VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- As one Church of God in Christ leader after another took to the podium for Bishop Barnett K. Thoroughgood's memorial service, it became clear of the mark he left not only in his own congregation, but for countless others in the network of churches he belonged to.
The 62-year-old passed away in the pulpit Sunday, Feb. 5, just after delivering a powerful message to his New Jerusalem Church of God in Christ in Virginia Beach, Va.
He was described by those who knew him well as the "go to" person whenever that extra wisdom and direction was needed.
"When we would go to Thoroughgood, [he] would do thoroughly good. And it came out the same every time," Pastor Ronald A. Watson, superintendent of the Church of God in Christ Covington district, said.
"In every area of ministry he was a master," he added. "He was a big man with a great big heart."
Bishop Richard White, pastor of Gospel Temple Church of God in Christ, said he spent many of his 52 years of preaching sharing God's word with Thoroughgood's church. He said he cried "like never before" when learning of his friend's death.
"Sunday, Bishop Barnett Thoroughgood brought his last message and fell out at home plate," White said after telling an anecdote about a New York umpire.
"I dare you to go like this!" he continued, waving his arms. "Tell somebody he's safe!"
Watch part of the memorial service for Bishop Thoroughgood.
Throughgood's adopted son, Elder Patrick Riddick, told CBN News his father had heart complications.
"His final wish was to be here with the saints, and he said, 'If I go, son, I want to go on the battlefield. I want to be in my pulpit preaching the Gospel,'" Riddick said. "And ultimately we know he's happy because the Lord honored his request."
Regent University theology Professor Antipas Harris said Thoroughgood was a mentor to him. Harris said the bishop believed every pastor should be educated and filled with the Holy Spirit.
"We knew of his leadership by what he did. He transformed the community around his church," he told CBN News. "He invested in the lives of the homeless, the broken."
Bishop Thoroughgood founded New Jerusalem Church of God in Christ more than 40 years ago. His son said he started the church in a three-room flat and preached his first sermon to himself.
Since then, the church has grown to more than 2,000 members.
Thoroughgood was laid to rest after a national homegoing service Feb. 10. He is survived by his wife of 39 years, a daughter and three sons.
Thoroughgood was known for having a "praise break" in the middle of his sermons. Friday, thousands of family members, friends and congregants returned the favor, shouting thanks to God for an excellent leader.
*Published Feb. 10, 2012.