In 1999, I started at Fruitland Baptist Bible College (then, Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute). Dr. Kenneth Ridings was the President, and one of my first professors. He taught homiletics on Fridays. My uncle, James Hefner had gotten to know Dr. Ridings when he was a student at Fruitland in the early 1970s, and I had heard him preach before I came to Fruitland. I knew he was a fabulous preacher when I arrived on campus.
There was nothing like being in his homiletics class. Dr. Ridings’ taught homiletics by modeling. He would preach to us in class and “whet our appetite for the Word of God.” I’ll never forget his unique ability to hone in on a text of Scripture, expound insights that could only be discovered through meditation and study, and deliver them in a style all his own. He alliterated his points, but didn’t stretch the alliteration to fit the text. From his articulate, near flawless speech patterns to his unique hand movements, Dr. Kenneth Ridings was a powerful preacher whose heritage of faithfulness to the text from the pulpit has been rarely equaled.
One of the most intimidating experiences of my entire life was preaching in “the pit” (the affectionate name of the preaching classroom at Fruitland). Students would preach in front of him and Dr. Whitefield for their homiletics grade. Dr. Ridings was known on campus for his articulate and direct critiques of student preachers. I was thankful to make it out of that preaching event with a B+. The following week, my brother Robert preached, and Dr. Ridings did something I’ll never forget. The practice in class was to let classmates critique the student preacher before the professors shared their thoughts. When Robert finished his sermon and sat down, Dr. Ridings declared to our class, “Well, there’s really nothing for you to say after that.” He didn’t allow us to critique Robert’s sermon and gave him an A+. The lesson Dr. Ridings taught us that day is that a sermon flowing directly from the text is the goal of preaching. There was nothing fancy about my brother’s sermon. It wasn’t alliterated. He wasn’t that dynamic. But he preached what the text said, and thereby allowed God’s Word to speak authoritatively. Preaching is a task immersed in and wedded to the content of God’s Word. That’s a lesson I learned from Dr. Ridings, and I’ll never forget it.
Dr. Ridings was a challenging professor and godly President. The renovated chapel is named after him, and the legacy he leaves behind is substantial. Most influential is the heritage expositional preaching. Pastors all across North and South Carolina who sat in Dr. Ridings’ class will share similar stories as mine above. As they preach in their churches, Dr. Ridings’ heritage flourishes.
Dr. Ridings leaves behind a great treasure in his wife, Ann. Dr. Ridings’ persona was often interpreted (at least by students) as closed and a little intimidating. By contrast, Ann was always smiling, warm, approachable and looking for ways to brighten a student’s day. Dr. Ridings was much more approachable the longer I got to know him, and I’m positive the man he was can be credited in large part to Ann. Dr. Ridings shared numerous times how Ann personally led him to Jesus, and there is little doubt the approachability and affability he developed in later years came from her warmth that rubbed off on him.
I am eternally grateful that my heritage includes Dr. Kenneth Ridings. He was part of my Fruitland family, was my professor, and was my mentor. Those of us who had the honor of sitting in his classes at Fruitland will testify that we will never be the same because of the heritage of Fruitland and influence Dr. Kenneth Ridings.
While we mourn the death of Dr. Ridings, heaven gained a hero of many students, parishioners, and friends. There will be a visitation and funeral for Dr. Ridings at Mud Creek Baptist Church on Sunday March 8. Visitation will be at 3 pm. The funeral will be a 5 pm. Two of Dr. Ridings’ favorite preachers will be speaking—Dr. D.L. Lowry and Dr. Greg Mathis. If you are unable to make the service, live streaming will be available at http://www.mudcreekchurch.org The service will also be archived at the Mud Creek website.