Dr. Randall Parr

Randall Parr   Roy Brian: We’ve come to know Randall Parr, who’s a wonderful friend of the fellowship. Dr. Parr has traveled throughout the country, presenting a program that I think is like a wake-up call, an eye-opener, to those of us who are called by the name of the Lord. We’re just so glad to have him back in his own country. Welcome, Dr. Randall Parr.

   Randall Parr: Well, good morning, gentlemen. Good to be with you. It's kind of neat as I get to travel around the country and see some of the things that I see. Today, what I want to do is just talk to you guys. I'm not here to preach to you. We really need to talk about what God is saying in our nation, what God is saying to us as individuals. We need to determine where to go from here because... as someone in the line of work that I'm in, I am aware of the numerical strength of the people of God in America. We have over 40 million evangelicals in our country. And yet, our nation is going to hell in a hand-basket. Something is not right. We have the troops. We have logistical support. We have everything that we need to combat, strategize, and win a battle against opposing forces but we are not winning it satisfactorily. So, I asked myself why. I come from a military background and in that background, I know that in every question and to every problem there is a solution. But we have to be fearless enough to ask ourselves why.

   And so, I've come here today to discuss it because my goal is for you and me to leave this place not only with enthusiasm but with resolve. I'll start off by telling you something about my little dog. I told a story about Gracie last year when I was here. I still got her. She's a little miniature dachshund. Now, one of the neat things that you'll notice about these animals is that every time I go out in the backyard -- we've got a big backyard in Arlington. Well, I try really hard to make that yard look nice but around the outskirts of this fence, all the way around in a complete circle is a little trail that Gracie makes. She's one of those little sausage dogs, little wiener dog about this long and legs that are about this tall. She takes some 500 steps to get four feet across the ground. Now, Gracie is a creature of habit. She doesn't take the short way from point A to point B. When she goes out into the yard, she doesn't cut across, she doesn't go from corner to corner; she takes the long way around the yard every time even when I'm out there with a bowl of food. She will take the long way around and she just follows that circle. That's her world, her life. That's what she does. That's her comfort zone.

   We as a people of God, as men, are also creatures of habit. We have our own little trails that we blaze. Everything that we do has to fit within that trail or else we're not comfortable with it. I want to talk today about where we are going as a people of God. I want to talk about our mission. I want to talk about where we've fallen short but more importantly, I want to talk about how to get where we need to be. The problem is that with the sheer number of troops that we have in our country, soldiers of the Lord, we still live in many different camps that want little or nothing to do with one another. The world has gotten harder and tougher. It's become more difficult to talk to people about Christ. Society hardens as time goes on because difficulties are hardening. And when difficulties hardened, men retreat into their little shells so they don't want to come out. It's hard to go at them with our predefined methods of evangelism because the old ways simply don't work anymore. We live in this world of patterns and paradigms -- you may have heard the term, little boxes that we like to define our world with, the little trails that I discussed. As long as we are afraid to exit those paradigms and make changes in our lives, we will continue to deal with the failures that beset us all along the way.

   But I want to talk to you about the results of these things, the status of our churches in America real quick. You may not know this because you guys aren't in this stream, but I deal with Christian leaders Across America. I deal with church growth and ministry consultants who are high-level professionals, who make it their duty to analyze statistical data across this country. From this data, we can gain a very clear picture of what our churches or the Body of Christ looks like in our land. For example, if you were to get out from the world that you live in and look at the United States in the big picture, you would see that exactly 95% of the churches in our country right now have 300 or fewer people in attendance every Sunday morning. 5% are the ones you hear about but think of the 95% who are at 300 and peaked, and not getting any bigger or growing. There's something wrong with that picture. Of the churches that we have in our nation right now, 80 to 85% are either plateau in membership or in decline. That's not only churches but para-church organizations such as Full Gospel Business Men and others. Of last year in 1995, there were approximately 2000 brand new churches birthed in our country. But at the same time, 6,000 to 7,000 of them shut their doors permanently in failure. That's creating a terrible deficit but you wouldn't know it by watching Lion stone - Religious TV. They paint a very different picture but guys, I'm not into fantasy. I'm very optimistic but I'm not into fantasy. I'm not here today, as I said last night, to tickle toes. You guys are in a do-or-die situation and the time has come to get to the bottom line, stop puffing feathers around, and really figure out what it's going to take to turn this thing around. God has a way to do it. Let me discuss it with you in terms we can relate to.

