Congregants of New Destiny Christian Center are preparing for Friday's wake to remember their pastor Zachery Tims.
The sudden death of the Florida megachurch leader has drawn both praise of the ministry he led and speculation about the private life he lived.
Tims, 42, was found dead in a New York hotel room Aug. 12. Police later revealed that a small bag of white powder was found in his pocket -- and rumors of a drug-related death soon followed.
An initial autopsy returned inconclusive. Now, investigators are waiting on toxicology results, as well as tests on the powder.
Meanwhile, many have come to Tims' defense, urging people to respect his family and not jump to conclusions.
"Let's ignore the negativity. Let's keep those who know nothing of what Pastor Zach did for the community and his spiritual family in high prayer," one supporter wrote on New Destiny's Facebook page. "[Their] comments will never change how we see him, nor do they have an impact on our walks with God!"
Tims was open about his troubled past, which included violence and drug use.
"At the age of 14 I shot a man and tried to kill him. I was locked up till I was 16. I was a drug addict till I was 19," Tims said just last month on the Trinity Broadcasting Network show, "Praise the Lord."
Lessons to be Learned
But it's Tims' admitted year-long affair with a stripper in 2009, and the mysterious substance found on him after his death that has many talking.
"I am grateful for the work he did helping others, but don't make excuses for the man. A person can run a great race and finish poorly, or not at all," one visitor commented on CBNNews.com. "I hope no drugs are found in him, so his legacy can be the people he helped instead of how he finished his race. Love the man, and use discernment at the same time."
On his blog, Charisma magazine contributing editor J. Lee Grady said it's sad that Christians have to come forth yet again to explain a church scandal. He feels, "God has something sobering to say to us through the death of this popular preacher."
"We don't know yet exactly why Tims died in his room on the 37th floor at the W Hotel in Manhattan. Police are still investigating," Grady wrote. "But I believe this tragedy could have been avoided if Tims and the people in his inner circle had followed the forgotten principle of biblical discipline."
Grady noted that following the affair, Tims admitted to an "indiscretion" and went through counseling. But he said the pastor "didn't take serious time off for rehabilitation" and was soon back on billboards and making appearances despite his downfall and eventual divorce.
Afraid of Hell
In 2006, Tims shared his testimony of coming to Christ with Charisma.
He said it wasn't until someone explained to him the reality of Hell that he began to fear the life he was living. Tims then had a dream of being dragged to Hell by deamons.
"I ran down the street to my co-worker's house and told him, 'I'm ready!' I didn't want to go to hell," Tims recalled.
And even with his imperfections, those who knew him well believe he's in Heaven today.
"My spiritual dad, missing you so much," a supporter wrote on Facebook. "Despite my natural feelings, the spirit of God in me rises up and reminds me, 'Absent from the body is present with the Lord.'"
Tims leaves behind four children, one with cerebral palsy. He and his ex-wife Riva vacationed with the kids a week before his death.
Friday's public viewing will be held at New Destiny Christian Center from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and will be streamed live online. A private memorial service will take place 11 a.m. Saturday at First Baptist Church of Orlando.