Renowned Christian songwriter Ron Hamilton is with Jesus. And I’m deeply moved by his passing, his ministry, and his legacy—as though we were dear friends. The truth is, we weren’t. I knew Ron the same way thousands of others know him: through his Bible-saturated songs, his silly-but-serious Patch recordings, and his genuine, palpable kindness. I didn’t know him well. And yet, I spent the day Monday reflecting on Ron’s many, many songs that have left a mark on me and my family. And I spent Monday evening weeping—very literally—as I listened to a playlist of his music. Why are so many people affected by one man’s graduation to glory? Why am I? I’ll venture to pose a few answers.
We are moved because Ron helped us to trust in God.
It’s fascinating to consider Ron’s teaching ministry. He wasn’t a powerful preacher. He wasn’t, dare I say it, an intellectual giant who doled out theological treatises about life’s great mysteries. He was something better. He was a genuine, simple, take-God-at-His-Word Christian.
He showed us how to endure hardness with astonishing grace… first and famously through the loss of his eye, then much more tragically through the loss of his beloved son. Ron trusted God, even when he didn’t understand what God was doing. His songs preached, teaching us that “God makes no mistake” and that we need not fear because “Jesus is near.” He urged us to “Bow the knee” before our sovereign King. And so, adults, children, Bible scholars, pastors, Christians in all walks of life—we’re each challenged and comforted by the sermons-in-song Ron gave us.
We are moved because Ron pushed us to Christian service.
My introduction to Ron’s ministry coincided with my turning from a life of selfish rebellion to a life of Christian ministry. I grew up in a godly home, and I knew the Scriptures well. But I was a rebel—an absolute punk, to be honest. Yet, by God’s grace, He pursued and caught me. He used my parents’ example. He used a godly youth pastor, Dave Wood. He used The WILDS of the Rockies camp. But He also used Ron Hamilton.
Ron’s songs gave me the words and the wonder I lacked. “Not My Will” broke me. “A Tender Heart” inspired me. “How Majestic Is Thy Name” amazed me. “What Will You Do with Jesus?” shook me. And “Here Am I, Lord” beckoned me. I’m not the only one. The silly adventures of Patch the Pirate Goes to the Jungle were used to challenge countless children to surrender their lives to missions.
We are moved because Ron modeled humility.
I can’t adequately capture this, but I probably don’t have to. You know humility when you see it. But I’ll venture two examples.
First, Ron ministered during a time and in a circle in which larger-than-life Christian leaders tended to throw their weight around. Ron didn’t. Ever. He adopted a distinctly conservative philosophy of Christian music, but while others angrily lectured and groused and criticized, Ron just kept writing and recording great music. If you ever heard him blow somebody up, you’re in a small minority. That wasn’t Ron.
Second—and this amazes me—he spent his adult life dressing up like a pirate! More people knew his Patch persona than knew Ron, and he was okay with that. He didn’t take himself seriously. Here’s a confession: I wouldn’t have done it. I’m way too inhibited, too image-conscious, too proud. But Ron didn’t care less, and people loved him for it. He made children laugh, and he made their parents laugh even more. But he never wasted a moment on “I-Land.” He was among the humblest men I’ve ever met.
We are moved because Ron pointed us to Jesus.
Ron wasn’t just a good guy. He was relentlessly gospel-centered. Yes, he taught children Christian virtues and good manners. But he was careful to always point them to Jesus—not just obedience or politeness—as their only hope. I still tear up to hear his Patch characters pray to turn from sin and trust in Jesus, and I wonder how many people will be in heaven as a result of those recordings.
Again, Ron wasn’t really a preacher. But his creative work preached Christ’s sufficient sacrifice in recording after recording and song after song. I especially love “It Is Finished,” “Calvary’s Blood,” and “Worthy Is the Lamb,” but Ron wrote more songs about Jesus’ death, resurrection, and return than I can list. We loved Ron, most of all, because he helped us love Jesus.
Countless adults, children, Bible scholars, pastors, and Christians were challenged and comforted by the sermons-in-song Ron gave us.
I’ll close with a video I saw for the first time this week, though it was recorded several years ago. Ron is leading a choir and orchestra during a Majesty Music event at Colonial Hills Baptist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. The song they’re rehearsing is one I wrote with Greg Habegger in honor of the CHBC members who died in a tragic bus accident—“I Am with You.” But what most moves me is the timeliness of the lyrics in the recording. The final stanza turns from God’s oft-repeated promise to be with us to God’s invitation for us to be with Him: “Come be with Me…. I will bring you safely home.”
Ron is safely home. With Jesus. And he has come forth as gold. Grace.
P.S. While we are rightfully honoring Ron, his wife Shelly deserves a special word of commendation. She is the musical genius behind so many Majesty Music songs and has always been an essential part of the Hamilton ministry team. But more importantly, she has shown unwavering faith through some of the darkest valleys I’ve seen a Christian endure, including the loss of a son, a father, and a husband. I admire Shelly’s resilient faith so much. I sent this message to her upon learning of Ron’s passing: “Ron has come forth as gold. And you! You were faithful to the end… for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, as long as you both lived. Well done, Shelly. Rest, friend.”
Featured image of Ron Hamilton used by permission from Majesty Music.