   Remember I said I use the term "paradigm". One of the problems we have in our country, in the church world, is that we live in a paradigm. In other words, that's the way that we say things, the way that we do things. Everything is the same. It's a learned behavior. Grandma taught it, I bought it, that's the way I do it. But see, society has changed while we have remained the same. For example, you may not know this but very few people in America today have had religious training as children. That implies that they don't speak the same language that we do. They use a different vernacular altogether. They don't use the same expressions and when we're talking to an audience of people, they don't get what we're saying. When we talk about, "Get saved", they don't use the same language we do. When we talk about, "Get filled with the Holy Ghost", they have no idea what you mean. In fact, it does nothing but scare the living daylights out of them. When you sit somebody up here on a chair and start pulling on their leg, gentleman that has zero effect if anything on people who have no experience with what we talk about. Because of that, we do more sometimes to push people away from God than draw people to him because our methods are not sound.

   Another consideration is the people in America. Today, I'm just giving you an accurate portrait of the latest statistics people have. We are a media-dominated generation. That means that you've got people out there who are watching TV commercials on television that cost in excess of $1,000 per finished second that you view. Computer graphics, you've seen them. High-tech stuff, the way they make movies, and all that. Guys, that's exciting technology. But did you know that we're talking high-tech in a community where 50% or less of the churches in America even have a computer in their office? 25% of our churches in America have a fax machine. Everybody else? No, no, that's too modern. It's scary stuff but the problem is you have a media-dominated generation, which means that people that you're trying to reach have a short attention span but a heightened expectation of quality. So, how do you deal with that? We live in a generation where people have been dominated by secularized values. We'll talk more about it tonight, but people have taken God away from our young people over the last 40 years. We have produced a generation of kids that's just sad to look at. You have the liberal elite controlling our educational system, pushing stuff down our kids' throats like "innovative spelling" -- you may have heard about it, where you can spell a word any way you feel like spelling it as long as you feel good about it. Outcome-based education, GOALS 2000 -- you may have heard of that, where 2 plus 2 can equal 5 as long as it doesn't damage your self-esteem. Great, highly-trained geniuses are in control of our educational system right now, and you know what you've got fellows? We have a group of people who are educated far beyond their intelligence, who are creating a generation of young people who are just basically a bunch of illiterates with good self-esteem. It's taken us nowhere. We're dealing with people who've been dominated by secularized values, and you know something? That means they have no absolutes so when you go out and talk about how the Bible says, "You need to do this", they're going, "So?" There's no absolute authority in scripture. There's no absolute authority in God. You're dealing with the people who have come to speak a completely different language than you and I do. But the key to being an instrument of God is taking these people who no longer speak our language, positioning them carefully, and then -- listen to what I'm saying. We must relearn how to speak with other tones if we will reach them. Bear cubs that they speak. As we are able to do that, they will listen but we must change our paradigm. We must be willing and courageous enough to ask questions about everything that we do to re-evaluate it. Do our methods work? Do they not work? I'll tell you something, guys. The gospel never changes but the way that we present it sure needs to. Changing that way -- that strategy. Changing, seeking God, finding out what the Lord is saying is what we're all about doing here today.

   Before I explain the three major paradigm shifts that are going to make up our talk today, I want to give you a little background on me so you'll know where I'm coming from. Number one, I am not a church boy. I was not raised in a church environment. I was not religious as a child. I have nothing in my life, the first half of my life, except a completely secular experience. Nobody ever witnessed to me or shared the gospel with me, ever. I lived in a highly-churched community -- a very polished, pretty church community. I was in the music business for many years in record production and artist management. I had my own Las Vegas show by the time I was 19 years old. I had more money than you could know what to do with, everything that a kid could possibly dream of except for an itch that wouldn't scratch way down here. All the booze I could buy never would scratch it. You know how it goes. Many of you've been there. All the girls you can date then fix the thing. It just gets you into more trouble.

