Mike Gower, one of the best Christians I have ever known and one of my dearest friends, passed away just a few days after Christmas. I first met Mike a couple years before Jill and I moved to Redding. On a vacation to visit friends who helped start Risen King we stayed in one of the rooms of the men’s dorm at Simpson University where Mike served as the Resident Director. As we walked by his office to head up the stairs to our room I will never forget his loud, cheerful, welcoming voice and presence. “Hi, I’m Mike Gower! You must be the Randalls…” He and I talked briefly several times on that vacation. I remember him being passionate about fishing, discipleship, his church, and especially his wife Caroline. Over the years I’ve grown to appreciate Mike as “the Patriarch” of Risen King Community Church as well as Simpson University. For many young adults who had an unfortunate or non-existent relationship with their father, Mike became a real “father to the fatherless.” God used Mike to help many young adults launch a healthier marriage, and he and Caroline helped many failing marriages find their way to reconciliation and fruitfulness.
Mike was always prepared to share something fresh he had discovered in the Word or from a book he had recently been reading. And Mike always had a story. “Well, there was this time back at Smokey Point…” Mike was a great student of the Bible as well as of life. Mike loved the outdoors, especially all things fishing. So many fishing stories!
There were many occasions where Mike helped me deal with some of the toughest pastoral situations that have ever come my way. And Mike discipled and supported so many emerging leaders, including most of my staff through the years. Mike took the lead with regard to the pastoral transition from the previous lead pastor to myself. He also led the first church facility/property search team that launched our long journey to our new location on Oasis Road.
More than anything else Mike was and will always be remembered as a man who walked in love. Mike loved people and they knew it. He was an encourager and a wise confidant. Many proudly refer to Mike as their mentor. There are so many stories of restoration, reconciliation and rededication associated with the life of Mike Gower. And while no one can take Mike’s place, I am left with many challenging questions, like:
- Who will step up and continue to say and do what Mike said and did as an ambassador for Christ?
- Who will warmly welcome people as Mike did?
- Who will fill our rooms with contagious laughter?
- Who will be the encourager of spiritual discipline and obedience as Mike was?
- Who will believe in those who others would not, and walk with them toward wholeness and maturity?
- Who will love people enough to speak the hard word that needs to be said, yet in such an authentic spirit of love that the message penetrates deeply unto transformation?
- Who will visibly live a life of consistent gratitude and positive hope for the future even in the midst of enormous trials?
Who will stand in the gap?
Mike’s life and now his legacy provoke an urgency within me to live a bigger and better life. Away with living for less than what matters most, than what Jesus promises and makes possible for all. Now may the same Holy Spirit that made Mike the vibrant testimony he is come upon me and any others who are willing to step up and say, “Yes!” “Yes” to the call of Jesus to live passionately for what will last and to finish well.
What will be your answer to the call?