Richard Albert Mohler Sr., father of seminary president, dies, calls attention to faithful service

Communications Staff — March 28, 2013

The legacy of one Southern Baptist deacon and Sunday school teacher includes serving his local church faithfully for 40 years and raising up one of the world’s most influential evangelical leaders.

Pictured (l to r): R. Albert Mohler Jr., Katie Mohler, Richard Albert Mohler Sr.

Richard Albert Mohler Sr., 76, died Monday, March 18, 2013, after suffering a massive cerebral hemorrhage in his Deerfield Beach, Fla., home. He died in an area hospital that evening with family gathered at his bedside.

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

Mohler Sr.’s eldest son, R. Albert Mohler Jr., received news of his father’s condition early that morning, and arrived in Florida prior to his father’s passing.

Moments after, Mohler Jr., president of The 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.”

A retired store manager for Publix Supermarkets, Mohler Sr. was recently honored as deacon emeritus — “deacon for life” — at First Baptist Church of Pompano Beach, Fla., where he and his family became members in 1972. His son, Mohler Jr., delivered a sermon at the tribute service for the honored deacon in January 2013.

Regarding his father’s recognition as deacon emeritus, Mohler Jr. said during the 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.”

The church’s pastor, Ron Harvey, arrived in Pompano Beach eight years ago, and during that time regarded his deacon, Mohler Sr., as a “mentor and source of godly advice.”

“It is a rare gem for a church to have someone like Dick Mohler.”

Harvey recounted how Mohler Sr. served as a Sunday school teacher for middle and high school-aged students. Remarkably, the teenagers consistently remained silent during lessons because of their high level of respect for the elder Mohler.

“[Mr. 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 Mohler Sr.’s Facebook page, current and former students in the youth ministry posted messages to honor his memory.

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

That same student described how Mohler Sr. 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 Sr.’s dedication to the students, wrote: “Who knew that the one youth leader that understood us kids was the oldest one.”

As a Publix store manager for nearly 40 years, Mohler Sr. often provided the youth in his church with their first jobs in order to teach them a solid work ethic. One of those former youth employees shared that he “always admired [Mr. 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.

In an episode of Mohler Jr.’s daily podcast, “The Briefing,” posted on his website the morning of his father’s funeral, March 21, Mohler Jr. 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 Jr. 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 held at First Baptist Pompano, 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 in attendance to remember Mohler Sr.’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 Sr.’s influence in the community and dedication to serving the church, especially the youth. Mohler Sr. had planned to serve at a youth discipleship event the weekend of March 22-24 and at the Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina during the summer.

Of Mohler Sr.’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.”

Mohler Sr.’s grandson, Joey Knight, also spoke at the service. He learned as a student in Mohler Sr.’s Sunday school class and also received instruction from his grandfather 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 Sr., 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 Sr. after the youth pastor made a connection between the deacon and his son, the president of Southern Seminary.

Mohler Sr. 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 Sr., 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 Jr.’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.’”

Reading from Matthew 7:7-11, Mohler Jr. emphasized the perfect goodness of the Heavenly Father by comparing it to the goodness of his earthly father Mohler Sr., which extended beyond his own children to the children of the church.

Issuing a call to believe in salvation through Jesus Christ, Mohler Jr. 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 Jr. 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 in the conclusion of his eulogy. “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.”

And certainly precious is the life, and death, of Richard Albert Mohler Sr.

 

James A. Smith Sr. and Aaron Cline Hanbury also contributed to this article.

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