MY JOURNEY FROM HERE
Everything is changing in my life right now, and I am finding that I am driven to remember what God has done in me and through me over many years. Especially now as I am entering a new phase of my life.
I came to Christ in 1969 as a High School student. I was attending 67th Ave. Baptist church in Phoenix AZ.
I had been brought up in a Christian home and always believed in God and Jesus, but I remember so well on the morning it became clear to me that to follow Jesus meant so much more. I walked to the front of the church when the call was given for anyone who wanted to give their lives to Christ was made. My heart was pounding so loudly I thought everyone in the room could hear it. I realized that I knew about Him, but I didn’t know Him. The Pastor was saying that I could actually know Him and have a relationship with Him. I wanted that and I needed that. When I got to the front I remember saying something like “I want Jesus to be real to me”.
The Pastor said that “if I really meant it, that He would become real to me.” I prayed and then I sat in the front pew and talked to God as though He was actually there. I remember praying that “God, I am not sure what I just did, but I need you to be real to me. I really need You if I am going to make it in this world.”
Thus began a journey that has now lasted 41 years.
I began to read the Bible and for the first time it made sense. I would sit in my bed at night and read it. I took it to school and when no one could see, I would read it. I was amazed at how clear it was becoming compared to all the times I had tried to read it before. I would find myself talking to God about what I was reading. Sometime laughing and sometime crying with joy, and sometimes just telling Him what I was discovering (as though He didn’t know any of it.)
All I have ever wanted was to know and walk with Jesus. I have longed to know that I was used in His work and for His glory. I gave my life to Him and I have always believed that He could do with me as He pleased. That didn’t negate my dreams and hopes, but I have found that as I followed my hearts desire to know Him and serve Him, His dreams for me became my dreams for me. His hopes shaped my hopes and His desires became my desires.
I began to write songs about Him and the journey of discovery and struggles as a believer. I wanted to write songs that would help others see Jesus more clearly and to know that the journey and adventure is worth taking. He is real and present and fully alive in us. I hoped that my words would help others come to Him and follow Him.
I soon found a place called “Hand in Hand” which was an outreach ministry of young people who wrote songs of hope and redemption, and life in Christ. They did concerts every Saturday night in building on 26th Street and Fairmont in Phoenix. It had carpet squares on the floor, barn wood and burlap on the walls, a small stage made of barn wood and and everyone sat on the floor a few feet from the stage, and listened to the music of bands and individuals and the heard someone give the Gospel and an opportunity to give their lives to Jesus. I got involved and began to use my talents and songs to share my faith and my journey. I got to give the Gospel and see people give their lives to Christ. God was using me and I was never so alive as when I was in front of people getting to share my heart, and passion and faith in Jesus. I was ultimately asked to be on staff as one of the staff musicians, which meant raising support and being available to be sent out to other venues when needed.
I wrote more songs, and made my first cassette - “Jesus in Me”. I made 100 cassettes and thought it would be great if I could sell all of them in my life time. (I asked $8 for a cassette.) I kept writing and made a vinyl album - “It’s by Grace”, that I have since put out as a CD. Since then I have produced 6 more CD’s of my music.
“Once Upon a Cross”
“Through Different Eyes”
I also met my wife Linda at Hand in Hand. She and her friend Linda sang and got connected with Hand in Hand. God never does anything randomly. I believe He orchestrated our meeting knowing that we were to be together. We had three kids that are now all adults and serving God.
Then Linda and I got involved with the church associated with Hand in Hand - Open Door Fellowship. It isn’t so much a church as a family of believers who are committed to figuring out how to love each other as Christ commanded us. It is a community of believers who are all learning how to do life together and experience the reality of Christ in an environment of grace, and living out who Jesus says we are in authenticity and vulnerability. It is elder lead and defined by grace and Jesus.
I got involved in many aspects of ODF. I played on the worship teams. I lead the High School group for a while. I did University Fellowship on the ASU Campus every Sunday night with my best friend John Lynch. Then we stopped doing that and started Open Door at Night which was a mix of music, and theater which later became Sharkey Productions and it became much more theater based in it’s presentation of Christ and the truths we believe.
I was also the janitor for 3 years. (I was affectionately known as the singing Janitor.)
I did that for 3 years, but after the first two years I began to feel something stirring in me that I couldn’t ignore and I started dreaming about how to use my music to reach people outside of ODF and to take the message of Christ to more places.
Sometime around 1990 I started (with the help of a friend - Dave Chatburn) Randy Thompson Ministries. I built it around my music and as a vehicle to allow me to find a bigger audience for both my music and the sharing of my convictions and faith in Christ. I also did it in a very unique way. I never charged for coming to a church or any other venue. It was all on an offering basis. I also didn’t put a price on my CD’s. They were made available for what ever someone wanted to give. That sounds crazy, but in fact, I am convinced I made more doing it that way than putting a price on concerts and CD’s. I never wanted people to see the CD’s as a product that I produced and sold. My desire was to use the talents and gift God gave me to minister to people and draw them closer to Jesus. The CD’s are just an extension of that ministry. They allowed people to take the music home if it ministered to them. I cannot tell you how many times someone would say I can’t afford a CD and I would give it to them, only to have the next person say I want to give more so someone else who can’t afford one could get one. They would also tell me how much they admired the way I did my ministry and wanted to help support it so I could continue to do it. In all the years I did my ministry, there was never a time when God didn’t provide for my family, the needs of the ministry, and the ability to make more CD’s. We always had enough and sometimes more than enough to do what was necessary. I was living by faith and it was like walking with Jesus.
