The loss of another leading Christian in the conservative movement poses concerns for the older generation of evangelicals, at least for one who sees America tipping at any moment either to the right or to the left.
"We're in a very critical time in our nation where the pendulum ... could swing in one of two directions," said Dr. James Dobson, founder and chairman of Focus on the Family and one of the most influential conservative evangelicals, this past week. "And so many of the things that we believe and have fought to defend are in question today."
Dobson made his comments Thursday at the public funeral service honoring the life of Dr. D. James Kennedy, founder of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and Coral Ridge Ministries, who died last week at age 76.
"What I will miss most from Jim Kennedy is his courage, his willingness to stand for the things that he believed," said Dobson, who said it was curious to him as to why God chose to take Kennedy when He did.
Kennedy's death follows that of many prominent, older evangelicals that have stood out as leaders defending biblical values and resonating the Word of God as absolute and inerrant. Widely respected Dr. Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, and Dr. Jerry Falwell, who rallied conservatives to the political arena, are a few of those who have recently passed.
Other leaders who remain from that generation, including Chuck Colson, Pat Robertson and Billy Graham, are now at the point of having to pass the mantle down to the next generation.
"Many giants of the Church are coming to the end of their journeys and are leaving this earth one by one," said Dobson, 71.
And now, "the passing of Dr. D. James Kennedy ... poses serious concerns about the future of the conservative Christian movement," he said, reading from what he had written last week when he heard news of Kennedy's death. "Its senior leadership is undergoing a dramatic and inevitable change at this time."
Kennedy has been described as a man of his time who came on scene as an evangelical after World War II and viewed the United States as "a light on the hill," as Richard DeVos, co-founder of Amway Corporation and member of Coral Ridge Church, stated. Kennedy broadcasted messages nationwide defending traditional family values, condemning abortion and rejecting evolution. His messages currently reach 3.5 million people through radio, television, the Internet and print.
While critics have charged Kennedy of being political from the pulpit, Dobson defended the Presbyterian pastor saying "it wasn't politics he cared about; it was morality and righteousness."
With Kennedy's death along with other evangelical giants, Dobson asked, "Who will defend the unborn child? Who's going to fight for the institution of marriage which is on the ropes today? Who will teach young people the dangers of both heterosexual and homosexual promiscuity?
"Who in the next generation will be willing to take the heat when it is so much safer and more comfortable to avoid the controversial subjects? Who's going to defend traditional morality and a culture that's spinning into moral decline? Who will call sin by its name and lead a nation to repentance and holiness?"
Dr. Charles Stanley, 74, whose biblical messages are also broadcasted to millions of homes, understands Kennedy's death is a big loss for the whole body of Christ, not just the religious right, as he recently pointed out. But Stanley is confident a new generation will rise to pick up the torch.
"God always raises up His servants to get His work done," he said in an interview with The Christian Post.
Stephen N. Tchividjian, grandson of evangelist Billy Graham, expressed willingness to carry on and pass on the legacy older evangelicals are leaving behind.
"There's a new generation being raised up to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. And it's with that that we stand here and with great hope and desire to carry on the legacy [and – with] each and every one of us having had that impact in our own lives and being charged by the Lord himself to do that – to pass it on to the next generation," said Tchividjian at the funeral service on Thursday.
"There much work to be done," he noted. "You and I have been charged with that."
While wondering if the younger generation would heed the divine call of the Lord and be willing to die, if necessary, to defend the truth, Dobson said he believes new leaders will emerge in the next few years.
"I pray that the Lord will anoint another generation of Jim Kennedys – courageous men and women who will never waver one inch in the defense of righteousness," he said. "May God help the younger generation carry on the work that Dr. Jim Kennedy did so aptly for more than half a century and I pray that the Gospel will continue to prosper in their hands."