FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS)—Faculty, former students, denominational leaders, and pastors from across the country joined with the family of Roy Fish to celebrate the life of the distinguished professor of evangelism emeritus at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Sept. 14. Fish, 82, passed away peacefully the morning of Sept. 10. The memorial service was held on the seminary’s campus.
“Without hyperbole, I can truthfully say I never met a man greater than Roy Fish,” said Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church near Memphis, Tenn., in his eulogy. Gaines served as Fish’s grader for seven years while earning a master’s and doctorate from Southwestern.
“He loved all the right things in the right way. He loved Jesus first; he loved his family second; he loved his ministry after that. He loved students, he loved this school, and he loved the Southern Baptist Convention. He turned down job positions where he could make more money than he made as a seminary professor, but the wealth he turned down is not worthy to be compared to the riches he poured into students decade after decade. Nor is it comparable to millions who’ve heard the Gospel because of him training thousands of preachers. He was where he was supposed to be; he belonged at Southwestern.”
Roy Fish’s son, Steve, delivered the message. He spoke of growing up in the Fish household with a dad who was a man of prayer and a passionate evangelist. Steve recalled numerous times when his father would share the Gospel with neighbors, strangers, waitresses, and people they met on family vacations.
“This man was not sharing the Gospel because it was his job; it wasn’t his profession,” Steve Fish said of his father. “It wasn’t something he wanted to leave behind on vacation. It was his passion. It was his life. It was his very breath.”
Steve recalled how his father knew the spiritual condition of all his neighbors and how he loved and prayed for each one of them regularly. Even in his final days in the hospital, Roy Fish asked each nurse who attended him if she had a relationship with Jesus Christ. All but one professed to know Christ, and he was burdened for that one who was still lost.
Steve Fish reminded those in the memorial service about the power of the Gospel that his father preached and how it continues to thrive. He pointed to 2 Timothy 2:1 as a reminder of Roy Fish’s legacy.
“The legacy that Roy Fish carried did not go with him to the grave,” Steve said in reference to the Gospel. “That legacy is in this room right now. That legacy has been imparted to us, that something amazingly precious has been imparted to us through this man. No amount of money can buy the spiritual things that have been entrusted to us.
“We are not here this morning to simply honor and remember the life of a man, but we are here before the Lord to take up that legacy. We are here to respond afresh to heaven’s call.”
Roy Fish served Southwestern for nearly 50 years and once occupied the L. R. Scarborough Chair of Evangelism (“The Chair of Fire”). Preaching in churches around the world, his name has become synonymous with “evangelism” throughout the Southern Baptist Convention.
After earning his bachelor’s degree at the University of Arkansas in 1952, Fish moved to Southwestern Seminary, where he earned his Bachelor of Divinity (equivalent to the M.Div.) and his Doctor of Theology. As a professor at Southwestern, Fish impacted the lives of thousands of students, many who credit their professor with instilling a fire for evangelism in their souls. For many years, Fish organized the annual Spring Break Revival Practicum (now called Revive This Nation), as the seminary sent out hundreds of student preachers across the United States to preach revivals in local churches.
Fish held several prominent denominational positions, including interim president of the North American Mission Board and second vice-president of the Southern Baptist Convention. He served as pastor or interim pastor at more than 20 churches, and he spoke and preached at conventions, conferences and churches in every continent except Antarctica. He authored several books and numerous articles and essays on evangelism. He received the W.A. Criswell Lifetime Award in Evangelism from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC), the Charles G. Finney Award for Evangelism in Theological Education, and an honorary doctorate from Southwest Baptist University. In 2006, the SBTC established the Roy Fish Evangelism Award.
In 2005, Southwestern honored Fish when the seminary’s division of evangelism and missions in the School of Theology was reorganized and named the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions. The seminary later designated Oct. 10, 2007, as “Roy Fish Day,” honoring Fish during a special chapel service and reception.
Fish is survived by his wife, Jean Holley Fish, and their grown children: Steve and Marci Fish, Holli and Dan Lancaster; Jeff and Holly Fish; and Jennifer and Charles Pastoor. He is also survived by 15 grandchildren.
The video of Dr. Roy Fish’s memorial service can be seen at www.swbts.edu/RoyFishMemorial.
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