   Finally, I came to a place where I was very despondent. Business as usual, you know? I had a need for something that I couldn't find. One day, I got on an airplane from our office in Houston, flew down to San Antonio where I had a home, and spent the weekend there. It was Easter. There wasn't much on TV because it was a religious weekend. I got through all the channels surfing. Usually, when I wanted to get some entertainment, I'd turn it on to the Christian TV stations because they were so funny to watch. They kind of look like a bunch of hillbillies who won the lottery. I still enjoy our Christian TV. While I was sitting there flicking through the channels, I saw a movie come on that I've never seen before. It was called, "The King of Kings". As I was watching this movie called "The King of Kings", something happened to me. I didn't ask for it. It was just there. The Lord showed up and revealed Himself to me sitting in a lounge chair watching a movie on television. I had instantaneously a revelation of who Christ was. It changed me completely. There I was sitting in that chair, filled with God's spirit, and I didn't know what it was. I got up a different man than had sat down in it. It was like being really born into a new world, changing existence going from one place to another, and suddenly just finding yourself walking out of that movie, The Wizard of Oz, into this colorful new land and realizing that I wasn't in Kansas anymore. Well, I was shocked. I was at a business where my partner was in... It was steeped in illegal activity. I was a party to it. I had a new paradigm. I knew the difference between right and wrong. I went back to our office in Houston. I walked in and I was really afraid of this guy. I had information on him that could send him to the federal penitentiary for the rest of his life. I was about ready to walk in and tell him that I've met God. I walked into that office and I heard him yelling at the top of his lungs down at the end of the hallway. I walked down there and knocked on his door. He said, "Come in", and there he was sitting all red-faced. He just got off the phone with some guy that done him wrong.

   He said, "Well, what do you want?" And I said, "Well, Ray, I got to talk to you." I said, "I've met Jesus Christ and I'm going to follow Him. That means I'm not going to be working here anymore with you." He looked at me with the most bizarre expression. And you know something? He was a mean-natured guy but it was as if somebody had reached up around his collar and started squeezing it. Suddenly his face got really red and his eyes started bugging out like golf balls. He was just staring at me like he was losing his breath and that his very existence counted on me leaving that room at that minute. He said, "You just get out of here. Just go." And so, I turned around and I went. I packed my bags, went back to San Antonio, and I got rid of everything that I had almost the dirty money bought for me. Do you know something? I went to John Hagee's church.

   Now, listen men, I'm still really secular-looking. I had that $800 on money suits, all kinds of gold chains hanging down the front. I'd sit in the front row in that suit and those gold chains and even with my sunglasses. I'd just sit there and stare up at after Hagee. But I was a Christian so I went out and bought myself a gold cross to go on top of it. I wasn't very different on the outside, men. But on the inside, I was a brand-new little baby. And because I had the opportunity to sit under John for a while, I never really got religious acts. We never really got into doctrines of men. He doesn't really get into that too much. And so, I was trained that way. The way I was brought up in my Christian walk, I didn't have anything to do with business as usual. Seven last words of a dying ministry, we have never done it that way before. Guys, I'll tell you this. If we can have the courage to turn our backs on where we come from, don't sit on the laurels. Put them up on the wall and praise God for them, but don't build an altar to them. We got to move ahead and create new laurels. And to do that, we've got to stop and challenge ourselves to ask the hard questions. The hard questions I want to address and here are some of those right now.

   The first thing that we've got to shift and we've got to change, the first thing we really need to consider is the old paradigm of when the world gets harder, we have a tendency to retreat into deeper religion. Do you know what I mean by that? We become more sanctimonious. We dive into the religious world that's a safe haven from all the evils of society. But if we're going to accomplish the prime directive -- which you must remember. Jesus said it was to go into all the world and make disciples. Remember? Ever heard that one before? If we're going to accomplish that directive effectively, we got to stop retreating into deeper religion. We must become less religious.

