Fighting the Good Fight to the End: In Memory of Pastor Bill Randles
“If you are only born once, you are going to die twice. But if you are born twice, you only die once (John 3:3)” — Pastor Bill Randles
William Arthur Randles was born into a large Southern Minnesota Dutch-German-Irish Catholic Family of 10 children in 1959. Those familiar with this part of the country know that this area routinely produced families with 10–20 children. Bill had 2 sisters and 7 brothers (5 older), it was not unexpected that with the family moving south to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, that Bill would take up wrestling at Prairie High School. (Note: Prairie High School was a powerhouse of wrestling in the late 1970s and 80s with alumnus like Barry Davis, Jimmy Zalesky, Lennie Zalesky, and other talents.)
In 1976–77, Bill would captain the wrestling team that would start a 20 year undefeated streak against all local schools. I am told he was a good Captain and leader of the team. After graduation he enrolled at Iowa State and walked on to the wrestling program, while pursuing liberal arts and philosophical studies. Being on one of the greatest wrestling teams in Division 1 sports helped Bill recognize quickly that his main talent was not in Division 1 wrestling. After 1 year of Gladiator training he decided to discontinue wrestling.
Around this same time his mother took ill with cancer that would eventually take her home to the Lord. Broken and hurting, he responded to a Bible Study invitation by his dormmates at Iowa State. Like many of us ex-Roman Catholics, we knew about God and Jesus Christ, but we didn’t know Jesus Christ personally nor the power of His Holy Spirit in our lives to transform us from our sins. Bill immediately received God’s Good News of Salvation with joy and was drawn to reading the Bible and telling others of his new found faith.
Bill had a gift for memorizing scriptures. He blanketed the Iowa State University campus with Christian tracts, even open air preaching to his fellow students. It was clear he had a gift for public speaking and explaining the Bible to people. He even came back from College on the weekends to give the Gospel to his old High School Wrestling teammates!
After realizing his heart was not in his undergraduate studies he did what any sensible Bible teacher does and dropped out of college to work, raise a family, and conduct Bible studies with any and all who needed God’s Word in their lives. He even began preaching on the weekends as an itinerate Bible Teacher in Small Churches around Eastern Iowa.
It was at one of his Bible studies that he met the second and third loves of his life (after Jesus of course), his wife Kris and her young daughter Dara. Kris also had a love for God’s Word, evangelism, and Gospel Music. They were a form fit team in sharing the faith. After marriage, they continued doing what they loved (and what they were good at); Conducting Bible studies and encouraging people to know Jesus Christ. In a short time, their living room on was filled with people from all over the area coming to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, learn from the Bible, and to be provoked in their faith. In November of 1981, Believers in Grace Church was inaugurated.
As he did with everything in his life, Bill set about to build his marriage and family on the firm foundation of God’s Word. His beautiful family was an inspiration to all that knew him. We knew that if we built our marriages and families on this same foundation, we could have beautiful families too. We could have successful marriages, raise God fearing kids, and avoid the many pitfalls of America’s failing family unit.
Pastor Bill Randles was particularly fond of teaching young people. Within a few short years after starting his Church, Bill’s youth group had young people from all over Eastern Iowa attending. His ability to teach God’s Word and tie in current events to scripture amazed and intrigued us. There was hardly a Friday night that we did not spend hours afterward talking about prophesies, Israel, and Jesus’ soon coming. He was very adept at provoking us to active faith by inviting us out to sing Christmas Carols in the neighborhood, handing out Christian tracts at concerts, holding youth retreats, showing old Christian movies like “Ben Hur”, “The Hiding Place”, “A Thief in the Night” and his favorite, “Pilgrims Progress”.
It was around this time that I met Bill Randles. I was a 14 year old kid in the mid 1980s struggling with sin. I was given a book by my mother called, “The Late Great Planet Earth”, by Hal Lindsey. Reading the book radically affected me. For the first time in my life the Bible became real and living and not simply a book of old moral stories. I realized that prophesies were being fulfilled, Israel was a nation again, the nations of the world were converging on the last and final conflict. I approached the Pastor of the my Church (not Bill Randles’ Church) asking him what he thought of the Book and Bible Prophecy. He laughed at the notion of Jesus coming back, Israel fulfilling God’s scriptures, and Bible Prophecy. I never returned to that Church.
