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Rolly and the book that was never written…but was.

Picture of Greg Stier
Greg Stier

Rolly Richert, the godly-wise-gentle-relentless man who produced our Dare 2 Share conferences, went to be with the Lord today. He was a close friend, a true mentor and a committed ministry partner in the cause of Christ. I will deeply miss him.

A few years ago Rolly confided in me that he wanted to write a book. His life was rich with powerful experiences and hard fought lessons that he wanted to pass on to others. Although I strongly encouraged him to put pen to paper and write it as far as I know he never did. As I thought about this today I couldn’t help but be a little sad. He didn’t get to write the book he had so wanted to write. I began to imagine what those chapter titles and descriptions could have been if he had actually written his book. What were the life lessons that he would have wanted to communicate to others? I don’t know for sure. But what I do know is what he has taught me over the many years we have worked together. So, in honor of Rolly, I want to give a crack at some potential chapter titles in the book that could have been.

Chapter 1 Events matter

Rolly was unshakably convinced of the value of events. He knew that something special took place when hundreds or thousands or, in some cases, tens of thousands gathered in a room, auditorium or arena to worship God, experience his presence and proclaim his gospel. We talked several times about the indescribable power of rallying thousands of teenagers together at Dare 2 Share or thousands of youth leaders together at Youth Specialties or tens of thousands of teenagers and youth leaders at a DCLA event. We talked about how the early church began with an “event” in the upper room (aka “Pentecost”) and how that intimate event led to a big event when three thousand more “registered” on the spot. We talked about how the Holy Spirit was calling that show with spot on timing to launch the church onto the world scene.

As President of Outside the Box, a ministry dedicated to creating and directing Christian youth-focused events, Rolly and his team have produced hundreds of events all across the country. He has witnessed the power of Pentecost relived over and over again by allowing God to use him to set the table for events where the good news is preached and the Holy Spirit is unleashed. Heaven only knows the hundreds of thousands if not millions of souls who will be in heaven as a result of Rolly’s faithfulness to produce events that focused on Christ and him crucified. Events mattered to Rolly because to him they were a portal for God to be glorified and his kingdom to be expanded.

Chapter 2 Be perfect

Rolly relentlessly reminded the Dare 2 Share conference team to “be perfect” in the execution of our roles at the event. He wasn’t one for the “good old college try” or “A for effort.” No, as gentle, humble and godly as he was that man demanded perfection. He wanted every cue, transition, talk, sketch and set to be pitch perfect. But behind this focus was a passion to please God and serve the audience. Rolly saw every event as a sacrifice of praise to God and he wanted to offer a “spotless lamb” not a speckled one to the King of kings.

I remember spontaneously something on stage in Atlanta to thousands of teenagers that was not received well. When I walked off the stage BJ Strote, Rolly’s stage manager at the time said, “I have a message from Rolly for you…NEVER DO THAT AGAIN!” I never did. Although Rolly was a good friend and technically worked for me as a sub contractor, he could put the fear of God in me with a raised eyebrow. Another time in Denver I picked up a piece of candy and ate it while speaking. I thought it would be a fun illustration of what I was talking about. But the hard piece of butterscotch candy got stuck in my teeth and I couldn’t keep talking until I crunched all down. Thousands of teenagers waited and laughed as I tried to choke it down. But Rolly wasn’t laughing he was sending me a message to the monitor that only speakers and musicians can see. It simply said, “Bad idea.” But he would also send messages like, “you’ve won them over!” and “powerful” to encourage me and others when we were hitting closer to the perfection zone.

The events Rolly produced drove toward perfection every time and in every way because he served a perfect God who loved him with a perfect love. These events were Rolly’s way of saying “I love you too Lord.”

Chapter 3 Relationships are key.

Relationships mattered to Rolly. His family relationships, of course, came first. He loved his wife, children, grandchildren and extended family. I loved to watch him light up when he talked about them. He was an example to me of how to balance home life and on-the-road life. He made trips no longer than they needed to be and got home as quickly as he could. Watching him I adopted the same pattern of travel. Get where you need to get, get the job done and then get home as soon as you can. Rolly taught me this lesson without ever saying a word. But he exemplified it on every trip.

Rolly’s relationships on the road mattered to him as well. He worked hard at creating a sense of team unity which led to team synergy which manifested in team chemistry. He intuitively sensed fractures and carried super glue with him wherever he went. Rolly understood that strong relationships on the road could overcome obstacles and overwhelm an audience with the John 17 brand of unity that Jesus himself prayed for in his high priestly prayer for the church.

Chapter 4 Pain is part of God’s plan.

I was there when Rolly got the news about his first wife’s cancer. We were doing a film shoot for GOSPEL Journey in the mountains when he picked up the phone call and heard the news. He was devastated. I watched him every step of the way right up until Sandy stepped over the threshold of heaven into the presence of Jesus. He knew how to grieve. He knew how to hope. He knew that his dear Savior was following a program run down sheet that was painful but good.

Years earlier he had lost his ministry, River Rush, to economic disaster. He had secured stadiums that he could not fill with teenagers and the invoices soon overwhelmed the ministry and put it out of business. But from the ashes of failure Rolly was transformed. God enabled him to find a niche in serving other event based ministries…and his scars made him especially helpful to the organizations he worked for. Because Rolly understood pain he brought encouragement, wisdom and empathy to financially struggling ministries and worked within their budgets to produce programs that were effective and moving but not needlessly expensive.

There are more chapters that could be written. I’m sure you could come up with some chapter titles as well of lessons Rolly learned and lived. But, sadly, he never got a chance to write that book.

Or did he?

The Apostle Paul penned these words in 2 Corinthians 3:2,3 “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”

The real book that Rolly wrote is the changed lives of all whom he touched. If you’ve worked with him or by him for any length of time then, most likely, you are a chapter…and so am I. If you’ve been to one of the events he’s produced then you are at least a page in his book. And now our life stories read differently.

As we continue to live out page after page of our lives may we remember to thank God for his servant, Rolly Richert, who showed us how to live well and how to finish strong in the book that was never written…but was.

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