Yesterday was a happy day and a sad day.
It was a happy day because 1500 people gathered at Living Word in Minneapolis to honor one of the kids that grew up in my Kids Church in the 80’s.
It was a sad day, because I lost a spiritual son and a good friend. More sad, by far, is that Matt’s beautiful wife, Melissa, (who is one of my spiritual daughters) lost her husband; and four precious kids, lost their Daddy.
It was a painful decision, making a choice between attending Matt’s Celebration Service and a planned family vacation. In the end, I didn’t feel it was fair to my kids and my grandkids to not participate in the family trip we had looked forward to for so long.
I’m grateful I was able to listen to the Celebration Service for Matt, as it was streamed live. It truly was a celebration, listening to story after story of people who had been impacted by Matthew in his short time here on plant earth. I wanted to add my two cents to honor Matthew.
I met Matt and his younger brother Jacob in 1986, when Debbie and I accepted a Kids Pastor job and Living Word Christian Center in Minneapolis. Matt was that kid that everybody liked and all the kids wanted to hang with, but there was something different about Matt.
One of the cool things about being a Kids Pastor is, with the help of the Holy Spirit, you can see the gifts inside of kids and you can see their future. It’s one of the things the Lord said to me years ago.
“There are leadership gifts in your kids that need to be developed. Why wait until they grow up? Kids are the not just the church of the future. They are the church of today.”
Even at 8 years old, I could see that Matt was a leader. Not only did the other kids want to be like Matt, but Matt didn’t use his ‘likeability’ for his own gain. Even as a young boy Matt was using his leadership to help other kids.
I asked Matt and Jacob to be on the Worship Team in Super Church. It wasn’t that Matt was a great singer – but he was worshipper. The bottom line is that Matt loved Jesus and I wanted to leverage his influence for the Lord. I was having a hard time getting the boys to participate in worship. As soon as Matt and Jacob joined the worship team that dynamic changed. Our boys began to enter into worship.
I think the greatest thing I can say about Matt is that Matt was like Jesus. What I mean is that Jesus had a way of confronting people that was different than the religious leaders of the day. When Jesus entered a room, people felt convicted of their sin and loved by Jesus at the same time. Very few people can pull this off, but Matt was one of those people.
The following is a testimony from Robbie Johnson, another one of my spiritual sons who grew up in Super Church. This story captures the essence of who Matt Richmann was.
(Robby refers to Brian Baker who passed away from cancer almost 10 years ago. They were all in my children’s church at Living Word.)
“Mark, I know that you’re hurting over Matt moving onto the next life before any of us, due to how close you both were to him.
I want to share with you a story I haven’t told many people about, but it was a moment that changed the course of my life and got me through the last 10 years of my life. It’s a crazy story as it was the last time I saw Brian Baker alive and Matt was there. I had gone to see Brian at Cristina’s cabin on the lake in Brainerd. I looked at Brian in his electric wheelchair. He was down to almost 100 pounds and you could visibly see the cancer eating him. He smiled at me and asked how I was doing? I really couldn’t answer him.
At the time, I was in a place in life where I had rejected God and wanted nothing to do with Him or church and Brian knew it. I told him I was angry, that I didn’t understand why this was happening to him and how he could not be mad at God. Brian looked at me and told me he was going to be healed and that he had won. Through tears of anger, sadness, and pain I told him he was full of BS. That he was dying and this wasn’t the picture of winning.
He told me I was looking at things only through my physical eyes. He told me that the Bible is clear, that he was going to be healed and win. The only thing the Bible doesn’t say is if it will be on this side or the other. HE said I was only thinking of the natural realm and not thinking in terms of eternity. What Brian said completely left me undone. He then prayed with me, while he was dying. He asked God to touch me and heal my heart.
I didn’t know what to do, as I wasn’t in a place to be able to comprehend the nugget of truth he had just handed me.
At that point, Matt and Melissa showed up at Cristina’s. Matt, being the ball of joy the he always seems to be, said we should all go down to the fire pit and start a bonfire and enjoy the view of the coming sunset. Matt knew that it was an intense time, especially for me, so then he told us what we were going to do.
We were going to sing a song from Super Church.
Orange you glad you love Jesus, Orange you glad He loves you,
He’s a peachy keen Savior to have, I’ll never be blueberry blue.
His power makes us bananas, He’s the apple of my eye,
It’s a-pear-rantly clear in the Word, He’s raisin us when we die.
He took us out of the pit of hell,
And I’m plum happy to be, the son of a grape big God,
I got the fruits of my tree!
Matt looked at all of us and said, “Come on! It’s time to be happy.”
We all sang it, over and over again, until we were laughing and telling stories about kid’s camp, youth camp, miracles we remember happening and our days of serving together over the years.
It was an encounter that started my journey back to God. I want to share this with you so you know that the seeds you sowed into all of our lives all those years ago are still bearing fruit. They’re still the foundation in our lies, and that even in the face of death, things you imparted to us is coming back. Thank you for everything you’ve done to impart things into all of our lives and that even in the end, it’s still there for us.“
This was Matt Richmann – He had a way of confronting you and getting you out of your comfort zone, and for some reason people followed him. Matt’s friend Brandon Yerxa said it best at the Celebration service yesterday, “Matt had a way of pushing the conversation way past awkward.” The truth is the reason we all followed Matt was we knew he was the real deal – If you knew Matt you knew that he loved you.
Matt, You make me so proud.
You give me hope.
It’s because of you and many like you that I keep going.
It’s why Debbie and I continue to invest in the next generation.
If you are reading this and you are a Kids Pastor think long term.
Keep running your race.
Who knows when there will be another Matt Richmann in your class?
(Pictured above is an image from Kids Camp in 1989. Eleven year old Matt is the boy in the middle with red hat on. His brother Jacob is in front of him also with a red hat.)