Ron is not perfect, and this is not only common knowledge, but one of the main reasons why he is such a good mentor.
Leaders are naturally strong personalities and they’re going to butt heads with other strong individuals around them; it comes with the territory. And the temptation among leaders is the need to be 100% right. What if they are not? Fear drives us to have to be right because we are afraid to be real. If people are going to be following you, they need to know they can place their confidence in you. But is that confidence based on you or on the Holy Spirit in you? This is the big question of the new covenant.
That is why the principles we have been spelling out to you lately as we’ve gone through the 2 Corinthians new covenant passage are so important, because they re-write the rules on leadership. The key to strong, effective leadership is not victorious living, where one soars over human foibles and weaknesses, but vulnerable living, where one trudges through the real challenges of life and the struggles one experiences and actually brings hope to others who are dealing with many of the same things.
Think of Paul admitting he was anxious in 2 Corinthians 2 and passed up an opportunity for ministry; and picturing himself as unveiled with nothing to hide in chapter 3; and as a fragile clay pot in chapter 4; and as being afflicted, perplexed, hunted down and struck down also in chapter 4; and as struggling with sin in Romans 7; and as having a “thorn in the flesh” in 2 Corinthians 12. Not to mention the disagreements with some of the early church leaders and parting of ways with others which are mentioned in the book of Acts. There is no attempt to polish up anyone’s image in the New Testament accounts. These are normal, fallible people with issues, and the emphasis on their normalcy makes their trust in the Holy Spirit more palpable.
This was one of the first things I noticed about Ron Ritchie. He was an open book. There was no attempt to hide anything, and in some ways, he would go out of his way to be human in ways you wouldn’t expect from a pastor. Terry Taylor’s song, “Hide the Beer, the Pastor’s Here” would not be Ron. “Crack one open” might be more appropriate. There were all kinds of childish pranks played on each other on the trips we took together with other staff members and lay leaders — jokes at each other’s expense to keep anyone’s head from getting too big. I think one time, Ron pushed Ray Stedman out of the car and left him standing along the side of the road for a while for being obnoxious.
We knew about difficult marriages, we knew about struggles with lust, we knew about impatience, we knew about burn-out, we knew about wanting to call it quits. We knew all these things because the lives of our leaders, for the most part, were available to us, and certainly Ron’s was, and that’s what has endeared him to so many people who now want to see him for one last time.
When I was first getting to know Ron, there was a Ritchie Realty Company with ‘for sale’ signs everywhere that read “AVAILABLE: RITCHIE.” It was a constant reminder to me of Ron’s style of leadership and his example to us to just show up and God will do the rest. I still need that reminder, because I must admit, my style has been more like “FISCHER: BY APPOINTMENT ONLY.”