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 The service will also be archived at the Mud Creek website.

The article was originally posted at Lifeway’s Pastor’s Today Blog

It amazes me how often opportunities for growth are incited by challenges, problems, or even attacks.

The book of Acts details the advance of the early church through the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ under the power of the Holy Spirit. Time and again the early believers faced persecution, problems, and challenges. But the advance of the gospel would not be hindered. Acts describes the sovereign advance of God’s gospel. Our job is to remain faithful to preach the good news in the power of the Holy Spirit.

In his commentary on Acts, John Stott identified three ways Satan attempted to hinder the church’s advance: suppression, corruption, and distraction. In chapter 3, Peter and John healed a crippled man and used this platform to preach the gospel. Subsequently, chapter 4 relates how the religious leaders imprisoned Peter and John and charged them to cease preaching about Jesus.

The Jewish leaders attempted to suppress the early church. The first believers responded with a powerful prayer meeting and more evangelism.

While we (in the Western church) do not face persecution and suppression like many of our fellow believers across the world, our response to suppression must be biblical. As leaders we should lead our congregations in prayer and continued boldness in preaching (Acts 4:23-31).

In chapter 5, Satan tempted Ananias and Sapphira to lie to the church (ultimately to the Holy Spirit) about the amount of money for which they sold their property. Satan wanted to corrupt the church. In an astonishing story of God’s demand for holiness, Ananias and Sapphira were immediately struck dead for their sin.

We must not tolerate corruption in our churches.

Practically, we are not meant to adopt Peter’s method of church discipline illustrated in this chapter, but we must deal with any seeds of corruption clearly and quickly. This starts with giving no quarter to the corruption that may dwell in our own hearts. Then we must preach the judgment of the gospel with power and persuasion.

There is no greater picture of hate for sin than the cross. God viciously judged sin by sacrificing his holy Son on our behalf. Judgment is part of the gospel message. Without judgment, there is no good news, no gospel. If we long for our churches to fear God and be in awe of his power (Acts 5:11), we must preach the holiness of God, his judgment on sin, and the good news that follows.

In chapter 6, Satan incited complaints within the church seeking to distract the church from its purpose. Certain widows were being left out of the daily distribution of food. This caused the apostles to gather the church, decide as a body to elect the first deacons, and address the problem directly. This move resulted in effective ministry and gospel advance (6:1, 7).

Church complaints are going to happen. Sometimes they require direct action as illustrated in this chapter. But in reality, we discover here a paradigm for church advance that is simple and affective. Pastors must devote themselves to the ministry of the Word and prayer (Acts 6:2, 4). And pastors must delegate ministry tasks to others, staff, deacons, and lay leaders (6:3,5-6). Addressing this church problem with clarity allowed the gospel to spread even further.

So, let us pray fervently, study consistently, and preach the gospel powerfully as we go on the offensive against our enemy who wants to hinder church advance. Remember Jesus’ promise in Matthew 16:18, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”