This is Heartbeat

By Ross Cochran 


Harding has lost a cherished son. Landon Brady Saunders (‘68) died Nov. 14, 2023, in his home in Vermont. He was honored as Distinguished Alumnus of the Year in 1981 and as the Outstanding Alumnus by the College of Bible and Ministry in 2008. 

In 1971, Landon founded Heartbeat, a ministry with a unique focus — to speak a message of good news to non-religious persons and to communicate that message using language common to them. I have followed his work for 45 years and have never known of anyone with a similar vision or ministry.

For more than 50 years Landon’s primary audience was “the outsiders” to whom he spoke primarily through community seminars and 60-second radio spots. “Hi. This is Landon Saunders,” the radio messages began, ending with “This is Heartbeat.” Landon also spoke to churches and produced several film series aimed at nurturing the hearts of Christians. Many may remember his “Heart of the Fighter” films or his “Feeling Good About Being a Christian” series.

In Luke 7:36-50, Jesus is a guest in the home of Simon. Their meal is interrupted by the intrusion of an uninvited woman whom Simon disdains. Jesus asked Simon, “Do you see this woman?” How we view other human beings was important to Landon and became a dominant theme of his work. Do we see the people around us? Can we receive them without forming an attitude about them? 

Landon taught me that the two most important questions we can be asking are: (1) What does it mean to be a human being? and (2) What does it mean to be with a human being? He confessed that everything he knew about being present with other human beings he learned from Jesus, and religion fails whenever it does not see people beyond their ethnicity, gender, politics, age, history or self-presentation.

Knowing his cancer would limit his remaining days, Landon expressed his desire that Heartbeat continue, and he articulated his vision for its future. I was excited to learn that Heartbeat 2.O is re-deploying his substantial volume of material through various media.

Abilene Christian University has received Landon’s archives and announced their plans to construct The Landon Saunders Center for Joy and Human Flourishing. The Center will provide access to his materials as well as opportunities to learn to speak to outsiders.

Landon’s contributions to churches and to God’s work in the world were expressed in unique content based on a high view of people and of God’s love for the entire world. His conviction about our need to love the world as God loves it will continue to call us to be more intentional and careful as we attempt to come alongside those who are skeptical of religion but whom Landon believed could experience something of the life Jesus offers if we are sensitive to how they will hear us and committed to learning from Jesus how to be with them. 

To access Landon’s words and ideas and learn more about his legacy, visit


“Landon was a uniter who brought people together. He inspired countless individuals to celebrate their strengths and forgive their differences. He believed every human was a combination of gifts and wounds and was the most valuable thing in the world.” — Tim Minnix, CFO of Heartbeat 



“Landon moved in two worlds. In the first, he engaged with those outside religious structures with grace, compassion, insight and an ability to connect that was rare. In the second, inside the church, he was a prophetic voice we needed and still need to challenge us in how we see ourselves and the world.”  — Jerry Morgan (’77), interim administrator of Heartbeat



“Landon’s gentle voice and passion for the Lord penetrated the hearts of those who worshiped with him during the 10 years he preached in Corning, Arkansas. As he studied the word afresh, his heart and life echoed to us a desire to embrace the word of God more deeply. We were greatly inspired by his presence with us and the relationships that resulted.”  — Kay Gowen (’68)



“Landon embodied the joy of the story of the gospel and communicated it with passion — whether speaking to millions over the airwaves, to thousands in a colosseum, to hundreds in a seminar, to a handful of seekers in a room or to just one person over coffee.” — Mike Cope (’78)



“Landon saw people in the same way Jesus saw people more than anyone else whom I have known. Landon saw each person, each human being, for who they were in a redemptive way as a child created by God, and that transcended age, religion, background, ethnicity, education, race or social status. People knew that he saw and cared about them and not any of the labels that applied to them. Because the challenges of life spare no one and we are all human, his message resonates with everyone — both the deeply religious and the non-religious, young people starting life’s journey and older people who are deeply scarred, those fighting poverty and the affluent, the scholar and the janitor.” — Brant Bryan (’77), chairman of the board, Heartbeat 



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