Pastor's Death in the Pulpit Punctuated Final Message

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Bishop Barnett K. Thoroughgood had just finished his Sunday sermon entitled "I Am Here to Do Battle," when he sat down in his seat behind the pulpit and collapsed.

The New Jerusalem Church of God in Christ leader passed away moments after encouraging his congregation to get right with God.

"If you're going to do battle with the devil, you better know Jesus and have a focused relationship with the Lord," Thoroughgood preached during what would be his last sermon. "God has planned your today and tomorrow. He knows the path you have taken."

Church members prayed and cried as paramedics tried to revive their pastor. A short time later, the 62-year-old bishop was pronounced dead. A pastoral robe now covers his pastoral seat in his memory.

Family and friends were shocked by his sudden death but remembered a life deeply devoted to God.

His 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 Dr. 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.

"They will remember Bishop Barnett Karl Thoroughgood as a man of the people who brought Jesus Christ, salvation, the Gospel of grace to this area and to the world," his friend Elder Simon Richardson said.

A homegoing service will be held at 12 p.m. Friday at the Virginia Beach Convention Center. The news of Thoroughgood's death has gone viral on the Internet.

Hip-hop artists Timbaland, Missy Elliot, and Pharrell Williams are all associated with New Jerusalem. Timbaland's mother attended the bishop's last Sunday service.

Below is Thoroughgood's final 8 a.m. sermon from Sunday, Feb. 5.

Since his passing, an outpouring of messages have been posted to the church's Facebook page.

Thoroughgood's son Emmanuel said that "this is not a time to cry or be upset," but instead to "have a praise break."

"My father made it!" he wrote.

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Mark Martin

CBN News Reporter

Mark Martin is a reporter and anchor at CBN News, covering various issues from military matters to alternative fuels. Mark has reported internationally in the Middle East and traveled to Bahrain to cover stories on the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkMartinCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/MarkMartinCBN.