How Isaac Hunter Changed My Life
At this morning’s memorial service, friends and family of the late Isaac Hunter shared how Isaac impacted their lives and how he will be remembered. It was a touching tribute for a man who achieved so much and fell so far in such a short time. One thing that was quite clear is that Isaac had a profound impact on the lives of many, likely in more ways than he ever realized. I wanted to share my story as a slightly different example — of how Isaac forever changed the life of someone he didn’t even really know.
For those who don’t know, Isaac Hunter passed away on Tuesday of an apparent suicide, approximately one year after his struggles with sin caused him to resign as Senior Pastor of my church home, Summit Church. I say church home for a reason. I had attended a few churches before Summit, but only as a visitor on Sundays, where I would sing songs and listen to a sermon before going about the rest of my week. Summit is the first church that became my home: a community I would serve with, fellowship with, laugh with, and grieve with. Isaac’s vision (“relationships matter”) made that possible.
I only ever spoke with Isaac a few times and I didn’t know him on a personal level, yet he still helped shape me into the man I have become. Or rather, God used Isaac to shape me into the man I’ve become. Recently I visited some old friends who I hadn’t seen in a while. They were surprised at how much I had changed. They knew me as a person who is cynical, sarcastic, quick to anger, and who holds onto grudges against anyone who I feel wrongs me. Quite simply, I was kind of a jerk. To anyone who has gotten to know me in the last few years, the person I just described should (I hope) not be recognizable. Why? Because God has changed me, and Isaac played a large role in that.
Isaac was the most gifted preacher I have ever heard — possibly the greatest public speaker of any kind. His charisma, wit, and humor were undeniable, but perhaps his greatest gift was the ability to take something you have heard hundreds of times and finally make it meaningful. It was Isaac’s words that finally stirred my heart to action when he told me “what you do with your life matters. You matter.”
Call it low self-esteem or whatever you want, but I had never really felt like I mattered. To anyone. Isaac made me feel like I mattered to him, to everyone in my life, and more importantly, to God. Any positive changes I’ve made in my life since then, whether it’s volunteer work, joining a church group, or sponsoring a child, can be attributed to that idea that God — through Isaac — planted in my mind: that I matter and what I do with my life matters.
Over the years, countless Isaac-isms have become mantras for me. I can’t tell you how many times after someone makes me angry I have taken a deep breath and repeated Issac’s oft-spoken line that “you have never locked eyes with someone Jesus didn’t love.”
Isaac is no longer with us, but his legacy remains, in the lives he touched, the people he brought to Jesus, and in the church that is home to so many. Again, I didn’t even really know Isaac, so I guarantee he had no idea the impact he had in my life. Just think of how many other people for whom that is true.
We’ll never know what Isaac was thinking when he felt so low and so hopeless that he took his own life. The only comfort in this tragedy is in knowing that Isaac is now free of his sinful nature and the pain that so plagued him and is face to face with the God who loves him. A wise man once taught me that “you have never stooped so low that you are beyond the reach of God’s grasp.” His name was Isaac Hunter.