DULUTH — Randy Kennedy wears a rubber wristband that glows in the dark. The message on the wristband is “1P134 53787.” It is a real attention grabber.
The combination of one letter and four numeral stands for I Peter 1:3-4, where the apostle tells about the incorruptible and undefiled inheritance reserved in heaven for those who believe. Kennedy contends that 53787 signifies the confirmation number that ensures him of that reservation in glory. If you look on your smart phone you will see that those numbers can also represent J-E-S-U-S.
On multiple occasions people have seen Kennedy’s wristband and asked, “What do those numbers represent?” The question provides the perfect opportunity for Kennedy to share the Gospel. He has been using this wristband to tell others about Jesus for years (I am now wearing one).
Randy Kennedy has always been an affable, winsome, and motivated person. He served one of Georgia Baptists’ most strategic churches and was destined to rise to prominence in Baptist life, but a personal crisis halted that progression.
In a recent interview Kennedy stated, “I have faced many challenges in my ministry both pastoral and personal. While pastoring I faced the everyday challenges and pressures that come from shepherding people. In 1999, I lost everything I had worked and dreamed of in my ministry and the only thing that helped me overcome that crisis was a return to my foundation.
“I began preparing for the ministry at Columbia Bible College and cut my teeth on the preaching ministry of men like Leonard Ravenhill, Stephen Olford, Manly Beasley, Vance Havner, and others.
“These men placed in me a deep desire to serve Christ and a firm foundation to always believe in the power of God. Faith is not faith if you are always walking by sight. I couldn’t always see my way through my crisis, but I believed that God would see me through. Knowing and believing were the two key ingredients for me to press on, because all I had was God.”
Kennedy not only served as a Georgia Baptist pastor, but also became the chaplain of the Atlanta Hawks in 1993 and has continued to have a sports ministry since that time. He explained, “Being an athlete growing up, I always had a passion for competition. While pastoring in Dalton, my good friend Bill Barker (now Georgia Baptist missionary) asked me to assist him at Northwest High School as assistant chaplain for football.
“After being on the football field and having the opportunity to minister to those young athletes I was hooked for life. I then became the chaplain for the Tattnall Square Academy in Macon where my daughters attended high school.
“I eventually became the chaplain for the National Basketball Association Atlanta Hawks and the Georgia Force (owned by Arthur Blank) of the Arena Football League. I now have the incredible opportunity to serve as chaplain and player for the Sunbelt Senior Professional Golf Tour.”
Kennedy is not a greenhorn golfer. In fact, he recalls with some delight the first time he broke 70 in Cullman, Ala. and scored 33 on the back nine at the Greenwood Country Club in South Carolina to win the low Amateur trophy.
As the chaplain and player with the Sunbelt Senior golfers he plays with PGA, Web.com, and PGA Champion tour players and winners. In the midst of all that excitement he commented, “I still go back to ministry as the most thrilling part of the Sunbelt Tour. Seeing men have a desire for Christ is very uplifting to me.
“Watching God work outside the normal church setting and seeing God touch people where they are is amazing. I suppose I have what some would call a marketplace ministry. It is entirely different from ministry in the church. You can’t take your worship and church programming from an established church and try to impose it upon people in the marketplace.
“You have to go where the people are and meet them on their terms and according to their needs, but never compromising the Gospel.
“God has allowed me to lead a number of people in the world of sports to Christ and baptize them. I have also married some and buried a few; but it is worth the time and effort expended when you see people have a hunger for God’s Word and a willingness to learn.
“Another rewarding experience is taking the golfers to a local children’s hospital when possible and see them bless the children with their concern and gifts of signed golf balls and hats. Many of the children in some of these hospitals will not be able to go home. The golfers see how the children respond to their visits and they want to be included the next time a hospital visit is planned.”
In addition to serving as chaplain of the Sunbelt Senior golfers, Kennedy is leading and mentoring a group of people who are involved in a ministry outside the church. He describes them as “hungry for the Word” and eager to serve.
He added, “We have a great time of worship and spiritual growth. Being able to minister with my wife, Lisa, has been most rewarding and fulfilling. The two of us have also seen God do some extraordinary things from India to Honduras and throughout the sports world. Ministering in churches of all sizes and denominations has also given us a great respect for the body of Christ.”
Kennedy also preaches in leadership conferences, men’s conferences, pastors’ conferences, various banquets, camp meetings and golf outings. He remarked, “Many of my opportunities arise because of more than three decades in sports ministry. I also write a monthly article for the Hawaii Golf News and Travel entitled ‘Golf and God.’”
Kennedy admits that he knows what it is like to have flaws and imperfections, but that has even given him a greater concern for pastors. He emphasized, “When you make a mistake, you have got to go back to the foundation. You have got to make sure that it is solid and stable enough to withstand all of life’s challenges and help you get back on track when you falter.
“Having a healthy prayer life is crucial to any kind of noble work. Golf is certainly not an end in itself, but it is one of the platforms God has given me for ministry.
“My next golfing event is in Niagara Falls. That will be my next place to tell folks about 53787.”