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Sunday School teacher, seminary leader’s dad

Originally posted March 25, 2013

POMPANO BEACH, Fla. (BP) — He was a deacon and youth Sunday School teacher whose legacy includes 40 years of faithful service in his local church and raising up one of the nation’s most influential evangelical leaders.

Richard Albert Mohler Sr., 76, died Monday, March 18, after suffering a massive cerebral hemorrhage in his Deerfield Beach, Fla., home. He died in a local hospital that evening with family gathered at his bedside.

Moments after his father’s death, R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, sent out the following tweet: “My faithful and compassionate earthly father has gone home to be with my Heavenly Father. Blessed be the name of the LORD.”

Mohler had received news of his father’s condition early that morning and arrived in Florida prior to his death.

A retired store manager for Publix Supermarkets, the elder Mohler had been honored in January as deacon emeritus — “deacon for life” — at First Baptist Church in Pompano Beach, Fla., where he and his family became members in 1972.

Mohler said during his father’s March 21 funeral service: “I want you to know how much that meant to him, because if there was any title that he would want other than husband and father and grandfather and friend and believer, it would be deacon of the First Baptist Church of Pompano Beach.”

First Baptist pastor Ron Harvey noted Mohler’s longtime service as a Sunday School teacher for middle and high school boys. Remarkably, the youth consistently remained quiet during his lessons because of their high level of respect for him. Harvey, who arrived in Pompano Beach eight years ago, said he came to regard Mohler as a “mentor and source of godly advice.” It is “a rare gem for a church to have someone like Dick Mohler,” the pastor said.

“[Mohler] has influenced so many lives for Christ,” one family friend wrote on the online obituary website legacy.com. “Families move to different locations, but they never forget the foundation and love he poured into the kids of FBC Pompano.”

On the elder Mohler’s Facebook page, current and former students in the youth ministry posted messages to honor his memory.

“I’m eternally grateful that I was given the opportunity to spend even a second of time with a man like Richard Mohler,” one wrote. “He was compassionate, understanding, humble, always ready to listen.”

That same student described how Mohler drove him and his brother to church even though their family moved 15 minutes away from Pompano Beach. “He did this for two years, never once being late and somehow always finding a chance to grab donuts for the ride. Mr. Mohler played a large role in bringing me to salvation in Christ.”

Another student, reflecting on Mohler’s dedication to the students, wrote: “Who knew that the one youth leader that understood us kids was the oldest one.”

In his work at Publix for nearly 40 years, Mohler often provided the youth in his church with their first jobs in order to teach them a solid work ethic. One of those former employees shared that he “always admired [Mohler’s] wisdom and would not hesitate to go to him for advice. I honestly believe he was one of the greatest Christian men that I have met in my lifetime.”

One of those young employees included his eldest son, Mohler Jr., who began working with his father early on Saturday mornings at the age of 14.

A native of Plant City, Fla., Mohler leaves behind his wife of 55 years, Janet Johnson Mohler; four children, Richard Albert Mohler Jr. of Louisville, Ky., Jan Mohler Knight of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Lee Mohler of Boynton Beach, Fla., and Mark Mohler of Melbourne, Fla.; and seven grandchildren.

In his daily podcast, “The Briefing,” posted on his website the morning of his father’s funeral, Mohler devoted the end of his broadcast to commemorate his father.

“I’m so thankful in a world in which so many did not know their fathers or did not know their father’s love that I was known by and loved by and named for a father I will so greatly miss,” Mohler said. “I am thankful for the legacy of Christian faith he left for me and so many others.”

That legacy was reflected during the funeral service at First Baptist, a service that included as speakers Mohler Jr., Harvey, grandson Joey Knight and former youth pastor Brad Jones.

The memorial service drew a large crowd to remember Mohler’s life, including prominent Southern Baptist leaders Chuck Kelly, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and former chief of staff for Mohler Jr. at Southern Seminary; Ken Whitten, pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Fla.; and Dorothy Patterson, wife of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson.

Harvey reflected on Mohler’s influence in the community and dedication to serving the church, especially the youth. Mohler had planned to serve at a youth discipleship event the weekend of March 22-24 and at the Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina this summer.

Of Mohler’s role to the youth in the church, Harvey said: “He was like a father figure and maybe in later years, a grandfather figure. He was so loved by the kids in this congregation.”

Joey Knight recounted that he not only learned as a student in his grandfather’s Sunday School class but also received instruction from him on how to set up his Facebook page.

“My grandfather was one of the most godly and Christ-like men that I’ve ever known and has served as a role model for me for as long as I can remember,” Knight said. “He was also the coolest grandfather that I could ask for.”

Jones, FBC Pompano’s former youth pastor, shared his own memories of Mohler, centered around Paul’s instructions on humility in Philippians 2:2-3. Jones currently pastors CityChurch Pompano, a local church plant.

Prior to his arrival at FBC Pompano, Jones received an email from Mohler after the youth pastor made a connection between the deacon and his son, the president of Southern Seminary.

Mohler wrote in the email: “I’m proud of my son. He has a ministry that reaches the world. But my ministry is to middle school guys and in what I do, they are my world.”

That was the beginning of a fruitful friendship between Jones and Mohler, who often gave Jones the option of choosing someone “more relevant” to help with the youth group.

Jones said, “If you want to know how to be like Richard Mohler when you grow up, here it is: he was an ordinary man, living an ordinary life with Gospel intentionality. And that ordinary, humble man armed with the good news of the Gospel was extraordinary.”

Mohler Jr. delivered the main eulogy of the service, remembering his father’s life and ultimately issuing a call for attendees to profess faith in Jesus Christ. Mohler’s reflections of his father’s life included how their ministries often overlapped.

“The Lord allowed me the joy of having young men show up at the seminary I’m privileged to serve who told me, ‘Your dad taught me in middle school and had a massive impact on my life,'” Mohler said. “And more than one has told me, ‘Your dad led me to the Lord and helped me understand what it meant to come to Jesus and to believe in him and to be saved.'”

Issuing a call to salvation through Jesus Christ, Mohler said, “My father staked his life on this. My father would want you to know this same truth. My father shared this with me by word and precept and by the quiet confidence of his faith and active energy of his faithfulness.”

Mohler noted that two years ago he spoke on the topic of death to biblical counselors using Psalm 116:15 as his Scripture text: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”

“Brothers and sisters, I want you to know even more I believe [Psalm 116:15] now,” Mohler said. “And thus, I can tell you how proud I am to be Richard Albert Mohler Jr. and how thankful I am to be gathered here with you this day with my dear mother, with my wife and children and with my family to say, it is well with my soul.”
Craig Sanders is a newswriter for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; James A. Smith Sr., who attended the funeral of Richard Albert Mohler Sr. at First Baptist Church in Pompano Beach, Fla., is executive editor of the Florida Baptist Witness (www.goFBW.com; Aaron Cline Hanbury is Southern Seminary’s manager of news and information. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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