growth model, I often witness a different kind of drive among leaders. Many come to Sustainable Faith Indy for a safe space to decompress. The stories we hear, the weariness we witness stems from aggressive, unexamined ambition to build bigger kingdoms. But for who? This drive for more and bigger does not have the same humility and “right-size-ness” that I recollect when I think of Randy and as I consider the great equalizer called death.
These were my most vivid recollections as I drove home on I 80. At some point along my pilgrimage, I thought about the story of Elijah and Elisha (II Kings 2). After Elijah had placed his prophet’s mantel on Elisha and just before he was “taken up” to heaven (the way it felt like Randy was taken up from us), Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. I imagined Elisha feeling utterly inadequate, not wanting his mentor to leave him; wanting to preserve the spirit that Elijah embodied for the sake of God’s people. Through tears streaming, so aware of my own inadequacies and short comings, I asked God for a double portion of Randy’s spirit. I asked it for myself and for all who were deeply impacted by his humble and relational way of life.