Rhoads, 84, passed away May 24. He served more than 14 years as chaplain for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and was also a longtime member of the Samaritan’s Purse Board of Directors.
For years, Rhoads, who credited Billy Graham with inspiring him to enter full-time ministry, traveled the globe with BGEA, often leading devotions for staff and local leaders at Franklin Graham’s Festivals.
Prior to his tenure at BGEA, Rhoads served as pastor of Calvary Church in Charlotte, N.C., from 1973 to 1995. During that time, the church grew to thousands of members and began a full-time counseling center, a crisis pregnancy center, a child development center and hosted annual conferences.
Billy Graham’s father, Frank Graham, was one of the church’s founding elders, and Billy Graham was the keynote speaker at Rhoads’ installation service. In 1992, while still serving as pastor of Calvary, Rhoads, along with theologian Norman Geisler, co-founded Southern Evangelical Seminary outside Charlotte. Their vision was to unite the highest academic disciplines and evangelism. Today the seminary continues to provide practical training in apologetics and church-centered ministries.
Rhoads, a Philadelphia native, began his education at Pennsylvania Military Academy, where he received the president’s medal and graduated as the most outstanding cadet. He went on to earn multiple degrees, graduating from both Philadelphia College of the Bible and Wheaton College in Illinois before continuing his studies at Wheaton Graduate School. He received a master’s degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., a Master of Science degree from National Louis University in Evanston, Ill., and a doctor of divinity degree from Greenville College in Illinois.
Rhoads was passionate about proclaiming the Gospel, whether through mass media, to large audiences or in one-on-one conversation. He appeared for three years on a nationwide TV program called Youth on the March, was a featured speaker for 15 years on The Old Fashioned Revival Hour radio broadcast and had a radio program called Something to Think About for more than 25 years.
He conducted more than 200 evangelistic crusades, including several in which he stepped in to help after BGEA Associate Evangelist John Wesley White suffered a stroke in 1996.
He authored four books: The Power to Cope, Hope for Tomorrow, Personal Evangelism and a devotional book, All for Jesus, which he co-authored with Franklin Graham.
In 1993, Rhoads answered a call from Franklin Graham to have Calvary Church prepare gift-filled shoeboxes to send to children in war-torn Bosnia. In just two weeks, the congregation collected 11,000 boxes. In the years since, Operation Christmas Child has delivered more than 146 million shoeboxes to children in more than 150 countries and territories.
Rhoads was a personal evangelist. He would tell virtually every individual he met about the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Rhoads lived in Charlotte, N.C., with his wife, Carol. They have one daughter, Kathleen; two sons, Steve and Paul; 11 grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren. Their sons carry on their father’s ministry. Paul is a pastor in Wisconsin, and Steve works to build relationships with churches around the world for BGEA. Two of Rhoads’ grandsons, Stephen and Ben, serve with Samaritan’s Purse.