Family and friends gathered March 8 to say goodbye to Kenneth Ridings, 78, the longtime Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute (now College) professor and then president.
“Kenneth Ridings, who preached the written Word, has met the Living Word,” said Greg Mathis, Ridings’ pastor at Mud Creek Baptist Church, to open the funeral service held at the church. Ridings died March 5.
Mathis and D.L. Lowrie, former executive director-treasurer of the Tennessee Baptist Convention and a visiting professor at Fruitland, shared during the service. Lowrie recounted his long-time friendship with Ridings that began 57 years ago in Myrtle, Miss.
“Both of us have a rich heritage,” Lowrie said. “I’m here to join you in thanking God for this man.”
Lowrie said Riding’s influence and impact will continue to be felt for years to come. “When you absorb into your soul the truth that God raised Christ from the dead, that changes everything,” he said. “The gospel says that every work [Kenneth] did here that was worth doing, followed him and will follow him to the judgment seat of Christ. … It’s not over for the man or woman in Christ. It’s not over for brother Kenneth.”
Kenneth Ridings died March 5. He was president of Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute (now College) in Hendersonville.
Mathis shared that Ridings was a unique individual.
“Kenneth never wanted to be like anybody else,” Mathis said. “He was most comfortable being Kenneth Ridings.
“Personally I never met anyone that felt a greater priority or purpose in preaching than Kenneth Ridings. Preaching was his passion. He considered his role as a pulpiteer to read the Word, explain the Word and apply the Word. That was his supreme calling.”
Mathis read a statement from David Horton, current president of Fruitland: “Throughout his ministry, Dr. Kenneth Ridings was a living legend among Baptist preachers. His exceptional homiletical skills placed him in the category of such notable expository preachers as Stephen Olford, Ron Dunn, and Adrian Rogers. 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!”
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, and 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. During his retirement service, Ridings revealed his heart about 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.”
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 is survived by his wife, Ann; daughter, Beverly; and one granddaughter. 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.
To view the sermon online, visit mudcreekchurch.sermon.net/Live_Broadcast and choose the “Kenneth Ridings Funeral Service” from the list of episodes.