James Kennedy

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Prestigious Congregation Votes into the Presbyterian Church in America

Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church has had a remarkable history.  The Fort Lauderdale, Florida congregation began in an elementary school cafeteria in 1959 with forty seven people under the ministry of D. James Kennedy. 

Graduating class at Columbia Theological Seminary, 1959.
From left to right Masaya Hibino, Seth Q. Shaver, Sam B. Laine,
David B. Pedersen, Clarence D. Weaver, Jr. and D. James Kennedy.

Preaching his first year of ministry in what he claimed were the fifty-two best sermons ever heard by an American congregation, the attendance dropped from forty seven to seventeen!  Upon receiving an invitation from a rural pastor in Georgia to come and preach a week of evangelistic meetings, he gladly accepted, anything  to get away from the fiasco then in the making in Florida.  Upon arriving in Georgia, the rural pastor, Kennedy Smartt, informed him that in addition to the public proclamation of the Word, Jim Kennedy would be going door to door in the area to personally present the gospel.  This badly scared Jim Kennedy. He used to tell people that he couldn’t do personal evangelism because of a “back problem.” If pressed, the “back problem” was a yellow streak down the back.

After a bungled attempt at the first “cold” door, the young minister then watched Pastor Smartt lead the person to a profession of faith.  In fact, over the next week, he watched Kennedy Smartt lead soul after soul to Christ.  What he didn’t know at the time was that the two rural congregations had prayed for the salvation of specific people for two years.  Further, just prior to the evangelistic meetings, a young banker has dropped dead.  That fact, plus the prayers, made the diagnostic question which began with “Suppose you were to die today,” suddenly real to every citizen in the area.  D. James Kennedy would return to his young dying congregation with a new emphasis in soul-winning.

Using the method and later making it his thesis for his Ph.D. degree from New York University, the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church became the fastest growing church in the Presbyterian Church in the United States, with 8000 in attendance at the dedication of their new building in 1973.

[» Construction of the stainless steel spire, with cross being hoisted in place »]

All was not well however with their membership in the Presbyterian Church, U.S. Theological liberalism was gaining ground, despite the best efforts of conservatives to win the battle for the Bible.  After years of seeking to reclaim the denomination back to its historic stance of biblical faithfulness, on January 8, 1978, the church voted to throw its support to the Presbyterian Church in America.

Words to Live By: “The visible church is a society made up of all such as . . . do profess the true religion, and of their children.”  (L.C. 62)  This answer centers around the phrase “the true religion.” Suppose a denomination with a great past of faithfulness to the true religion slowly but surely turns away from the faith of their spiritual fathers.  Suppose that any and all attempts to turn it back fails.  There is only one remedy, and that is to leave it for a denomination which still proclaims the whole counsel of God.  And that is what this congregation, and countless others, did back in 1973. Praise God for the Presbyterian Church in America.

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This Day in Presbyterian History

More Alive than I have ever Been Before

The veteran preacher was speaking about his translation to heaven from the pulpit one Sunday morning.  As he spoke of his pine box being brought in at his funeral, Dr. D. James Kennedy warned against any weeping at the sight.  Instead, he said “I want you to begin 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.  I will be alive forever, in greater health and vitality and joy than ever, ever, I or anyone has known before.”

The above quotation was on his funeral bulletin after his death at his home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on September 5, 2007. He had returned from the medical facility just ten days before, after being stricken with a heart attack the previous year. His last sermon had been preached on December 24, 2006, with his retirement from the pulpit of the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church for the last  forty-seven years.

Much has been written on the man and his ministry.  His twin themes of the Great Commission and the Cultural Mandate characterized his messages and ministry in Fort Lauderdale, the state of Florida, the nation, and the world.  Certainly, the lay-witnessing methodology for sharing the gospel impacted countless Christians, including this writer in his pastorate of forty years.  Taking every thought captive to the Lord Jesus and reclaiming the culture of our once blessed nation and people, enabled the cultural mandate to become practice instead of mere theory.   For all this, we can thank the Triune God for D. James Kennedy.  No wonder can the funeral hymns be started with the Doxology and end with the Hallelujah Chorus.  The sovereign God deserves all the praise for the spiritual gifts He had given to His servant, Dr. Kennedy.

Words to live by:  Jesus once said that we were to pray that laborers be literally thrust out into the harvest, for it was ready to be gathered.   When is the next D. James Kennedy to be raised up for the ripe harvest?  Indeed, where is the next generation of pastors and teachers, missionaries, evangelists, helpers, administrators, and you can add all the spiritual gifts here, going to step forward and be counted for labors in the kingdom of grace?  The harvest is there.  The church is there.  The culture is there.  Where are the laborers?  Pray for a mighty calling today for service in our day.

Through the Scriptures:  2 Chronicles 17 – 19

Through the Standards:  A Pattern for prayer  

WLC 187 “How is the Lord’s Prayer to be used?
A.  The Lord’s prayer is not only for direction, as a pattern, according to which we are to make other prayers; but may also be used as a prayer, so that it be done with understanding, faith, reverence, and other graces necessary to the right performance of the duty of prayer.”

WLC 188 “Of how many parts does the Lord’s Prayer consist?
A.  The Lord’s prayer consists of three parts: a preface, petitions, and a conclusion.”

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