Celebration of a Life

What little I know of Richard Banham:

© May 30th, 2020, Chet Bishop

It is a little disconcerting to realize just how little I know of a man with whom I have served for nearly a decade: I know his birthdate (September 25th, 1931) and I know the date of his death (May 29th, 2020.) He would have been 89 in September.

I know he became a believer in his late teens, and still later (not sure when?) he attended Biola (Bible Institute Of Los Angeles.) I think he graduated from there in 1957. I know he served as a US Marine, and later as a Hillsboro police officer, and a Chaplain while he was on the Hillsboro police force. I know that during one period of his life, he had also served as a missionary, reaching unchurched areas of Oregon and Washington, and possibly other areas, teaching in homes and leading people to Christ.

He served as a Bible Study teacher in a wide variety of care centers, around the Portland area, teaching, preaching, evangelizing, and serving in whatever capacity he could. But we knew him primarily because of his time here at True Hope Christian Fellowship.

At True Hope Christian Fellowship

Richard first appeared at True Hope Christian Fellowship, one Sunday afternoon, in July of 2010, during a downstairs deacon’s and elder’s meeting. I held no office in the church at that time, and I was already done teaching, so I was with Ann, in the car, across the street, getting ready to leave. We saw him walk up the steps and go in, and both of us said, “He needs to talk to someone!” So I got back out of the car, and followed him inside.

We introduced ourselves to one another, and Richard began asking questions about the church, the organizational structure, our doctrinal statement, etc. He first asked mostly general questions, but became more and more specific, as he worked to ascertain just exactly who he was dealing with.

My formal training had familiarized me with all the theological terminology and phrases he was using, as he “grilled” me on what the church really believed, so I was quite comfortable with answering his questions, and I genuinely enjoyed the visit. He was finally satisfied that we were in agreement about everything that was important to him, so he slowed the pace a bit. At that point, I said, “I really think you need to meet Pat James, the pastor, here.” So we walked downstairs and I introduced him to the men gathered there, and I left. Ann and I went on home, but we were both hoping that Richard would be back.

That was the beginning of Richard’s relationship with the church, and he rapidly settled in to serve. I had been teaching both a morning adult Sunday school class and a Wednesday evening Bible study/prayer meeting, but as my vocational work at Gunderson Inc. became more demanding, I asked Richard to take over the Wednesday night meeting. (Pat James was living at the coast by then, and it was getting to be too much for him, to drive back for an evening meeting every week, though he had done so for many years.)

I had also been teaching an afternoon Bible Study at Cornell Estates, every Sunday, for ten years, and I asked him to come there with me, so that, in the event I could not be there, he would already be familiar with the group and could easily step in. We ended up taking turns teaching through books of the Bible, for nearly another ten years, after that. He was absolutely faithful to be prepared, and to teach in great detail any portion of scripture he addressed. He also went there during the weeks and ministered to the believers, which I was unable to do because of my work schedule.

Richard was ordained as an elder after a few years at True Hope, and when Pat and Jan James became sick enough that Pat could not always be at church, Richard and I took turns filling the pulpit, for a year or so, always hoping that Pat’s health would improve.

When Pat finally became too sick to continue serving at all, he asked Richard to take over the shepherding of True Hope Christian Fellowship. Richard agreed to do so, provided I would serve with him, as he and I were both aware of the Biblical standard that there should always be a plurality of leaders—elders—in each church. So I was ordained by the church, as well, and he and I began taking turns preaching every week. If one of us had a message that required more than one week, the other simply backed off and allowed the series of messages to be completed. We had good harmony in our service, though we did not always agree 100% about small points of doctrine. There was never a rift: we were both free to study, learn, and build our personal understanding of God’s Word. He was a blessing to me and to the Church.

In Sickness and in Health

A few years ago, Richard was told he had advanced Prostate Cancer. He subjected himself to all the treatments, and continued to serve faithfully. He very seldom missed a service, though he became increasingly fatigued, and weaker, month by month. A few times he fell, and could not get up, but he always insisted on taking care of his own needs, which caused some distress for his family and friends, but was it was simply part of his character, as one who came to serve, not to be served.

Richard served faithfully until he was physically unable to go on…and then He was simply called home. He came as close to “dying in harness” as almost anyone I have ever known, and he stayed lucid to the very end. I had actually asked him the previous week (Memorial Day weekend) whether he would like to take the Sunday service. He declined, saying he really wasn’t prepared, but thanked me for asking. Neither of us knew that he had only a week left on Earth.

