Today, Pastor David Landrith died at the age of 51 years old from a rare form of cancer called colorectal melanoma. He had lived a relatively healthy life. He jogged each day. He wasn’t overweight or diabetic. He wasn’t a smoker. He underwent surgery after surgery and treatment after treatment to remove the cancer. Still, in the end, just 20 months after he was diagnosed with a terminal cancer while having a regular physical, my pastor for the past three years has died. He leaves behind his wife and three adult children, his parents and brother, a number of close friends and a church of thousands of people across five campuses. Yet, because of the way he lived, his death is not a tragedy but a sober reminder that we’re not home yet. Here are five things I want to always remember from the life and death of Pastor David Landrith.
1. Love the Truth
Pastor Landrith was a passionate preacher whose ministry glorified the Lord Jesus Christ and built up the Church. His messages were consistently exegetical and biblically sound. When he got done going through a text the only thing I could say was, “Amen!” because he would present things in such a clear way that any attentive listener would understand what the text meant. That leads to the Holy Spirit being able to interpret the specific action steps the hearer should take instead of the preacher legislating his own opinion on the congregation.
How often am I convoluted when I should be clear? How often am I overly opinionated when I should be faithful and trust the Holy Spirit to make application to each heart as He sees fit?
2. Live with Passion
Pastor Landrith had an energy and passion about him that shone brightest when he was talking about Jesus. In his East Tennessee twang he would shout, “I’m gon’ get to preachin’ up here!” That would always make me laugh. He was full of the Spirit in a Southern Baptist Church and filled with passion for God and compassion for others. He lived with passion that was contagious and encouraging. It is no wonder he was such a beloved leader.
How often am I lethargic about what I should be passionate about? How often do I “turn up” for what really matters?
3. Love the World
Pastor Landrith would often tell stories about the many international missions trips he has been apart of. His commitment to making sure the glory and good news of God is proclaimed across this world were truly inspiring to my family and me. In fact, my wife went on a missions trip to Haiti last year with a team from our church and our family has made financial giving to organizations that serve an increasing priority in recent years.
How often do I consider the global cause of Christ? How can I support those who are taking the message of Christ throughout the world?
4. Live in Community
Pastor Landrith was a huge proponent for living in godly community. He would say, “Everybody needs to be in a small group,” and he was in at least two small groups himself! He really impressed on me the importance of regularly “doing life” with a group of people that would help you grow spiritually. My wife and I got involved with a small group early on in our time at the church and have since gone on to be small group leaders which has been a huge blessing.
How often do I consider living in community optional instead of absolutely necessary? How often do I take advantage of all that my current spiritual community has to offer me in the form of service, encouragement or accountability?
5. Love the People You Lead
Starting at home and extending through to his close friends and eventually to his church, community and world, I believe that Pastor Landrith will be known by his love. He was a natural introvert but he would regularly make his way to spark up conversation with new and old faces. He also prepared our church so well for his transition. He told our church right away when he got the diagnosis. He was frank about the doctor’s grim prognosis for recovery yet walked in faith that God could heal until the end. He also combined his faith with his works. He would say, “I’m praying that God would heal me by miracle or medicine” as he was on a very stringent treatment plan that caused him a myriad of physical side effects.
He also prepared the church for the future by surrounding the church with loving and competent leaders and staff and by articulating the future steps the church would take in the event that he was not healed but instead passed as a result of the cancer. His leadership allowed our church to continue to stay focused on the mission despite the uncertainty.
How well have I loved all those who are influenced by me? How can I live in a way that prepares them to thrive after I’m gone?
While 51 years seems a short time for a beloved leader to live, it was more than long enough for Pastor David Landrith to make an eternal mark on the lives of thousands of people. May we learn to lead intentional lives marked by a love for God, the truth and people.