Pastor faced cancer certain of Romans 8:28

HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- David Landrith, who led Long Hollow Baptist Church to be the first Tennessee church to baptize 1,000 people in a year, died of cancer early this morning (Nov. 18).

Landrith, 51, battled a rare form of cancer, colorectal melanoma, diagnosed in March 2013. He had been pastor of the Hendersonville church in the Nashville area church since 1997.

David Landrith, who died of cancer Nov. 18, addressed the 2010 Pastors' Conference prior to the SBC annual meeting in Orlando.
BP file photo
In a sermon shortly after his diagnosis, Landrith had stated, "As I thought about what was going on, though, it really came to me again that I have preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ now for 25 years and I have shared with people this world is not our home, we're not going to be here forever, we're going to have this beautiful experience of living with the Lord forever and ever in eternity, and I just said, 'You know what? I've got to hold on to all of those things that I know are true and that I've shared with others for so many years.'"

Landrith continued, "I'm going to pray, I'm going to fight, I'm not going to give up, I'm going to seek all the medical help we can find, but more than anything else I want to bring glory to Jesus as I walk through this, and I would ask your prayers for me as I go through it."

His battle with cancer was widely regarded as courageous during the course of several surgeries and clinical trial medicines when the cancer continued to spread through his body, including his lungs and brain.

"I'm absolutely convinced that God will work this for good," Landrith said in a subsequent sermon posted at Long Hollow Baptist Church's website, www.longhollow.com. "It's not theoretical," he said, voicing his conviction "by faith" that "I'm actually convinced now by experience."

He referenced Romans 8:28 -- "... we know that God causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose" -- and noted, "It doesn't mean that all in our life is going to be good. It just means that God can take -- because He's sovereign, because He ordains the beginning and the end and nothing catches Him off-guard -- He can take all of these things that we face in a broken, fallen world, and He can bring things out of it that advance the Kingdom and bring glory to Himself.

"And it may be that God has called me to be healed, and people will glorify His name. It may be that God has called me to die. ... It may not be realized until after I'm gone. But I am absolutely convinced of the truth of Romans 8:28, that all the things that we're experiencing as Christ-followers, as we respond and walk with Him, that He can bring and work good out of each and every one of those situations."

During Landrith's 16 years at Long Hollow, the church grew from one to five campuses while attendance grew from 300 to as high as 7,500 people.

In 2013, Landrith's last full year of ministry, Long Hollow became the first Southern Baptist church in Tennessee to baptize more than 1,000 people in one year.

The church is on target to exceed 1,000 baptisms again in 2014, Jeff Lovingood, Long Hollow's pastor of spiritual development, told the Baptist & Reflector newsjournal of the Tennessee convention. With Long Hollow's emphasis on reaching youth and children, Lovingood said three-fourths of the baptisms have been in that age range, aiming to lead their families to faith in Christ and to disciple young believers into adulthood.

"I've never known a pastor so loved by the people he serves," said Lance Taylor, Long Hollow's executive pastor.

"He had a God-given ability to keep people together," said Taylor, a former college roommate with Landrith. "In all the growth and changes through the years, God used him to keep our church moving together in the same direction. In the 16 years I served alongside of David at Long Hollow, we enjoyed exceptional unity because of his leadership."

Randy C. Davis, executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, expressed on behalf of the state's Baptists "our prayers for a hurting sister church."

Davis said Landrith "was a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ that God used in an extraordinary way. He was the epitome of a godly gentleman and also was a loving, visionary pastor and an uncompromising preacher of the Word of God."

Davis recalled that Landrith was the first pastor to come by his office after he (Davis) became the Tennessee convention's executive.

Landrith was "used of the Lord to disciple new believers who have become some of the most effective Great Commission leaders in our state," Davis said. "Heaven's great gain is Tennessee's great loss. We will miss this dear brother, but we will see him again. That's the hope the Gospel gives us."

Landrith was a member of the Calvinism advisory team appointed by SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page. He addressed the SBC Pastors' Conference in 2010 and 2007 as well as various other conferences, such as the Women's Ministry National Leadership Training Forum in 2008 and 2007.

He is survived by his wife Jennifer; three children, Rachel, 25, Sam, 20, and Josh, 18; his parents, Horace and Shirley Landrith; and his brother Hal.

Landrith was born in Klamath Falls, Idaho, but moved frequently throughout his childhood with his father's work for the U.S. Forest Service. He became a Christ-follower as a child at First Baptist Church in Lilburn, Ga., but always considered First Baptist Church in Cleveland, Tenn., as his home church, where he spent his teenage years, when he began dating his future wife Jennifer.

A basketball scholarship led Landrith to Belmont College in Nashville, where he majored in history, an ongoing passion throughout his life. Sensing God's calling to vocational ministry, Landrith earned a master of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He also became a chaplain for both the Army and Air Force, a ministry that would continue throughout his life.

Despite his original desire to serve as a youth minister, Landrith felt God's leading to pastor a church as he finished seminary. In his first pastorate near Cleveland, Tenn., Candies Creek Baptist Church grew from 60 members to nearly 500 under his leadership.

Landrith became Long Hollow's pastor with a unanimous vote in 1997.

"He was a pastor everyone could relate to," said Lovingood, a childhood friend of Landrith. "He was also a friend that challenged you to be all that God made you to be."

At the 2007 women's forum, Landrith had noted, "God delights in pushing us out of our comfort zones so we learn to trust Him and be flexible." The "real challenge," he said, is to "maintain the posture of 'God, You tell us here to go and we will follow You.'"

Landrith also told the women, "Anything worth doing is going to have costs. Keep pushing forward and follow God until He releases you from what you are doing."

Watch part of David Landrith's message on Romans 8:28 here:

Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press, the news service of the Southern Baptist Convention. Lonnie Wilkey, editor of the Baptist & Reflector, and Laura Erlanson, Baptist Press operations coordinator, contributed to this article.
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