   Now, let me explain that. Religion kills. The letter kills. But the spirit gives life. Religion is "rules without relationship". And remember, this is an equation that is always true. Rules without relationship equal rebellion. So, we have to position ourselves in a place where we can become less religious without compromising the gospel that we preach. When I had the opportunity to serve in the Navy as a Chaplain, I had my first experience with this. I was truly taught of the Lord, guys. I went to school, went to Bible College, and went to Seminary. I'll tell you; it wasn't until after Seminary that I really started learning about God. Seminary will tell you about all of the glorious different sizes of boxes that men have put God in over the ages. But if you're really going to go ahead with God and not look over your shoulder in hindsight, you've got to be able to let Him out of the box and let Him lead you into the future.

   Now, I followed the Lord into some really tough situations. My first command was with the United States Marine Corps, a really different group of people -- very unique individuals, highly-trained, skilled, and disciplined. The most military of all our forces, I believe. The most spit-and-polish. These individuals like everything they do to be planned out in very careful order. But God, as orderly as He is, will not always reveal His plans to you upfront in order to get your approval or signature. So bringing the gospel, of that which is intangible, to marines was a real challenge. I had to do things that had never been done before. That meant I had to fight the system. I had to fight the Chaplain Corps because the Chaplain Corps likes to do things in very carefully defined boxes. They like you to do your services in very easy to write down sequential orders. They really like to be able to make flesh all that is Spirit, but I was there and I had to follow God which I'd had training in doing before. So I would begin new ideas, new programs, and new initiatives. The result was tremendous. Young people would come to Christ in great numbers. But then, my greatest challenge came. The Navy had a brand-new 20 million-dollar chapel facility in Orlando, Florida. It wasn't getting a whole lot of attendance. They shipped me from Okinawa, Japan to Orlando, Florida with one mission. The mission was, "Take this big, beautiful building, and fill it up with young people because we have to justify our budget next year to build another 20 million-dollar chapel somewhere else." I said, "Well, I'll accept this challenge, sir. But if I'm going to do it, you're going to have to let me do it my way." And they were in a fix. It was a divinely orchestrated moment. They said, "You just go and do whatever you need to do." And so, I packed my bags. I went over there and walked into that big, beautiful place with every icon from every religion in the world hanging on the wall. Every service order, every traditional, religious... every ritual enforced that ever existed. High church, man. I mean, incense swinging, roll playing, and all kind of stuff is going on over there. I'm walking into this from my background. I'm going, "And you guys are wondering why nobody comes to this joint?" So they said, "You're in charge." My boss was a conservative Jewish rabbi. He didn't care what the Christians did. So he just said, "You just go with it whatever you want to do." I said, "Okay, first thing, we're going to get every Pagan image off this wall. Every icon, every religious tradition ever was. We're going to make this place just as neutral. There's this barn right here." Man, that's like pulling piece but it got done. And I said, "Now, we're going to do away with all the lectionaries, and service orders, and everything. We're going to remove every trace of religion that exists in this building." And I mean, the Chaplain Corps was going nuts. They said, "This emissary and Satan is come here to destroy everything constitutionally good." And I said, "Just go with me." And so, we made this place just like a building, just a regular building. I had a handful of young people come to see me the first Sunday. Took away the pulpit and here they were looking up at me with their mouths open. They couldn't believe what they were seeing. They were disarmed. And so, I sat down on the step right in front of them. I started talking to them about the Bible, about Jesus. I started talking to them in very colorful, descriptive terms. Taking the pages of God's Word and making a living videotape out of it, you know? Time for me to quit. Thank you.

