DR. D. JAMES KENNEDY FUNERAL CHALLENGES NEXT GENERATION TO CARRY ON HIS LEGACY:
FT. LAUDERDALE, Sept. 13 – Dr. D. James Kennedy’s funeral, held today at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church (CRPC) that he founded more than 48 years ago, left no doubt about the answer to the question he posed to countless people during his ministry, “If you were to die and God asked you today, ‘Why should I let you into my heaven?’ what would you say?”
“I am in awe of this man and the ministry he has accomplished,” said Rev. Ronald Siegenthaler, CRPC executive minister, before giving the invocation. “We will worship the Savior he faithfully served for so many years, and we will exalt the Gospel of free grace through faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ — a message which he proclaimed from this pulpit and which he proclaimed to the nations of this world.”
More than 3,000 people, including church congregants; local dignitaries; and Christian, community and civic leaders overflowed the sanctuary into the chapel and fellowship hall to pay tribute to Dr. Kennedy’s life and ministry. The two-hour program included music from the massive pipe organ and a 200-voice choir, including over 100 alumni who returned from all over the country to sing in honor of their former senior minister.
Timothy Goeglein, special assistant to President George W. Bush and White House deputy director of public liaison, read a statement from President and Mrs. Bush issued shortly after Dr. Kennedy died Sept. 5, referring to him as “a man of great vision, faith and integrity.”
“Dr. D. James Kennedy will be remembered as a great man of Christ,” Mr. Goeglein said, adding his own tribute. “He will be remembered as a great American and on the cusp of a new century to a rising generation of young people who are just learning about this good and decent man, he will be remembered as a truly great American patriot.”
Stephan Tchividjian, grandson of evangelist Billy Graham and a graduate of Westminster Academy, the Christian school Dr. Kennedy founded, read a statement from his grandfather noting his close friend was a bold proclaimer of the Gospel and the strengthening of moral and spiritual values in American life with a burden for evangelism, whose gifts of preaching and teaching will be greatly missed.
“We live in interesting times, as in the past year many of our great men and women of faith are passing on to heaven,” Mr. Tchividjian added. “We realize that there is a changing of the guard, as a new generation is being raised up to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth.”
In the first of three eulogies, Dr. Frank Wright, National Religious Broadcasters president and CEO, said Dr. Kennedy went everywhere with a passion for Christ, and couldn’t stop telling people about Jesus. “I say to you today that if you want to honor this man who gave so much of himself for us, then tell someone else this week about the love of God that has been offered to us in Jesus Christ.”
Richard DeVos, co-founder of Amway Corporation, confirmed that evangelism was Dr. Kennedy’s greatest legacy, calling his long-time friend and pastor a great man of distinction who was both a man of God and a man of his time.
“At Amway, we were teaching others how to teach others how to get in our business while he was busy down here teaching others how to teach others how to present the Gospel,” Mr. DeVos said. “This church will move forward and move on by the grace of God. I challenge you that we make it bigger and stronger and better than ever as a tribute to our founder.”
Daughter Jennifer Kennedy Cassidy brought a heartfelt family testimony, explaining why this funeral was an occasion for rejoicing, rather than being sad. “Just think, my dad has no asthma; he can breathe easily; his neck doesn’t hurt; he is free of pain; and his mind is more brilliant than it ever was — that is certainly something to celebrate,” she said.
In his keynote message, Dr. James Dobson, Focus on the Family founder and board chair, said that Dr. Kennedy’s ministry began with a specific calling on his life. “We have a wonderful heritage in the Christian faith, but we lost one of the best of these men of faith last week,” he said. “When a great oak tree falls then many of us lesser creatures lose a place of shelter and security in its branches. It causes me to wonder, who will be there to carry the banner when this generation of leaders is gone?”
“I pray that the Lord will anoint another generation of Jim Kennedys – courageous men and women who will never waver one inch in the defense of righteousness,” Dr. Dobson concluded. “May God help the younger generation carry on the work that D. James Kennedy did so ably for more than half a century.”
Dr. Kennedy will be laid to rest Friday at a private interment ceremony.
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