Remembering Longtime BGEA Chaplain Dr. Ross Rhoads

By   •   May 24, 2017

Every Franklin Graham Festival begins with a time of worship, devotion and prayer for Billy Graham Evangelistic Association staff, as well as local leaders in Festival cities. Dr. Ross Rhoads often led those devotions, offering Biblical guidance and encouraging many over the years.

Dr. Ross Rhoads, a longtime friend and ministry partner of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, has passed away. He was 84.

“Dr. Ross Rhoads, one of my dearest friends through the years, passed away early this morning,” Franklin Graham wrote on Facebook Wednesday. “He was an evangelist and then served as a pastor for many years—a wonderful shepherd of the flock and powerful Bible teacher. A longtime member of the Samaritan’s Purse Board of Directors, he also served as chaplain to our Billy Graham Evangelistic Association team. He and his wife, Carol, traveled all over the world ministering to others. He was deeply loved and will be greatly missed. No one can replace him. He knew the Word of God from cover to cover. I spoke to him on Sunday and he told me to preach on the Cross—I did. My life has been forever impacted by this man. Now he is in the very presence of the Savior He loved and served.”

For years, Rhoads traveled around the globe with the association, often leading devotions for staff and local leaders at Franklin Graham Festivals.

Ross Rhoads (left) with BGEA associate Sami Dagher and Franklin Graham (right) in Beirut, Lebanon.

For over two decades, Rhoads served as pastor of Calvary Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, from 1973 to 1995. During that time, the church grew to thousands of members. The church also began a full-time counseling center, a Crisis Pregnancy Center, child development center and annual conferences.

Billy Graham’s father, Frank Graham, was one of the church’s founding elders, and Billy Graham served as keynote speaker at Rhoads’ installation service. Once Rhoads stepped down as senior pastor in the mid-90s, he shifted his focus to ministry with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA).

Rhoads began his education at Pennsylvania Military Academy where he received the President’s medal and graduated as the most outstanding cadet, having the highest rank and honors. 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 from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, as well as a Master of Science degree from National Lewis University in Evanston, Illinois, followed by a Doctor of Divinity degree from Greenville College in Illinois.

Billy Graham and Ross Rhoads at a 1998 Franklin Graham Festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

For three years, Rhoads appeared on a nationwide TV program called “Youth on the March.” He conducted over 200 evangelistic crusades over the course of 15 years, served as associate of the late Dr. Charles E. Fuller and as featured speaker on the radio broadcast, “The Old Fashioned Revival Hour.” For over 25 years, Rhoads had a radio program called “Something to Think About,” which aired twice daily.

His printed commentary was featured daily in the Charlotte News. He also authored four books: The Power to Cope, Hope for Tomorrow, Personal Evangelism and a devotional book, All for Jesus.

In 1992, while still serving as pastor of Calvary, Rhoads founded Southern Evangelical Seminary outside Charlotte. His vision was to unite the highest academic disciplines and evangelism. Today, the seminary continues providing practical training in apologetics and church-centered ministries.

Rhoads and his wife lived in Charlotte. They raised three children and enjoyed many grandchildren. They also served as national representatives for Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse.

Their son, Steve, carries on his father’s ministry by working to build relationships with churches around the world as a BGEA vice president. Two of Rhoads’ grandsons, Stephen and Ben, serve in leadership positions at Samaritan’s Purse.

Ross Rhoads family
Ross Rhoads is survived by his wife, Carol, their three children and multiple grandchildren. This photo was taken in 2008.