FT. LAUDERDALE – Dr. D. James Kennedy, founder and senior pastor for 48 years of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church (CRPC) in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., passed away peacefully in his sleep at approximately 2:15 a.m. at his home with his wife and daughter by his bedside, following complications from a cardiac event last December. He was 76. Dates and times for a public viewing and funeral and private interment will be released when available.
“There are all kinds of wonderful things I could say about my dad,” said daughter Jennifer Kennedy Cassidy. “But one that stands out is his fine example. He ‘walked the walk’ and ‘practiced what he preached.’ His work for Christ is lasting – it will go on and on and make a difference for eternity.”
Dr. Kennedy, who is survived by Anne, his wife of 51 years, and his daughter Jennifer, preached his last sermon from the pulpit of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church on Christmas Eve Sunday 2006. He suffered a cardiac arrest four days later on Dec. 28, and has since been unable to return to the pulpit. The church announced his retirement on Aug. 26, beginning a process to choose his successor, and had planned a tributeworship service honoring the extensive ministry of Dr. Kennedy on Sept. 23.
“I would like to thank all of you for your prayers, cards, kindnesses and encouragement over the past nine months,” Mrs. Cassidy said during the retirement announcement. “Our family knows that we have come through this difficult time because of God’s grace and your faithful prayers, and it has brought joy to us to see God’s faithfulness in all of this.”
While hindered by persistent health problems that included asthma, as well as chronic and often severe physical pain from compressed vertebrae due to an injury suffered as a young man, Dr. Kennedy was indefatigable in his ministry work. He said on several occasions how much he looked forward to being free from pain in heaven. He was one of the nation’s leading Christian broadcasters and a vigorous and articulate advocate for Christian involvement in public life.
Dr. Kennedy began his pastorate at CRPC in 1959 and is also the founder and president of Coral Ridge Ministries and the founder of Evangelism Explosion, which equips people in every nation and territory to share their faith in Christ. He was also the founder of two leading educational institutions located in Fort Lauderdale: Westminster Academy, a nationally respected Pre-K to 12th grade Christian school and Knox Theological Seminary, a graduate school preparing Christians for ministry as pastors, teachers, and missionaries.
Dr. Kennedy was born Nov. 3, 1930, but his Christian life did not begin until 1953. Sleeping late on a Sunday morning, his radio alarm went off and a preacher’s booming voice invaded his slumber. “Suppose you were to die today and stand before God and He were to ask you, ‘What right do you have to enter into My heaven?’-what would you say?”
Dr. Kennedy soon discovered that answer was to trust in Christ alone for eternal life, and shortly after he made that commitment was called into the Gospel ministry. Crediting this radio program for hearing the call to Christianity, he founded WAFG (90.3 FM) in 1974 as an outreach for Christ to the South Florida community.
He began his pastorate at CRPC on June 21, 1959, and from the outset had a vision for global impact. In 1960, he read the words of Jeremiah 33:3 to the handful of people that comprised his then-fledgling congregation, “Call unto Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” He then told his small flock, “You know what? I believe we can change the world!”
That surprised many in his audience, but today, despite being a local pastor of one church for nearly five decades, Dr. Kennedy has had a worldwide ministry influence. In 1996, Evangelism Explosion–through which nearly 5 million people have made commitments to Christ in 2006 alone-became the first Christian ministry to be established in every nation on earth. Long after his passing, an extensive inventory of Dr. Kennedy’s messages will continue through “Truths that Transform,” a daily broadcast carried on nearly 750 radio stations across the U.S., and “The Coral Ridge Hour,” a weekly television broadcast that airs on more than 400 stations and to 165 nations on the Armed Forces Network.
Dr. Kennedy’s belief that God will continue to do “great and mighty things” through the obedient efforts of His people never faltered. His confidence in the future also extended to American culture. “America is in the throes of a cultural shift with enormous implications for the future,” Dr. Kennedy said in 2004 noting the growth in the number of evangelical Christians in America. “If that trend continues, and I believe it will, Evangelical Christians will be in the majority sometime in the next decade,” he added.
“We will miss Dr. Kennedy enormously,” said Frank Wright, president of the National Religious Broadcasters. “His moral leadership and his legacy of impacting the globe for Jesus Christ is unmatched by few in the history of the Church. It is our desire to honor him by sustaining and multiplying his impact through Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and all the ministries founded by Dr. Kennedy in the years to come.”
Viewing and funeral arrangements will be announced shortly. A legacy Web site, www.DJamesKennedy.org, has been developed to pay tribute to the life and faith of Dr. Kennedy.