Doug Sager, Pastor Who Led Knoxville Megachurch, Dies After Experiencing Heart Trouble

(Photo: Facebook)The late Pastor Doug Sager led the First Baptist Concord Church in Knoxville, Tennessee for more than 20 years.

Doug Sager, a beloved pastor who led the multi-campus First Baptist Concord church in Knoxville, Tennessee, for 20 years until his retirement in 2013, has died. He was 78.

"It seems that God has been calling His most faithful home," Sager's family began in a statement shared on Facebook Saturday night in an apparent allusion to the passing of evangelical icon Billy Graham just days earlier on Feb. 21.

"We are grieving the loss of our Daddy, Papa, and everyone's 'Brother Doug,' but we are also rejoicing that he is now in the arms of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is most certainly being welcomed home with a 'Well done, my good and faithful servant.' We are beyond grateful for all of the people who have prayed and wept and waited with us, and we continue to ask for your prayers during this time."

When Sager retired from First Baptist Concord in 2013, it was known as the largest Southern Baptist church in Knoxville with more than 8,000 members, 10 News reported.

Despite retiring from First Baptist Concord, however, Sager went on to serve as the senior pastor at Vonore Baptist Church in Tennessee where he had been for the last four years.

It is unclear what caused Sager's death but on the day Graham died last Wednesday, First Baptist Concord said he was hospitalized with "heart issues."

"Church family...will you join us in praying for Bro. Doug Sager? He is currently in the hospital due to some heart issues. The Sager family is asking for no visitors at this time but asks for us all to continue to pray. Please join us and many others as we lift up Bro. Doug, Mrs. Faye and their family during this time," the church announced.

Born in Midfield, Alabama, Sager reportedly preached his first revival at 11 years old and never stopped fulfilling his ministry calling.

"Not only did Brother Doug impact the lives of thousands around the world through his passion-filled sermons, teachings, and Vacation Bible Schools, but he will most notably be remembered as a true servant of Christ, acting as the hands and feet of Jesus in all of the big and small ways he loved others," an obituary posted at Smith Funeral and Cremation Service said.

"It's hard to really honestly to be able to measure his impact, but I can tell you it's an internal impact for sure," Jeff Lawrence, a friend of Sager's at First Baptist Concord, told 10 News. "Brother Doug, as we loved to call him a fiery preacher, when he came here, the church was small. We were in the 'a-frame.' He began to preach the gospel. He was a man who loved people and loved children. God blessed that and it grew and grew to the facilities we have now."

Andrew Osakue, a pastor from Knoxville, described Sager as a "fireball" when it came to the Gospel.

"For the person [who] never met Brother Doug, I would describe him as the most humble, but yet while he is humble, he is a fireball filled with the gospel of Christ," Osakue said.

Sager is survived by his wife of 58 years, Faye Sager, their children and grandchildren. A memorial service will be held in his honor on Thursday, March 1 at 6:30 p.m. at First Baptist Concord.

Friends are invited to pay their respects from 8 a.m.–5 p.m., Feb. 26–27 at Smith Funeral & Cremation Service, Maryville. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made to Vonore Baptist Church.