Over the next 10 years I did hundreds of concerts throughout the western and central US. Mostly small churches who couldn’t afford the big names and didn’t have a lot of people. I drove hundreds of miles and spent many nights in my car because I couldn’t afford a motel room. I saw God do some amazing things as I faithfully gave myself away to the ministry God had given me. I met God in amazing ways during this time and was living out my faith and convictions and loving every minute of it.
I also became an elder of Open Door sometime in the early 90’s. Somewhere in the late 1990’s I also began to feel God was putting on my heart to fill the role of overseeing the worship of Open Door Fellowship. They didn’t have a worship Pastor and were in serious need of someone to shepherd the musicians and the worship. I still did Randy Thompson Ministries, but I also began to shepherd the musicians and the worship of ODF. I did Randy Thompson Ministries and Worship leading. Both were part-time. I loved it. I was doing what I was made to do.
(Dan Fogelberg has a line in one of his songs - Magic Every Moment” )
“There’s a spark of the creator in every living thing and He respects me when I work, but He so loves me when I sing”. I think that sums it up for me. He loves me all the time, but I feel it most when I am doing what He made me to do.
I am never more in the center of who God made me to be than when I am singing and making music and worshipping my Lord and God and Savior and creator in front of people.
That brings me to the next phase of my life.
About 5 years ago I saw that Open Door was struggling for the lack of a leader. John Lynch was our speaking Pastor and he was also trying to lead Open Door, but it was not in his gifting to lead as a strategic leader. It was hurting him and Open Door, the staff and the elders. I felt that I should step up and offer to take the role of leading to allow John to do what he was best at - communicating the truths of Christ and grace and how we are to live in Him. I also felt I could handle some of the hard stuff that John wasn’t as comfortable with. I became the Senior Pastor of Open Door. This meant I was doing 40 hours a week as the guy who oversaw the staff, the daily functions of ODF, and all the administrative things that come with that. (Budget, allocation of funds, decisions about daily operations, some counseling, answering questions about staffing, purchasing equipment, weekly activities, fund-raising, vacations, time-off, etc.) This was on top of still doing worship and everything that goes with that and being an elder.
The cost of this was that I was not getting the expression of my passion in the way I had when I was just doing my own ministry. I was limited in my expression at ODF accept in worship leading. In the last two years that cost became abundantly clear as I became less effective in leading ODF. I was getting burnt out doing what I was not as gifted to do and not getting to do what God made me to do to the degree that I would have liked. I suffered, my family suffered and ODF suffered because of it. In looking back I wish I had had he courage to say enough is enough and go back to doing what I was made to do 2 years ago, but I felt an obligation to the elders, the staff and the body of ODF to stay and wait for the person that could lead Open Door into it’s future and be here for the next 15 years.
That brings me to now:
I am free again! I no longer am in the role of Senior Pastor nor Worship Pastor of ODF. The elders said enough is enough when I couldn’t. They freed me from the burden of the role that was never a good fit for me, though I am convinced that God used me in it, and I am proud that I had the courage to try and protect and lead to the best of my ability.
Here is the good part - I am more alive now than I have been in a long time. I am rediscovering the passion that drove me to start Randy Thompson Ministries when some people believed it would never work. Something is waking up in me again. I am familiar with this feeling and the urging of the Holy Spirit and I believe it is God speaking in my heart to dream again. He is not done with me, nor is He finished using me. I still have a deep passion to show Christ to the people I have the opportunity to influence. In my music, in my sharing, in writings and any other way I can think of to lift Jesus up for the world to see.
I want to write more music and make more CD’s. I want to share my faith and what I believe wherever I am given the chance. I want to make Jesus real to people in teaching His word, and more than any other way - modeling God’s love for all men starting at home and wherever I get the chance. I am convinced that there is not enough emphasis on LOVE and on the cross in our churches. We are substituting too many other things and calling them the Christian life, when it is all about Jesus and His being the demonstration of God’s mercy and grace and LOVE to the lost in this world.
The core of my faith and my message is Jesus and His work on the cross for us. It is the focus of the message of scripture. The truths of God as revealed in scripture are embodied in Jesus - what He said, what He did and how He did it. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Understanding theology and the truths of scripture are only meant to lead us to a deeper relationship with Jesus. IT IS ALL ABOUT JESUS!
I can do nothing apart from Him, but “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Phil. 4:13.
Jesus was about love and redemption and truth and light. He was about replacing old wineskins with new ones, and filling them with the best wine - the Holy Spirit. He was about rescuing the lost, renewing hope and dreams to those who had been thrown aside by the established religious leaders of His day. He was about healing the broken, elevating the humble, His strength being shown in our weakness. He was about calling those who had given up hope, to a new life. A life that was abundant and full and meaningful. He called us to sacrifice as He sacrificed. He was about serving, not being served. It would cost us everything to follow Him, (“if anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” Matt. 16:24). but we would get Him and His kingdom and the relationship with Him and His Father that we gave up in the garden. In return for our broken lives and sin, He gave us new life and righteousness, His righteousness. It cost Him everything, but LOVE could do no less and it could not have done more. I am called to that same life, as are all of His children.
I feel young again and I am constrained by my love of Christ and my desire to serve the One who gave Himself for me so I could have new life. I will let nothing distract me from Him and following Him. Whatever I do from this point forward, I will do with Him living through me. I am energized to serve my Savior so I invite you - Come with me and give your life away.
If this has awakened something in you as you read this then visit my blog - “A Believers Journey”. I will be sharing what God is doing in me and with me as the journey continues.