This is the second of a six-part series that will introduce the officers and directors of the North American Division who have begun settling in to their newly elected positions.
Randy Robinson was officially voted to serve as treasurer for the North American Division on November 2 during the division’s 2018 Year-End Meeting. Robinson had previously worked as treasurer for the Southern Union for nearly 11 years.
Mylon Medley, assistant director of the NAD Office of Communication, sat down with Robinson to learn about his vision for the ministry.
What went into your consideration for this role?
I don't think it's good for me to be in a place overly long. I think it's better for myself and the organization I’m working for to make a change.
Three out of my four last moves were 10-year stints, but I hadn’t planned it that way. The one anomaly was four years. Around a decade is where things seem to want to shift. … Coincidentally, this opportunity happened around the time where it normally feels right to transition. It's worked out that way most of my career.
Did you ever think you’d end up working at the division level?
Short answer is no; but in the more recent years I thought it was more of a possibility only because union treasurers are often in the pool of people who are considered to be division treasurers.
How long have you worked for the Church?
My start at church work was bumpy at best.
Right out of college at Pacific Union College in 1983, I was hired as a business intern for the Nevada-Utah Conference. I was an Adventist and I was brought up as an Adventist. I have third and fourth generations of Adventists on both sides of my family. I'm an Adventist through and through, but I was never looking to work for the Church and I fought it for a decade. I progressed from business intern all the way to associate treasurer, but I fought it the whole way. I asked the Lord in my own private moments, "What am I doing here? Why me? Why am I in this position?”
When I was invited from that location to go to the Illinois Conference – where I served as treasurer – God finally got through and said, “This is what I want you to do for your career.”
I've been happy and fulfilled. I love what I do. But prior to that moment, it was not a comfortable process.
Why do you love what you do?
People look at treasury and say, "That's really not ministry." That's OK. I respect that perspective, but I feel very fulfilled in the fact that the decisions I make as an officer in treasury really facilitates ministry. There are decisions that I'm called to make that can financially create success or failure where ministry happens, so I have to prayerfully do that. Obviously, it's a huge responsibility for me to be making those kinds of decisions, but I feel so fulfilled when I can see where money is flowing to meet ministry need. That's just a huge thing to me. I love doing that. And I love managing the resources in as efficient of a way as I can to maximize the benefit.
How do you see your role contributing to the mission of the division?
It's a stewardship issue to me. My philosophy of ministry can be described as "Grandma and Grandpa Jones." I've tried to live by it my entire career. We have several people in the church who have a lot of resources and give millions, but that's not the bread and butter of the church. The bread and butter of the church is "Grandma and Grandpa Jones" who get their pension check of $2,500 a month and they sit down at the kitchen table and write their $250 tithe check to give to the Church. You can lose sight of that at this level of Church when you're dealing with tens and hundreds of millions of dollars if you're not intentional about it.
I try to keep "Grandma and Grandpa Jones" writing their $250 tithe check to support the church at the front of my mind as I do business and make decisions every day – decisions as little as "Do I rent a car on this trip or do I rent a car on another trip?” If I get the car, I consider getting gas at the gas station that’s five cents cheaper across the street than the station right in front of me. I think about those things because I’m thinking about "Grandma and Grandpa Jones.”
I don't apologize for promoting efficiency. It's easy to lose sight of it because we're dealing with so many dollars.
What does your family think of this move?
My wife, Denise, has always been amazingly supportive of my ministry. She doesn't work for the church, she has a professional career in health care (quality assurance), but she has always been supportive of my moving, even when she may have to quit a job where she’s worked for 10 years. I've got my infrastructure here at the division waiting for me, but she has to start over. I'm grateful for her support.
We have two adult sons. They're both grown and married, no children on either side yet. This was a lot easier because they were on their own.
You’ve been to the division’s building a few times before during your capacity as a union treasurer. What's it like to be in the building now as an employee?
I like the facility and I love the people; they're awesome, great committed people. I feel right at home.
I think it's awesome that the division now has its own space. That was a long, long time coming. Years and years ago in Oregon, I worked with a gentleman, Elder Bob Dale, who really had a lot to do with working on the process to create a separate division for North America. Now, as I reflect on the conversations I had with him 20 years ago, it is gratifying to see it come to fruition and to serve in the building as the division’s treasurer. It's really nice to see that they've made this big step.
You’re quite tall – closer to 7-feet than 6-feet – I imagine you’re often the tallest in the room, and I want to say you’re the tallest employee in the building. What’s that like?
You can deal with that one of two ways, you can either be annoyed at it, which there's plenty of opportunities for that because everyone comments, they can't help themselves; or you just go with it. It comes with the territory. I stand out, I'm different. It's OK.
What are you looking forward to in your role?
It's a new challenge. I'm learning everything, learning the people and their roles, what’s my lane versus someone else's lane. For now, my approach is “the status quo is my best friend.” This is because sometimes people think, “OK, there's a new treasurer, I can get whatever I need now because he's the new guy.” I shut that down, but not because I don't want to help. I need to lean on what has been until I get my head around it, and then I can begin to make some observations about what we need to tweak or change.
Obviously, there are decisions that need to be made immediately, I can't avoid that. But as far as reasonably possible, I’ll let it run for a bit, then I’ll really enjoy the process of fitting my philosophy into the organization.
I'm filling huge shoes in the person of Tom Evans, [my predecessor]. I have high, high respect for him. He did amazing things. He moved this organization out of the General Conference building into its own. That's him, his legacy, and those are huge shoes to fill.
My intent is not to change what Tom did. Inevitably, my personality, approach, and philosophy will come out in my leadership and that may shift the direction of the organization a little bit financially — and I hope for the better. I do that prayerfully and carefully, but I enjoy the journey of doing that.
What’s your favorite Bible verse or which passage of Scripture are you drawing from as you carry out this transition?
My wife and I, in our own devotions, are going through the gospels. We're in the latter chapters of John. In my own private devotion, I’ve decided to revisit some of the most well-known verses of Scripture, the ones you've memorized and don’t have to look up because you learned them when you were a child, like John 3:16, and Psalm 23. I revisit them to see what the Holy Spirit brings to my head as I focus on dissecting them and not just repeating from memory. That has been a huge blessing.
I actually wrote a sermon on Psalm 23 as I evaluated it again. I've recharacterized it as the psalm that describes how God surrounds us. It starts with God's leading – “The Lord is my shepherd,” “He leads me besides still waters” — then it transitions to God is with me, and beside me — “He prepares a table for me in the presence of my enemies,” “He's anoints me with oil” — then it closes with He follows me — “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me.” So, He's got me surrounded. It doesn't necessarily relate to this job particularly, however, it's been a huge blessing in the last few months.
I enjoy what I do. It's fun for me. Working for the church is fun, and I never dreamed it would be. But I do it carefully and with God's input for sure. I have to, I can't do it without Him.
The first article of this series profiled Bonita J. Shields, the division’s newest director of Stewardship Ministries.