Finally, Randall comes home

By Ed Graney
Updated: July 19, 2010

Pastor Randall Cunningham delivers a sermon at Remnant Ministries in Henderson on March 7. Cunningham returned to the pulpit Sunday for the first time since his 2½-year-old son, Christian, drowned in the family's hot tub on June 29.

Pastor Randall Cunningham delivers a sermon at Remnant Ministries in Henderson on March 7. Cunningham returned to the pulpit Sunday for the first time since his 2½-year-old son, Christian, drowned in the family's hot tub on June 29.

LAS VEGAS — The sermon lasted eight minutes longer than scheduled and you got the feeling it could have been 10 times that and not a soul would have moved.

They hung on his every word, answered his every pronouncement, shed tears along with him and his family for the deep pain suffered the last few weeks.

Amens and Hallelujahs filled the air. They carried the day.

Randall Cunningham’s home was once a 100-yard grass field, where hopes and dreams are realized by the biggest and strongest and fastest of the bunch, where some have joked that football is not a matter of life and death, but far more serious.

People used to identify Cunningham first with the game.

Today, you can do so by his flock.

Few seats remained during a Sunday morning service at Remnant Ministries church on Windmill Lane in Henderson, the pastor about to deliver his first message since Christian, the 2½-year-old son of Randall and Felicity, drowned in a backyard hot tub at the family’s home June 29.

Husband and wife embraced at center stage moments before the sermon , embraced in a way that made clear how impossible it is for most to know the depths of their grief.

“In the midst of trial,” Cunningham then told his congregation, “I’m telling you that’s when you start moving forward in a deeper direction. It’s not time to give up right now …

“If you knew what we were going through, I thank God that you don’t know. I praise God that you don’t know. I never thought being a pastor of a church would be at this level, but I’m telling you, it’s deep.”

“It’s truly something, so deep that I have learned every single day when God speaks to me, I have to say ‘Yes,’ and ‘Amen,’ even though my flesh might want to fight against it.

“As long as we have Jesus on our side, things will be OK. That was the last application before our child passed away.”

His was a discourse Sunday that focused on the importance of wisdom in our lives, that with it we can not lose, we can get over things quicker, make something of ourselves, not only for today and tomorrow, but for eternity.

Cunningham was a terrific quarterback at UNLV and for 16 NFL seasons, but to see him now, to watch how others respond to his words, that part about a profession not being what brings home a paycheck but rather something with such intensity and passion that it becomes a spiritual calling rings true.

Cunningham has spent much of his time on earth playing a game. If you saw him Sunday, saw how he moved those listening, you would know he was put here to guide others in life and not to score touchdowns.

“It is good to have him back,” one church member said as he was departing the service. “We need him, and I truly believe he needs us in this time.”

Cunningham spoke on Ecclesiastes 7-11, on Proverbs 3-13 and 13-9, on Psalm 69, on not allowing the floodwaters to engulf or enter our souls, on the light of righteous shining brightly.

He spoke about how acquiring wisdom means learning to fear God, to trust God, to develop faith in God, about how it is a defense shield against the arrows of darkness.

How we can’t live without wisdom. How it is priceless. How we must walk with humility and acquire balance in life.

“Without my wife,” he then said, “I do not know what I would do. We all need a help mate.”

Felicity Cunningham addressed the gathering shortly after the praise band, in which her husband is a member, had concluded its songs for the morning.

“We want you to know,” Felicity said as her voice began to crack and tears began to fall, “that your prayers and support and love … it is all working.”

Her husband then appeared from one side and walked toward her slowly. They embraced. Countless others wiped away tears.

A little boy touched so many here and in his tragic passing a church has discovered strength, for itself, its pastor, his grieving family.

“I’m eight minutes over my time,” Cunningham said after ending his sermon with a prayer, “and I really don’t care.”

Neither did a flock that would have spent 10 times that listening to him, responding to him, following him, praying for him.

They stood in long lines afterward, one by one, waiting to hug Cunningham at the front of the church and his wife at the back. Hug them and whisper words of faith and encouragement.

Randall Cunningham was a great football player once. Sunday, in the midst of a trial no one would wish on any parent, he came home to preach. Home to do what he was put here to do.

To guide others in life. To feed off their strength and love.

There was a ton of both inside those church walls.