Tennessee congregation and community 'mourns and celebrates' loss of pastor David Landrith

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez, |

HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. (Christian Examiner) -- As people share hundreds of stories and gather to pray, it is a time of "mourning and celebrating" at Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, said Executive Pastor Lance Taylor concerning the loss of Senior Pastor David Landrith this week.

Landrith, 51, passed away at his home Tuesday morning from colorectal melanoma, a rare and aggressive cancer he was diagnosed with in 2013.

The beloved leader succumbed to the disease after a 20-month battle which is "the average life span" for those facing the disease, Long Hollow's senior associate pastor, Jeff Lovingood, told local ABC news affiliate WKRN.

"Some people would live five years, but it's a very aggressive cancer," Lovingood said.

Despite multiple surgeries and medical treatments over the past year, the cancer spread throughout Landrith's body, including his lungs and brain.

But even with his deteriorating health, Landrith continued to grow Long Hollow's reach and ministry.

The Tennessean reported the church is again "on target to exceed" the record 1,000 baptisms it achieved in 2013, according to Roger "Sing" Oldham, a spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention.

Oldham noted that Landrith's cancer allowed him to connect with people in a unique way.

"I do think there was something about his vibrant courage in the face of his cancer (that drew people)," he said. "People wanted to hear where he drew that strength from."

First-hand accounts of Landrith's impact on others can be read on the church's homepage where friends and members are posting favorite memories and personal testimonies about Long Hollow's pastor of 17 years.

"For thousands of people, David was the catalyst that God used to invigorate their spiritual walk, to begin restoring their marriage, to understand Scripture, and to fall in love with Jesus," the church stated on their website.

The message was then followed by a stream of posts from those who had been touched by the pastor's life.

One comment read:

"I was a lost child of God for many years. One Sunday I decided to attend Long Hollow to see what all the fuss was about and I couldn't believe how life-changing listening to Pastor David would be. I am a better person and a loving follower of Christ because of that Sunday morning during one of my darkest times in life. I am forever-changed because of Pastor David. " Heather Payne, Long Hollow Hendersonville Campus

Another highlighted his caring nature despite his personal battle:

"In the midst of Pastor David's struggle with cancer, treatments and surgeries, my dad had a stroke. My dad's first time back to church was on a Wednesday night. Pastor David spotted him and came over to say that he had been keeping up with his health and had been praying for him. He was still caring for and tending his sheep even in the worst struggle of his own life. We feel beyond blessed to call him Pastor and friend. " Stephanie Sinclair, Long Hollow Hendersonville Campus

Landrith grew the Long Hollow congregation from about 300 members when he arrived in 1997 to about 7,500 worshippers on five Nashville-area campuses engaged in ministries on three continents today.

People came to hear Landrith preach in his humble, down-to-earth style, Lovingood told WKRN. The station reported Landrith, who preached his last sermon at Long Hollow late last summer, would often deliver messages just two days after a radiation treatment or surgery.

"He was a great preacher. People felt like they knew him. When you would sit and listen to David you [would] think you're his best friend. He made you feel special," said Lovingood.

Landrith's funeral will be held at the Long Hollow worship center in Hendersonville, Friday at 5 p.m. Visitation will be held prior to the service from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. The funeral will be streamed live online via the church's website.

He will be buried at the Candies Creek Baptist Church in Charleston, Tennessee at 3 p.m. Saturday.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the David Landrith Memorial Fund at Long Hollow Baptist Church.

Anyone who wishes to share a memory of Landrith's impact on their lives may continue to do so on the church website.