Providence would have me invited by a relative to attend one of Bill & Kris’ youth events. I was told about this ex-Prairie wrestler who was now a Pastor that really taught from the Bible. I approached Bill during this event and gave him the same test I gave my previous Pastor. To my astonishment, he had read this book and many others regarding Bible Prophecy. He confirmed to me that Jesus Christ was indeed coming soon and that all of the Bible Prophecies were being fulfilled. He also encouraged me to be Born Again and follow Jesus Christ. Even though it would take years and many false starts for me to follow Jesus Christ, I knew this was a man who loved God and God’s Word.
Bill’s love for truth helped him to steer Believers in Grace Fellowship away from the errant movements that seemed to afflict American Christianity from the 80s to today: Faith Movement (Name it claim it false teaching), fraudulent TV preachers, Spiritual Drunkenness Movement, the new Apostles Movement, the New Prophets movement, the Mega-Church preachers, etc. In the mid 1990s, after Pastoring his Church successfully for over a decade, he felt compelled to help other struggling Christians and Pastors see their way out of the “Faith Movement” by writing his first book, “Making war in the Heavenlies”. The book exposed the unbiblical beliefs and practices of the movement by simply comparing the so-called “Faith preachers” actions and their teachings to the Apostles! The differences couldn’t have been more stark.
Bill would go on to write many books that encouraged people’s faith in God and to put all to the Biblical Test (“War on the Saints”, “The Visions and Words of the Prophet Zechariah”, “Creation, Fall, and the Hope of Redemption”, “A Sword on the Land: Islam in the Last Days”, “Born from Above”, “Mending the Nets”, “Beware the New Prophets”, and others.)
It was also around this time that Bill and Kris read Psalm 127 about children being a “blessing from the Lord” and decided to have more children. Perhaps Bill and Kris were following his parent’s step of faith in having Children? Regardless, their little step of faith to have more children, in a generation that eschews large families, encouraged those in the Church to have larger families as well. For over two decades it was not uncommon to see many families of 7 or more kids driving vans and small busses to church. It became part of our Church Growth plan! Bill and Kris would go on to have five more beautiful children (Anna, Samuel, Marcus, Ian, and Ezra). His children have had more grandchildren than I can list at this time!
As more and more people heard Pastor Bill preach and read his books, requests for his tapes /CDs/and books began to come in from all over the world. Additionally, churches from all over the English speaking world would often ask him to come and speak. Bill routinely traveled to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, England, Scotland, and even the Philippines to preach the Gospel to congregations hungry to hear the Word of God. On one trip he hiked six hours into the Philippine jungle to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a remote Filipino tribe! They still talk about the “White Giant” who loved them, prayed for them, and told them about Jesus! I know because I visited the tribe years later.
At one point in His ministry, 10,000 people would routinely watch his videos online. You can still find many of his sermons on YouTube today (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjrSfLoALib2ohIPW76wRgg). The last couple years were difficult because of the COVID-19 pandemic and other issues. Church attendance significantly declined, however never did I hear him voice discouragement. He faithfully continued to deliver his Sunday and Wednesday sermons to his Marion, Iowa congregation and the B.I.G. cyber flock around the globe. He also continued writing his Blog articles encouraging people in the Faith.
Over the many years I was part of his Church, Pastor Bill would often speak fondly of growing up in his big family in Lincoln Way Village, Cedar Rapids Iowa. One of his hearts desires was that all of his brothers and sisters would know Salvation through Jesus Christ. He loved them and wanted to rejoice with them in Heaven.
Bill was never afraid to step into a servant leadership position to help others. He would always go above and beyond to help those in need, be it going to the hospital at all hours of the night to pray with the sick, or talking someone down from the ledge. Bill was a spiritual leader in life, showing us the way to live in faith. Now he leads us in his death; showing us the way to finish the race. To never quit wrestling…to finish strong!
2 Timothy 4:6 “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing”.