Dear Rick Ross,

Congratulations on your retirement yesterday after 36-years of congregational ministry, preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God, mainly at the Mesquite Church of Christ and the Decatur Church of Christ. Whatever good things happen for you this week, whatever nice things are said about you–you deserve them all, and more.

I’ve told you before, but I want to put it in writing: I was born and raised in and by the Church–I’ve been listening to sermons since I was nine days old–and you are the very first preacher I ever really HEARD. You are the first preacher I ever truly listened to. The way you connect the dots from Old Testament to New Testament, the way you preach the Bible as the beautiful Story of God and not a book of rules, the way you shape your congregation by focusing on God’s love and mercy, and the way you tenderly bring us along when we need correcting or when the truth is hard to hear–all that had a tremendous impact on me when we moved to Mesquite in the Fall of 1999. You opened my eyes and my heart for the first time to the Good News I thought I already knew.

Everybody has that one preacher they name when they remember the first time they really heard about “grace.” Rick, you are that preacher for me. I thank God for you.

I have many memories of those incredibly formative years at that Mesquite church. That was such an important time for Carrie-Anne and me and directly led to our decision to leave radio and enter full-time congregational ministry. All that started in Mesquite, taking my faith in Christ and my discipleship to him seriously, and your preaching was the catalyst. But, just as important, and inseparable from that, is your life as a follower of Jesus. I know I said some bone-headed things to you back then and did a few bone-headed things. And you showed me such grace and understanding. Over time I learned to pick up on when you were being mistreated by the people you were serving with your heart and soul, which meant I also picked up on how you continued to treat those people with grace and forgiveness and stay faithful to your calling to preach and pastor and lead with love. There were times when it looked like being the preacher at Mesquite was a hard thing to do. And you kept doing it. And you kept loving us and faithfully leading our church. I think about you often and how you showed me and Jason Reeves and countless others how to do this difficult thing. I’m so grateful.

One of my earliest and most vivid memories of you, Rick, is worshiping together on the floor of the convention center at the annual Tulsa Workshop. I think it was the very first Workshop Carrie-Anne and I attended. I don’t know if it was Free Indeed or Keith Lancaster, but we were all singing “You Will Turn.” You and Beverly were one row in front of us and to the left. And when we sang, “You will turn…” you turned! Literally! You spun around! Physically! Your finger was in the air and your were singing and turning with great enthusiasm. When we sang, “…my mourning into dancing,” you danced! Kinda. If that’s what you call it. I was really surprised. Maybe even shocked. After the second time through, I looked back at Jenny who was behind us and to the right, and I pointed at you with my eyes wide open. She raised both eyebrows and smiled real big and nodded and said, “I know!”

I thought, “Who is this guy?” Who is this preacher who is so serious about his faith, so devoted to his walk with Christ, so careful and deliberate with his preaching, but at the same time clapping and singing and dancing during worship?”

That’s Rick Ross. I remember thinking in that moment and all through that weekend that if I were ever dumb enough to go into preaching, that’s exactly the kind of preacher I would want to be. Praise God for Rick Ross.

Well done, brother. You are God’s good and faithful servant. I feel like John Chrysostom when he lamented that his words couldn’t live up to what’s in his heart. I don’t know how to say it, Rick. Your preaching and your life have impacted me and countless others in profound ways for eternity. I wish you the very best of God’s richest blessings of joy and peace. And I pray that you know and feel our Father’s presence with you. And his very good pleasure.