CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES, www.ses.edu) is mourning the death of one of its co-founders today, Dr. Ross S. Rhoads, who passed away May 24, 2017, at the age of 84.
Rhoads co-founded SES with Dr. Norman Geisler in 1992 and for two decades served as pastor of Calvary Church in Charlotte, N.C., where SES has held its annual National Conference on Christian Apologetics for many years.
Pastor Rhoads’ burden for evangelism and Professor Geisler’s concern to defend the historic Christian Faith combined in the two-fold vision of the seminary to evangelize the world and to defend the historic Christian faith. Dr. Rhoads was appointed as the first president of the seminary, and Dr. Geisler was the first dean.
As an evangelist, pastor, author, educator and Christian leader, Rhoads devoted his life to winning souls for Christ, armed with a world-sized vision to evangelize the lost and equip the saved.
“As president of Southern Evangelical Seminary and as a brother in Christ, I am saddened to hear that Dr. Ross Rhoads passed away today,” said SES President Dr. Richard Land. “While I join in grieving along with the SES family and the broader Christian community that both loved him and cherished his ministry, I take great comfort in the fact that he is now with his Heavenly Father forever and that we will one day renew fellowship with him in heaven.
“Dr. Rhoads’ contributions to SES were invaluable as the person that God gave the vision to ask Dr. Geisler to help him form the school,” Land continued. “It is safe to say that without Dr. Rhoads’ prophetic vision, there would never have been be an SES. We will never know this side of heaven just how many people have been profoundly touched by Dr. Rhoads’ ministry over these many years. Speaking personally, it was a great honor and privilege to have known him. I ask that the entire Christian community join me in praying for Dr. Rhoads’ precious wife, Carol, and his family as they mourn their loss.”
Rhoads became the pastor of Calvary Church in 1973, and the Rev. Billy Graham served as keynote speaker at his installation service. Rhoads resigned as senior pastor in 1992, shifting his ministry efforts to SES and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
In keeping with the original vision of its first president, SES remains committed to academic excellence, service to the church and fulfillment of Christ’s Great Commission. In October 2008, SES dedicated the Ross Rhoads Center for Evangelism.
Rhoads received the president’s medal from the Pennsylvania Military Academy and graduated as the most outstanding cadet. Over his lifetime, the scholar earned various academic degrees from Philadelphia Biblical University, Wheaton College, Fuller Theological Seminary, National Lewis University and Greenville College.
He also served as the chaplain of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and vice chairman of Samaritan’s Purse, ministering worldwide with Franklin Graham in his festival crusades. For more than 25 years, Rhoads traveled extensively and conducted more than 200 evangelistic crusades. He was a featured speaker on Dr. Charles E. Fuller’s influential radio broadcast, “The Old-Fashioned Revival Hour” and co-authored the “All for Jesus” devotional with Franklin Graham.
Under Rhoads’ leadership, Calvary Church grew significantly. Throughout the city and region, the influence of Rhoads and his wife, Carol, who survives, have made an immeasurable and lasting impact for the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Rhoads is also survived by daughter Kathleen (Rhoads) Lane and sons Stephen and Paul, along with 11 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. A memorial service will be held on June 3 at Calvary Church.