Ross Rhoads, who was pastor at Charlotte’s Calvary Church for 21 years, died Wednesday. He was 84.
He left Calvary in 1995. In recent years, Rhoads worked closely with Franklin Graham, serving on the board of directors for Boone-based Samaritan’s Purse and as a chaplain at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Evangelistic Association in Charlotte.
He was especially active in promoting Samaritan’s Purse’s Operation Christmas Child, which sends shoe boxes full of toys and practical gifts to poor children around the world.
Franklin Graham announced Rhoads’ death on his Facebook post, calling the evangelist “one of my dearest friends through the years.”
“He was ... a wonderful shepherd of the flock and powerful Bible teacher,” Graham wrote. “He was deeply loved and will be greatly missed. No one can replace him. He knew the Word of God from cover to cover. ... My life has been forever impacted by this man. Now he is in the very presence of the Savior he loved and served.”
The cause of death was cancer and pneumonia, according to a spokesman for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
Rhoads became pastor at Calvary in 1973, with Charlotte-born Billy Graham giving the keynote speech at the installation service. Graham’s father, Frank, was one of the founding elders of Calvary.
During Rhoads’ years as pastor, the church grew, expanded, and moved twice. It ended up in a new 5,000-seat cathedral-like worship center on N.C. 51 in south Charlotte. The church building became a Charlotte landmark and even got a nickname: The pink cathedral.
Though the membership rolls grew from 125 to 3,600, Rhoads’ tenure at Calvary ended on a stormy note in the mid-1990s as the church struggled with financial issues and lower-than-expected growth.
A Philadelphia native, Rhoads earned religion and divinity degrees from the Philadelphia College of the Bible, Wheaton College in Illinois, Fuller Theological Seminary in California and Greenville College in Illinois.
Over the years, Rhoads stayed busy: He wrote a column for the now-defunct Charlotte News, authored four books, conducted 200 evangelistic crusades, appeared on the nationally televised “Youth on the March,” hosted a radio show (“Something to Think About”), and co-founded Southern Evangelical Seminary in Matthews.
Rhoads is survived by wife Carol; daughter Kathleen (Rhoads) Lane and sons Stephen, and Paul; 11 grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.
A memorial service for Rhoads will be held at 3 p.m. June 3 at Calvary Church, 5801 Pineville-Matthews Road.