Student Spotlight: Rudy Rasmus

Leave Something Behind

Rev. Rudy Rasmus is leaving a legacy of faith to the next generation and using United’s Doctor of Ministry program to help him.

a man in a paisley shirt leaning against a brick wallFor the past 25 years, Rudy has served as pastor of St. John’s United Methodist Church, a 9,000-member congregation in inner-city Houston. Now, he is using his doctoral work to focus on reaching black millennials, who are largely missing from the Church. It’s a generation that doesn’t care about institutional survival, he says, so they don’t care if a local church goes out of business. It’s a generation that desires relevance and authenticity, but isn’t connecting with wisdom from previous generations.

“If you don’t leave something behind, you don’t have a legacy,” Rudy explains. “The challenge we are facing is that previous generations have not left something behind for the next generation to embody that as a practice.”

Two things in particular seem to have caused this breakdown in leaving a legacy. First, Rudy says, we have become myopic — not out of selfishness, but out of a sense of scarcity. We think all we have is all we are ever going to have and all we are going to get. When we are operating out of scarcity, we don’t consider our legacy because we are worried about simply getting by.

Rudy was brought to faith by the generosity of God’s love, the abundance that God made available. He views legacy as an acknowledgment and extension of that overwhelming abundance.

Rudy’s wife Juanita always says, “We have everything we need.” It has become their household mantra. From that perspective, abundance becomes apparent, and it becomes easier to be generous with time, talent and financial resources.

Rudy saw his Aunt Mae Mae living life from a mindset of abundance. She regularly proclaimed, “A person who doesn’t know what enough is will never have it.” His aunt’s whole life was generous. She never made a lot of money, but she always had enough, so she always gave to others.

Legacy starts with expanding our perspective from scarcity to abundance.

Second, legacy requires being bilingual. According to Rudy, you’ve got to be able to speak not only the language of your own generation but also the language of the generations you feel called to reach. Before you start worrying about learning the latest trending terms among young people, Rudy says there is a better place to begin. It starts with names. People whose names we remember are the people we care about. To create a connection with people, know who they are and what they care about.

Rudy calls it “living and leading from the middle of the room.” Rather than always leading from the pulpit at the front of the room, he spends a lot of his time mingling with the people he wants to reach and daring to be seen as a peer. He shows people they matter by caring about them as individuals. It keeps him relevant, which in turn keeps their church relevant.

So who is God calling you to reach? What legacy do you have to share? Stop worrying about keeping the lights on and start sharing the abundance of God with one person at a time.

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Bishop Julius Trimble receiving honorary DoctorateFroont entrance of United Theological Seminary on a bright sunny day