Word came today that Dr. D. James Kennedy –pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, author, broadcaster, educator and unrelenting culture warrior –has died after a long illness. While I could not wholly agree with his later views on Christians, government and public faith, I am indebted (as many are) to his commitment to the gospel and to the Evangelism Explosion model of sharing faith with others.
In the early 1980’s, Southern Baptists put out an evangelism program called CWT (Continuing Witness Training), which was a blatant, “Baptist-ized” rip-off of the Presbyterian-rooted EE. Somehow, I became aware of the connection and ended up studying the two together. It was my first introduction to conversational evangelism and to gospel-saturated thinking with spiritually lost people (rather than church program-saturated thinking). For years, those exploratory questions (ie, ‘If you were to die tonight…?”) helped me transition conversations to spiritual matters.
Dr. Kennedy’s passion for lost people caught fire with his intellect and resulted in the EE training manual. Eventually that spark spilled over onto me– and to people in 200+ other nations around the globe. Across the years, communication and cultural changes have made other approaches to gospel communication necessary. But because of EE, there will be people from “every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” around the throne. I think it is his greatest Kingdom contribution.
In one message, Dr. Kennedy stated how he wanted people to respond on news of his death: “Now, I know that someday I am going to come to what some people will say is the end of this life. They will probably put me in a box and roll me right down here in front of the church, and some people will gather around, and a few people will cry. But I have told them not to do that because I don’t want them to cry. I want them to begin the service with the Doxology and end with the Hallelujah chorus, because I am not going to be there, and I am not going to be dead. I will be more alive than I have ever been in my life, and I will be looking down upon you poor people who are still in the land of dying and have not yet joined me in the land of the living. And I will be alive forevermore, in greater health and vitality and joy than ever, ever, I or anyone has known before.”