The impact of retiring pastor Dr. D. James Kennedy in his confronting the world with biblical truth has been echoed by Christian leaders nationwide.
"Dr. Kennedy is one of my personal heroes," said Alliance Defense Fund President and CEO Alan Sears. "He is a man of unquestioned integrity, great moral courage, and vision.
"As a co-founder of ADF, he has been a constant source of Godly wisdom and service to me," he continued. ADF was formed by Kennedy's multi-media organization Coral Ridge Ministries and other Christian groups to pursue religious liberty and family preservation in lawsuits.
"His life and testimony have had an incredible impact upon so many people for the Kingdom of God, and he is an example to us all of a good and faithful servant," Sears stated.
This past Sunday, Kennedy's daughter, Jennifer Kennedy Cassidy, announced her father's retirement at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale. Although Kennedy's physical health has improved months after suffering from cardiac arrest, he remains under care.
Kennedy is not nearly as well known as other conservative leaders such as the late Rev. Jerry Falwell or Focus on the Family's Dr. James Dobson, but conservative evangelicals agree that he is a leading defender of faith who has made a significant impact in changing the world.
His bold yet calm preaching style is heard not only from the pulpit but via radio, Internet and television with messages broadcasted to 3 million people worldwide through Coral Ridge Ministries.
Yet Kennedy's approach when addressing cultural and societal issues may have been too bold for some. Several groups denounced his latest production "Darwin's Deadly Legacy" which links Charles Darwin's theory of evolution to Adolf Hitler.
Kennedy had stated, "No Darwin, no Hitler," in the documentary that released last year.
"For so many years, Jim Kennedy was always on the front line," said Rick Penney, chairman of the Coral Ridge Church's long-range planning committee, according to The Palm Beach Post. "But so many people misunderstood him."
Although outspoken on many controversial topics, Kennedy's greatest impact, however, is seen in his heart for evangelism.
Kennedy never missed an opportunity to win souls, whether it was his partner on a ski lift, his seatmate on a plane, or a waitress, said Penney.
He founded Evangelism Explosion, a lay witness training program through which millions of people have come to Christ. Evangelism Explosion is used by hundreds of conservative Christian churches across the country and claims to be the first Christian organization to have a presence in every country in the world.
"Evangelism Explosion has become a worldwide ministry with over five-million people tracing their spiritual roots to it, and I think that may be the greatest heritage that Dr. Kennedy will leave the church today," said Dr. Frank Wright, president and CEO of the National Religious Broadcasters, according to OneNewsNow.
Also engaging cultural and political issues, Kennedy began the Center for Reclaiming America for Jesus Christ.
"I commend Dr. Kennedy, for his stalwart leadership in defending faith, family and freedom. Most of all, I am grateful for his godly example, his integrity and his unwavering dedication to the gospel of Jesus Christ," Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said in a statement.
The process of naming Kennedy's successor as senior pastor of Coral Ridge Church may take one to two years. Coral Ridge Ministries, meanwhile, continues to push toward an aggressive five-year plan to grow its audience to 30 million people by 2012 – the vision that Kennedy helped map out before his heart attack last December. A Tribute Worship Service honoring the extensive ministry of Kennedy will be held on Sept. 23.
"Dr. Kennedy is one of the nation's most respected Christian leaders," said Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America. "His teachings on the positive influence of Christianity on Western Civilization and America have motivated modern-day Christians to impact our culture and country. Dr. Kennedy's work will live on long past his retirement. We wish him and his family the best as he enters retirement."