The year 2018 brought with it much loss within the Christian community. Most notably the loss of several individuals who positively impacted the Christian community and whose lives and influence will surely be missed. The following is a look back on a few of these losses:
Edwin Hawkins: Died January 15th, 2018
Best known for his catchy song “Oh, Happy Day,” this California native was also a Grammy Award-winning musical genius. He, in partnership with Betty Watson, created the Northern California State Youth Choir, which later recorded an album in 1968 entitled “Let Us Go Into The House of The Lord,” and included the beloved song “Oh Happy Day.” Editor-in-chief of the Signature Radio and News, Fred Willis, referred to Hawkins as “the father of contemporary gospel.” No doubt Hawkin’s influence can still be enjoyed today across the airwaves of radio stations playing contemporary gospel music.
Aretha Franklin: Died August 16th, 2018
Although she was well known for her secular hits “RESPECT,” “I Say A Little Prayer,” “Natural Woman,” and “Chain of Fools,” Aretha Franklin also sold approximately two million copies of her 1972 gospel album entitled “Amazing Grace.” Yolanda Adams, famous gospel singer, spoke about how this body of work influenced her and others like her.
“I grew up listening to her almost every day,” she said. “My heart is overwhelmed because Mrs. Aretha had such a great influence on my musical life.”
Eugene Peterson: Died October 22nd, 2018
Pastor Peterson began his contributions to the Christian community by pastoring several churches before retiring in 1991. He then became a professor of spiritual theology at Regent College until 2006. Throughout his lifetime, he authored 35 books in addition to the widely acclaimed Bible paraphrase The Message, which was a translation of the Bible recorded in everyday language, designed to be easier to understand.
“After a lifetime of faithful service to the church — running the race with gusto — it is reassuring to know that Eugene has now entered into the fullness of the Kingdom of God and has been embraced by eternal Sabbath,” his family penned in a statement.
Nathaniel Holcomb: Died November 27th, 2018
Pastor Nathaniel Holcomb was the longtime pastor and founder of one of the largest, most influential churches in Central Texas — the Christian House of Payer. Although the initial House of Prayer Ministries started as a small group of only 13 people, the current church is a 2,000-seat sanctuary that has had great influence on a global scale.
Reverend Billy Graham: Died February 21st, 2018
Perhaps the most well-known evangelists of all time with the exception of the apostle Paul is North Carolina’s own Billy Graham. No list of the most influential Christians lost in 2018 would be complete without a mention of this respected leader. Billy Graham personally proclaimed the gospel to some 215 million people, encompassing over 185 territories and countries. Hundreds of millions more were told the message of Christ’s love through Graham’s webcasts, film, video and television specials.
Graham died this year after struggling for years with various Parkinson’s-related health issues. He was only a few months shy of what would have been his 100th birthday. Graham most assuredly is one of the individuals to which Jesus will welcome into heaven and say, “well done, my good and faithful servant.”
As his grandson William Graham explained so eloquently about Graham’s death, “My grandfather invested his entire life in sharing the promise of eternity through Jesus Christ, and today he had the opportunity to realize that hope himself, kneeling before his Savior and hearing the words, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’”
The above leaders who passed away during 2018 have left a void in the Christian community. Each one contributed in a unique way and will not quickly be forgotten. Their lives exemplify to all believers how impactful even one person’s life can be when they make a determined commitment to serve Christ with the entirety of their lives.
~ 1776 Christian