Most people may never have heard of him. He wasn't a big-name speaker or denominational executive. He didn't found a megachurch, didn't land in one of the "hot rock" pulpits. He didn't have a radio or tv show. But for many of us who read his two small books back in the 1970s, his words were a breath of fresh air, and had a profound influence on some of us.
Bob Girard was a Wesleyan pastor in Arizona who had the courage to follow God's leading out of "church as usual" and into uncharted territory. He got fed up with programs and began to look for better ways to live as Christians. He found some things out, restructured his congregation for small groups, and eventually they gave their building back to the denomination and operated as a network of house churches. The thing folded later, but their influence lives on. Bob's two books, "Brethren, Hang Loose" and "Brethren, Hang Together," are still being sold on Amazon.com. Many of us who got into small group life in churches in the 70s read his books and learned from them; his writing helped us avoid many pitfalls and saved a lot of headaches. He had to learn to let go and trust the Holy Spirit to lead through others, something many pastors never learn at all.
Anyway, many years and additional books later (and for me and my wife, quite a few churches and small groups later), Bob Girard has gone home. He left this life on June 19 of this year. I found out about it almost accidentally, because I clicked on a link to the blog of the writer of an article I had just read. That eventually led me to his obituary, the blog of one of his family members, and a website that has now been started for him. He seems to have quite a legacy: a fairly large family of children and grandchildren and their spouses (looks like quite a few of them are still strong in the faith) and an untold number of spiritual children who follow in his steps today.