Mark D. Roberts

Pastor, televangelist, and author D. James Kennedy died last week. A man of amazing energy and vision, Kennedy planted Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 1960. Today, it has about 10,000 members, and Coral Ridge Ministries, which broadcasts Kennedy’s sermons, reaches over three million people.
Though Kennedy and I would see many things differently, like the relationship of Christian faith and politics, I have always admired his commitment to live out his faith with a zeal for Christ. I first became aware of Kennedy through “Evangelism Explosion,” a training program for lay people to share their faith with others.
I met Dr. Kennedy once in 1995, and it was a very strange meeting indeed. It happened one Sunday morning in July. This was a special Sunday for our church because we had just finished a week of Vacation Bible School, and the Sunday worship services were continuing in the VBS mode. The sermon that day was a wild one. I was doing a first-person monologue as if I were Peter, the disciple of Jesus. But I was doing this in the persona of Rocky Balboa, you know, of “Yo, Adrien” fame. My entire monologue came in an urban Philadelphia accent, and I was wearing shorts and a sleeveless undershirt. My entry came, appropriately enough, to the theme music from the Rocky film, as I raced around the sanctuary. (The name “Peter,” as you may know, comes from the Greek for “rock.” It could well be translated as “Rocky.”)
After I finished my performance in first service, I was, to be honest, a sweaty mess. So I tried to hang out in our choir room so as to avoid offending people with my humidity. Plus, I wanted to hide from folks who would be in our second service.
As I was hiding in the choir room, one of the elders of the church found me. “Mark,” he said urgently, “there’s somebody you have to meet.”
“This really isn’t a good time,” I responded, pointing to my unkempt appearance.
“Never mind that,” he said, “you still have to meet this person.”
So he took me into the hall, where I saw an impeccably dressed man wearing red pants, a white shirt, a blue jacket, and a red-white-and-blue tie. I recognized him instantly as none other the Dr. D. James Kennedy.
“Hello, Dr. Kennedy,” I said, somewhat in shock, “it’s a pleasure to have you worshiping with us today. I’m Pastor Mark Roberts.”
“Thank you,” he said with hesitation, looking at me like I had just landed from Mars.
“You’re probably wondering why I’m dressed this way,” I said, explaining that it was VBS Sunday and what I was doing. He seemed to get the point, though I couldn’t tell what he thought about it. Nevertheless, he was gracious in his manner.
Dr. Kennedy joined us for second service, sitting rather near the front. He didn’t leave in disgust, though I never had the chance to talk with him after the service. I had no idea what he thought about my rather odd sermon. Years later, a man who knew Dr. Kennedy well told me he probably thought it was great that I was making such an effort to communicate with children. Who knows?

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