   They would just sit there and one day -- it was the second Sunday. I was talking right out of the Bible about the story of blind Bartimaeus. Do you remember that story? I was telling them about how this old decrepit man was just sitting on the edge of the street and people just walking by and kicking dirt on him and spitting on him, just kind of a homeless degenerate type of guy. He's just the dirtiest of all of them, and how Jesus had passed and this man from the depths of his heart called out with all his soul for the son of David to have mercy on him. And sure enough, Jesus pointed through that crowd of social climbing religious kiss-ups and said, "Come over here, boy." And summoned that man out of his misery and opened his eyes for all to see. And as I was telling this story, I hadn't even finished it yet. There was a commotion in the small group of young people. A boy, who'd been in the Navy for about two weeks, was sitting out there and he was one of the kids that everybody made fun of. He was one of these nerdy-looking guys with glasses that were thick as Coca-Cola bottles. And all you can see because his glasses were so thick was just the blue of his eyes. It looks like putting magnifying glasses up your eyes. Suddenly, this boy had ripped his glasses off and he was picking up every book in the pew, just looking at them. All the kids were turning around looking at this guy wondering what's going on? What had happened was that as I was telling the story about the real living powerful Jesus, the Lord sovereignly reached down and opened that boy's eyes and gave him perfect 20/20 vision while he was sitting there. He just started reading the book. The kids were just totally blown away by what they had just seen with their own eyes. Their religious preconceptions had been circumvented by the Spirit of God, and something happened that invaded their sphere of relevance and open their eyes to God. The word started spreading. I didn't have to put out flyers. I didn't have to advertise. I didn't have to do anything. This thing began to grow and people began to come because they could be comfortable where they were sitting and not worry about being condemned, or spit on, or trenched, or manipulated into something. They don't want a [inaudible]. They just have a fresh living encounter with God unobstructed by human invention. This thing grew to 500 people, just like that. Then a thousand, 1,200 1,500, 2,000, 2,200 then 2,500. The religious program specialists were so pleased to report that the place could only hold 2,500 but suddenly there were 3,000. Then they were standing on the steps outside to get in. Sunday was a hard day for these young people because it was their only free day in the week. They had a choice from their drill instructors. Either you stay in the barracks here and alight home or call home today, or go to church. What do you like to do? These kids were choosing to let their personal communications take second place to have a meeting with Jesus of their own choice. You can't tell me that our generations aren’t going to hell. You can't tell me that young people aren't any good. I know they are. It's just that we have done them a disservice by painting some high-church, religious face and detracting or distracting them away from the Lord. So, if we get out of the way and let God get in the way, they will have life-changing encounters and He will do the rest.

   The second paradigm that must change -- when the world gets harder, you and I tend to retreat into religious cocoons, religious monasteries. That used to happen in the old days. Remember, I told you men are creatures of habit. During the dark ages in our history when society became debased, the religious leaders left the cities and went out into the hillsides. They built great fortresses that were known as monasteries. The Dominicans, the Franciscans, the high priestly orders -- they would go out and build these fortresses in the wilderness, you know? And they would protect the word of God there. They would study the word of God while the communities around them sunk into the mire. Well, they call for people to come and join them but nobody wanted to come. There became a phenomenon during that time called a "clergy-laity split". The great priests who are very educated men, many of the only select few who knew how to write and read at that time, would protect the integrity of the written word and they would make copies of it very studiously. They did work that was secretarial or clerical, which had the Latin term Clara Koontz which we translated eventually into "clergy".

   And then they would call to the people in the communities to come and join them in their spiritual pursuits, but people didn't want to come. They began to be referred to in a French verb, which was the term "lac", L-A-C, lackadaisical -- we get that term from there. It was translated into "lay". So we had the elitist clerical class in the monasteries protecting the scriptures, and then the lay people who were considered stupid, ignorant, unwashed masses who didn't want anything to do with anything enlightening. So when people call you a layperson, think about the origin of the word. But the point is that retreating or taking God away from society has never had any good effect on society. We must learn as the people of God when things get tougher to reintegrate back into the society where we can have an impact.

   For example, there are a lot of great ministries in America. I can only testify to my own, but in the last 24 months, we have documented 40,000 decisions for Christ in America. 40,000 people that the Lord has ripped the blinders off of. Let me tell you how it happened. God gave me a philosophy that you need to remember. Here's what it is. The Lord told me that if I was going to see great numbers of people come to Christ, I would have to learn how to position people to be impacted by the Spirit of God before their red flags got raised up that something religious was going on. Do you know what I mean by that?

