PLANO, Texas (BP) — Hundreds paid tribute to Zig Ziglar during a memorial service Saturday (Dec. 1) at Prestonwood Baptist Church, which pastor Jack Graham called a “See You at the Top celebration.”
Thousands more online viewed the service for the legendary motivational speaker who touched countless lives throughout his four decades on the speaking circuit and through his 30-plus books, including the best-selling “See You at the Top.” Ziglar died Nov. 28 of complications from pneumonia. The husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather was 86.
“We’ve gathered not only to mourn,” Graham said, “but also to worship and draw our hearts near to the Christ he loved, to the Savior he followed.”
More than a decade ago, Ziglar had approached Graham about his own memorial service, specifying songs and Scriptures. Graham read from Ziglar’s written directions, quoting, “‘I believe the major objective of my funeral should be to serve as an evangelistic occasion for the lost and as an encouragement for other Christians. If based on your experience my choices of songs and procedures are not the most conducive for persuading others to join me in eternity, please make whatever changes you deem advisable.’
“We didn’t change a thing,” said Graham, Ziglar’s longtime pastor and friend, who delivered the message.
The service included worship songs such as “Because He Lives,” “Sweet Little Jesus Boy” and “Victory in Jesus” and words of remembrance from Ike Reighard, pastor of Piedmont Church in Marietta, Ga., and Ziglar’s son Tom.
Reighard spoke about how his own life has been influenced by Ziglar. The two met years ago after Reighard preached a sermon on David and Goliath at First Baptist Church in Dallas. In the middle of the message, Reighard quoted Ziglar: “‘You can never consistently perform in a manner that’s inconsistent with the way that you see yourself.'”
He finished the sermon then visited with members of the congregation. Ziglar had been in the audience that day and waited in line to meet the young preacher.
“I squealed like a 12-year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert,” Reighard recalled.
One Saturday morning after their meeting, Ziglar called Reighard and asked if he would be his “on-call preacher.”
They started visiting on Saturday mornings, Ziglar asking scriptural questions and Reighard answering. Their friendship grew.
“He had that uncanny ability to inspire better than anyone I’ve ever known,” Reighard said.
“In a lot of ways,” he said, “this is my last Saturday morning with Zig…. All of the things that Zig Ziglar accepted by faith, he’s now seeing with his sight. No longer does he walk by faith, now he walks by sight.”
Tom Ziglar, CEO of Ziglar, Inc., spoke on the four characteristics that gave rise to the impact his father has had: hope, identity, brokenness and love. Tom spoke about an especially poignant moment with his father after a day of golf, something they enjoyed doing together.
“So I drive him home, get his bag out of trunk, and I’d turned around to get back in the car, and he said, ‘Son, wait a second.’ I turned around and said, ‘What, Dad?’ He said, ‘I need to tell you something.’ And he came up and put his hands on my shoulders and looked me right in the eye. He said, ‘Son, I don’t think I’ve told you enough how proud I am and how much I love you.’ And we hugged. From that day forward, every time we met, we hugged.
“Eternity is around the door; we don’t know when,” Tom Ziglar said. “I can remember Dad looking into my eyes. I know I will look in his eyes again, in the blink of an eye.”
Longtime friends such as Dale Dodson, a Prestonwood member and chairman of the Ziglar board, were among the many in attendance.
“There was no fake to Zig Ziglar,” Dodson said. “He was as real as could be…. He truly lived to inspire others. When he said something, it went right to the heart. It came from the heart.”
Bill Porter, a member of the Encouragers class that Ziglar taught for nearly two decades at Prestonwood, said the first Sunday he attended he was excited to meet Ziglar. He was amazed that Ziglar actually approached him first and wanted to know all about him.
“The void is huge,” Porter said, “but the impact he made is even bigger.”
Tyra Damm and Roger Howerton are writers in Prestonwood Baptist Church’s communications ministry. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).