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Kenneth Ridings, former Fruitland president, dies

HENDERSONVILLE, N.C. (BP) — Kenneth Ridings, 78, a longtime professor and past president of Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute (now college), died March 5.

“Throughout his ministry, Dr. Kenneth Ridings was a living legend among Baptist preachers,” David Horton, current president of Fruitland in Hendersonville, N.C., said. Fruitland is a ministry of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.

“His exceptional homiletical skills placed him in the category of such notable expository preachers as Stephen Olford, Ron Dunn and Adrian Rogers,” Horton said. “His legacy as a pastor, professor and previous president of Fruitland Baptist Bible College will continue throughout the years as we build on the foundation that he laid. Today, Dr. Ridings has joined the other heroes of the faith in ‘that great cloud of witnesses’ and he is cheering the rest of us on!”

In a statement released March 5, Milton A. Hollifield Jr., executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention, urged people to pray for the family and to thank God for Ridings’ impact on the “lives of pastors, and as a result, the churches of this convention.”

He said, “Ridings was more than a faithful employee of the Baptist State Convention and more than an excellent professor of homiletics; he was a dear friend and a tremendous influence upon my life. Like so many students at Fruitland, the members of the churches he served, and those impacted by his extensive preaching ministry, Kenneth helped me to not only appreciate expositional preaching but modeled for me how to preach God’s Word. I will miss him greatly, but find comfort in the truth that we will meet again.”

Ridings, a South Carolina native, became a Christian in 1953 with the help of his now wife Ann. He is a graduate of North Greenville College, Furman University and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He received doctor of divinity degrees from Fredericksburg Bible Institute and Covington Seminary.

He served as pastor of churches in South Carolina and North Carolina, including Ebenezer Baptist Church of Hendersonville, N.C., and Grassy Branch Baptist Church of Asheville, N.C., where he led for 22 years while teaching at Fruitland.

Ridings began his service to Fruitland in 1968, teaching church administration and pastoral counseling. He started what would become a 39-year tenure as professor of homiletics the next year.

He was on the board for the International Mission Board and was second vice president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.

Ridings retired as Fruitland’s president Dec. 31, 2008. He was named president emeritus on July 16, 2009. He was president for 11 years and taught at the school for 40 years. Fruitland honored Ridings with a Baptist Heritage Award in 2009.

“I just cannot imagine Fruitland without Kenneth Ridings,” said Greg Mathis, Ridings’ pastor at Mud Creek Baptist Church, in a 2009 Biblical Recorder story. At that time, Mathis said Ridings was the “face of Fruitland,” and that “his influence is the force behind the reputation we have. No other man lives with more integrity or more impeccable character than Kenneth Ridings.”

Hollifield also praised Ridings at his retirement service.

“Your fingerprints are on this place, the preachers you have prepared and the people associated with Fruitland have been enriched by your ministry,” he said. “God blessed and honored your ministry, service and leadership of this school.”

During his retirement service, Ridings revealed his heart for Fruitland: “You can go to heaven from many places. But when you go to heaven from Fruitland, you don’t notice the difference as much.”

Ridings is survived by his wife Ann; daughter, Beverly; and one granddaughter.

Visitation is Sunday, March 8 from 3-5 p.m. at Mud Creek Baptist Church (403 Rutledge Dr., Hendersonville, NC 28739). The funeral is at 5 p.m. Mathis and D.L. Lowrie will preside over the funeral. The service can be viewed live at www.mudcreekchurch.org; it will be archived for later viewing as well.

Donations can be made to the Fruitland Baptist Bible College Chapel Fund that bears Ridings’ name: Fruitland Baptist Bible College, 1455 Gilliam Rd., Hendersonville, NC 28792.

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