   It's kind of like this. Remember I talked about asking questions? Always ask yourself questions about your ministry. If you were not a Christian -- put yourself in the shoes of somebody who doesn't know the language you know, or doesn't have the experiences you have. Would you be interested in spending another 10 minutes in the meeting that you were conducting? It's interesting to confront if you'll be honest with yourself. The religious paradigms that we have built up over the years have been like floor wax on a kitchen floor. You can lay wax out on the floor. You can spread it around and it'll harden, and you can polish it and it looks very shiny. But when you walk on it, you're no longer touching the original surface. You're touching the wax. Then when it gets dirty, people come along and they put more wax on it. It gets thicker. Layer by layer by layer, the wax builds. It gets very pretty and very shiny but every time you get further, and further, and further away from the original surface. This is what we have done to God. We have built up a pretty surface age by age, by age, by age and the result is we have a good-looking slick, high-dollar, goose bumps, and gospel rhinestone religious world out there. But you know something? It has very little or nothing to do with the God of your Bible. It's kind of a sobering step. But I'll tell you, that's the reason why George Barna went out last year. He's one of the top marketing research analysts in the nation. He did a survey of un-churched people and he found that while over 90% of Americans believe in God, 62% of them believe that the Christian institution is completely irrelevant to society. 62%, almost 7 out of 10 un-churched Americans think that our institution and our practices have nothing to do with their lives. And so, why would they have a reason to come and join us? These questions are worth answering.

   The third and final thing that we must change, the paradigm that we must change is when the world gets harder; we all too often become in our Christian experience, obscure and bizarre. I mean, you hang around people -- like out here. I don't know if you ever noticed, but people in small communities have idiosyncrasies. When you live in Dallas and you drive past somebody on the road, they won't even look at you. You drive past somebody here on the road, they'll wave at you. Do you notice it when you're driving out here? If you pass somebody, they always go like this on a steering wheel. They have a different way of doing things. That's their sphere of relevance. That's what's meaningful to them. But we, in a Christian world, have become little by little as we have retreated into our little communities, completely out of touch with the people around us. So the third thing that we've got to change is that we must become more relevant. So what I've talked about here today -- less religious, more real, and more relevant.

   Let me explain what I mean by the relevance issue. Greeting businessmen in the 1990s for Christ, you may have noticed is getting harder and harder. People have money. They're on the social ladder trying to get where they're going. We've got great success stories all over America. People were just like I was -- they've got a whole lot but deep down inside there's an itch that won't scratch. They won't let you in because of their perception of the society that you represent. We have a serious image problem in American Christianity. We have a real serious image problem. I'm talking marketing stuff now. And because of people's perception of our institutions, they don't want anything to do with us. If they knew us, they might. If they knew the Lord we represented, they definitely would. But for whatever reason, American society has a preconceived idea about who we are and what we represent. They don't want anything to do with us. They turn the other way when they see you coming with your 20-pound King James Bible, locked and cocked and ready to go.

   So what has to happen in order to win this little battle is we have to circumvent the negative imagery by becoming relevant to them. Relevant means to relate at someone's own level, to be able to disarm and communicate by reaching into their sphere of need and bringing the gospel to them. The way I do it is I don't go around and do church meetings. I don't do revivals. I don't do crusades. Those terms generally bring negative imagery in the eyes of many un-churched Americans. You don't ever want to go into a Jewish community and do a crusade, but a lot of preachers I know never think about that. You don't want to go into secular society and put on a revival because believe me, when people -- you know, words mean things to people. They trigger responses. Today, when you say preacher to un-churched America, what they think of is what Primetime Alive displays as a preacher. When you say preacher to working-class America, Bob Tilton pops in their mind. I'm not slamming Bob Tilton. I'm just saying he pops in their mind, whether that's good or bad. The guys that make the nuclear blunders pop in their minds. People who are very good people maybe, I don't know. But I do know that it's a negative flag to people who we could be reaching otherwise. And so, what we've got to do is circumvent that negative imagery and bring the gospel into a more meaningful place by doing some different things. Here's what I do, I go around and not do revivals. What I do is I do community-oriented events. You got to bring the gospel to the headline news of the paper where people live, think, and act, breathe, eat, and sleep. That's called a sphere of relevance. All people care about is what's in that sphere of relevance, solid care.

Randall's Hearing His Voice Testimony

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