Richard died in his own home (as he had frequently said he desired to do) with many of his family around him. He died in peace, without prolonged suffering, which we count a special blessing and an answer to prayer. He was simply called home: he answered one last call.

It was an honor to have served with Richard, and I wish I could have known him earlier in life. I learned a good deal from him in the years I knew him, and I wish that I could have continued to do so. Richard was a teacher to everyone around him, and a friend to the whole church. He cared deeply about the church and the individuals within it. He became a true pillar in our community of faith, and was universally respected for his deep knowledge of God’s Word.

Already, in the short time he has been gone, there have been questions I wanted to discuss with him, to get his input. But he’s not here for me anymore, and that grieves me, as I am sure it does many of you. We are all going to miss him, but it gives us peace to know that he is with the Lord today.

So… What do we do, Now?

1st Thessalonians 4:13-18 is a good passage to remember at times like this:

 “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep; that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus, will God bring with Him. For this we say unto you by the Word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those which are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout; with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God. And the dead in Christ shall rise first, then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore, comfort one another with these words.”

The twin reasons these words can be a comfort to us are both contained in the passage itself:

“If We Believe that Jesus Died and Rose Again”

To an unbeliever, this passage would be no comfort at all: the whole passage is predicated on the assumption that the people to whom Paul was writing were all believers! And these are the core issues of the Gospel: 1st Corinthians 15:3, 4 spell out that the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, specifically as payment for our sins, are the key message of the Gospel. Paul says “if we believe…” that Gospel, then these words are a comfort to us.

Romans 1:16 says that that Gospel, being believed in, is THE power of God unto salvation. Paul said, “I am not shamed of the Gospel of Christ for it is the Power of God unto salvation, to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”

Richard believed with all his heart that Jesus’s blood at the Cross paid for all his sins, completely and permanently. If we also “believe that Jesus died and rose again,” as the 1st Thessalonians passage points out, then we can have confidence that not only we will see Richard again, but that we cannot miss the Rapture of the Church. We will be caught up with him!

2nd Corinthians 5:8 says, “We are confident, I say, and willing, rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”  This was another source of confidence for Richard, knowing that “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” He did not go into some sort of “limbo,” as some people teach, nor into any sort of “waiting room,” such as a “purgatory,” or any other such thing. His soul did not go into suspended animation or a “soul-sleep!” He left his body, and he was instantly in the presence of his Savior. There is no middle ground. Those who have received the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior, by believing that His death and burial and resurrection are full payment their sins, personally, will personally step into his presence, just as Richard did.

“Even So, Them also which sleep… in Jesus”

It is important to recognize that our confidence is in God’s Word, and His faithfulness…not our own goodness, nor that of Richard Banham. There may be some who knew Richard long ago, and who have held a grudge against him for some cause, and who may still think, “Well, he was nothing special!” Let me assure you: Richard would have been the first to agree with them! He never considered himself to have “earned merit” with God, but only to have had the unspeakable privilege of serving Him, in whatever capacity he was allowed. His standing with the Holy God he served had nothing to do with his own worthiness, but entirely to do with the Worthiness of Jesus Himself, because God only saw Richard “in Christ!” You see, that phrase, “even so them also that sleep ‘in Jesus’…” addresses positionnot condition. Richard never stood before God in his own righteousness, but rather in the Righteousness of Christ, alone. That is his eternal position before God.

If you have received Jesus as your Savior, then the scripture says you also are permanently “in Christ!” Your confidence in Him, because of your position in Him, should move you to find great freedom in living for him. Richard was dedicated to doing just that.

Probably there are some of you who would like to share how Richard has affected your life… how he stirred you to grow in the Lord, or in other ways influenced you. Our sister, Kristen Flemmer, shared her thoughts last week because she knew she would unable to be here today. If you would like to speak, please don’t be shy: If he was a blessing to you, we all would like to share in that blessing. This is how it becomes a blessing to all who hear it.

Time for sharing

Close in more songs and prayer.

About Chet Bishop:

Chet Bishop is one of the pastors at True Hope Christian Fellowship Church, in Forest Grove, Oregon. He has been a believer since 1973, and has been teaching actively since 1976. He supports himself and his family by working as a welding technician/instructor, and by making violin-family instruments.

Find all posts by Chet Bishop


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