Thursday, September 13, 2007

A great voice gone silent

Last week, evangelist and pastor D. James Kennedy died in his sleep at his home in Florida. His retirement from the senior pastorate of the church he founded, Coral Ridge Presbyterian in Fort Lauderdale, had only been announced last month after a leave of absence for rehabilitation to recover from heart difficulty. We need more people like him. He will be missed.

Kennedy leaves behind an impressive resume of service to God. In addition to founding Coral Ridge, the largest congregation of the PCA, Kennedy also founded Westminster Academy, a Christian day school for PreK through 12, as well as Knox Theological Seminary. Kennedy also created Evangelism Explosion, a program for lay people to share the gospel. It is estimated that as many as six million people have come to faith in Christ through the program. Kennedy also began a television, radio, and print outreach called Coral Ridge Ministries.

The church launched the Coral Ridge Hour on television in 1974. It now reaches 3.5 million people weekly. It is normally a broadcast of the church service, but also includes informative programs like "What if Christ had Never Been Born?" in the clip above. The media apostolate also includes the radio program Truths that Transform and the written column the Kennedy Commentary. All of these are available through the website, and I hope that they will continue to be available.

Although I can take issue with Kennedy's Protestantism and Calvinism, I will cut him some slack here. After all, he is a Presbyterian minister--what would you expect? He is sometimes criticized for being too political with Coral Ridge's Center for Reclaiming America for Christ. However, I can admire that he did not let criticism phase him and was determined that traditional Christianity should have a voice in our democracy.

I found his television program early in high school and kept up with it until I got to college (and had no cable). In an odd way, Kennedy's messages which conveyed loyalty to biblical teaching, confidence in the gospel message, and careful reasoning probably helped prepare me to come to embrace the fullness of the Catholic faith in college. For that I am grateful. And if my ministry one day measures up to even a fraction of Kennedy's accomplishments, it will have been a great success.

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