D. James Kennedy had a large vision—a vision for making a global impact for Christ. One Sunday evening in 1960 he read Jeremiah 33:3 to his small congregation. No more than 15 to 20 people were present, but after he read the following from Jeremiah 33:3: “Call unto me and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not,” he said something that astounded his listeners: “You know, I believe we can change the world!”
It began with Evangelism Explosion in 1962, a ministry for training Christians to personally share their faith and lead others to Christ.
By 1973, as the yet-to-be-completed new Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church sanctuary was going up, Dr. Kennedy had begun to see that there was another tool he could use effectively to make a global impact for Christ—mass communications—now developing at a fantastic rate.
As he addressed those who were present for the dedication of the new church building in 1974, Dr. Kennedy set the vision for not only the mission of the church, but also for the media ministry that would eventually broadcast his sermons and the Coral Ridge Church services worldwide. He spoke of that vision to his congregation telling them:
It is our prayer, that through this church, the Gospel of Jesus Christ might be radiated through television and radio, motion pictures and cassettes, books and clinics, and by ways yet undreamed of unto the entire world, that the command of Christ to go and proclaim the Gospel to every creature might be fulfilled in our generation.
That year, the radio ministry was launched with a radio outreach on five stations in Michigan, and four years later in 1978, the Coral Ridge worship service was first broadcast on television. Over the next 27 years syndication was to expand to a high point of 675 television stations and 700 radio facilities.
In the 1990’s Dr. Kennedy’s radio program Truths That Transform was on more than 300 radio outlets nationwide and The Coral Ridge Hour was in every major TV market in the United States. Dr. Kennedy became recognized as “one of the leading Christian statesmen of the day.” His biographer Herbert Williams notes that he became “a much-sought-after guest on ‘celebrity shows.’ His TV appearances include[d] Crossfire, CBS Nightwatch, MacNeil/Lehrer Report, Donahue, The Merv Griffin Show, and a Ted Koppel special on televangelism.” In addition, Dr. Kennedy was quoted in national magazines and newspapers such as the U.S. New and World Report, Christianity Today, The Washington Times, USA Today, The New York Times and The Washington Post. He was also a frequent guest on Morning Joe and from time to time Bill O’Reilly of Fox television would call his home to ask him about issues dealing with religion in public affairs and conflicts over manger scenes and church/state battles.
As the national and international scope of the ministry expanded, it made sense by 1996 to incorporate the ministry as a free-standing organization, Coral Ridge Ministries Media, Inc., separate and apart from Coral Ridge Church and having its own board of directors and executive staff. Coral Ridge Ministries became the vehicle for the broadcast ministry of Dr. Kennedy,
In 2003, NRB professionals awarded The Coral Ridge Hour the honor of being the “Television Program of the Year” and in 2004 they designated the radio program, Truths That Transform, “Best Radio Teaching Program” of the year. In 2005, Dr. Kennedy, himself, was inducted into the National Religious Broadcasters Hall of Fame.
Now known as D. James Kennedy Ministries, the organization founded by Dr. Kennedy has continued his mission and legacy since his death in 2007. In addition to the broadcast channels of radio and television (now available on cable, satellite and the Internet), the ministry has published numerous books and booklets, as well as a monthly newsletter IMPACT, which was expanded in 2015 to a 48 page digest format with the inclusion of monthly devotionals by Dr. Kennedy and Dr. Jerry Newcombe, who collaborated with Dr. Kennedy on over 16 books.
In April of 2015, Dr. Frank Wright took the helm of D. James Kennedy Ministries as President and CEO. Jim Carlson notes that Dr. Wright was “a decade’s long friend and student of the late Dr. Kennedy and he shares an incredible understanding of Dr. Kennedy’s biblical perspective, his commitment to the Great Commission of Jesus Christ and this ministry’s Cultural Mandate.”
Dr. Kennedy named Dr. Wright as the first director of the D. James Kennedy Center for Christian Statesmanship in Washington, D.C. Later Dr. Wright served for ten years as the president and chief executive officer of the National Religious Broadcasters, as well as president and chief operating officer of Salem Communications Corporation, one of the preeminent Christian media companies in the world. Dr. Wright’s wealth of experience in the areas of broadcast management and public policy uniquely qualify him to assume the leadership of the ministry.
Dr. D. James Kennedy left behind a great legacy, much of which has been preserved on audio and video tapes and in the many books he wrote. We pray that, as the ministry now bearing his name, we may faithfully steward this vast repository of his teaching, and by using all the current channels of communication and, in the future, the “ways yet undreamed of,” we may serve as a megaphone to the world, proclaiming the Gospel to every creature. Our motto, as was Dr. Kennedy’s, continues to be: “Excellence in all things, and all things to the glory of God.”