Why would the funeral of a former dance instructor and door-to-door “salesman”1 attract a “who’s who” of Christian leaders, 3,000 people, plus a special assistant to the US president to his funeral?
A two-hour memorial service held yesterday for Dr. D. James Kennedy just did not seem long enough to pay tribute to a pastor whom God used to launch so many ministries (a partial list can be found in our web tribute posted last week), but who most of all had a heart for evangelism. Many people were aware of his deep commitment to biblical apologetics, and even the casual visitor to his church might see the creationist pamphlets found in the lobby’s tract rack. He had seen the importance of being able to defend the authenticity of the Christian faith when sharing Christ, and thus was a keen advocate for “creation evangelism.”
As we waited inside the soaring sanctuary for the memorial service to begin, we watched a poignant scene on a large screen (one which would set the tone for the next two hours in honoring this servant of God): TV cameras had been set up outside the church so that all of us could watch Dr. Kennedy's coffin being lifted out of a hearse and rolled into the sanctuary where we sat.
Speaker after speaker brought out what came to be a recurring theme in remembering Dr. Kennedy: a man of integrity (no hint of a scandal in his ministry) and of great intellect (it seems he could have been a grand champion on the Jeopardy TV quiz show!), and yet there was an overarching humility to the man.
But the pastor’s accomplishments could not be ignored. Tim Goeglein, President George W. Bush’s special assistant, had met with Mr. Bush recently to draft a tribute to the pastor. After calling Dr. Kennedy a “great man,” Mr. Goeglein read a statement from the president, which described Dr. Kennedy’s “legacy of grace and personal humility.”
The service closed with the singing of the Hallelujah chorus, and, befitting Dr. Kennedy’s Scottish heritage, a lone bagpiper played “Amazing Grace” as he led the family and coffin up the aisle and out of the church.
Pray for the church leadership at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church as it searches for a new senior pastor, and also for the various outreaches of Coral Ridge Ministries that Dr. Kennedy had led. In particular, pray for AiG friend Brian Fisher, CRM’s executive vice president, who leads those ministries.2
To watch the memorial service, go to www.DJamesKennedy.org.