Opinions about D James Kennedy are never mild. But some things are clear. One, he was clear. Unlike Brian MacLaren and company, Kennedy did not find comfort in holding contradictory positions at the same time. For him this was not the mark of intelligence.
Two, his patriotism was a sophisticated patriotism. Not a fundamentalist, he yet took positions that could make a conservative feel warm all over. When Kennedy was speaking there was the wise use of words, the sense of drama and a clear call to the new birth through Christ. He was never far from the crucified Christ.
Three, his insights into significant Christian figures in the founding of this country continue to stand against the secularist attempt to make men like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln their own. His two sermons on Lincoln and Washington I continue to view for my own inspiration, particularly the one on Washington.
Four, he was a capable Bible teacher. Though he was increasingly known as a significant figure in the culture wars, at root he was a Bible teacher and apologist. His TV productions on the bible and on Jesus continue to stand as first class representations of the true evangelical faith.
Fifth, he was an evangelist. Evangelism Explosion has been one of the premier evangelistic training programs in the US. I have been trained in EE and became a trainer in EE. Such a style of evangelism is not popular today, but it will come back when evangelicals finally figure out that the transformation of society is not rooted in congress, parliament, social structures or any number of faddish justice issues. Kennedy’s essential theme was “transforming America one heart at a time.” Regeneration of the sinner is the root of the new world Jesus is bringing to pass.
I am not pleased by the way the new pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church continues to hype in the midst of all the the criticism being leveled at him how he is rescuing that church from its latter day decline under Kennedy’s pastorate. It might be so, but such things should be whispered. The man’s influence was otherwise so great and so good.
I feel about it as King David did when he was told of Saul’s and Jonathan’s death on the field of battle. “Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon, lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised exult.” (2 Sam 1:20)
Intelligent evangelical voices for a conservative worldview are fading. Men like Rick Warren and Bill Hybels cannot be depended upon in the clutch. You get the impression that taking moral positions is not something they are comfortable with. The trumpet they blow has an uncertain sound. They inspire and edify but I have the sense that risk taking in committing to moral positions is not their bag. Strange for pastors. But it’s a different day.