‘Left Behind’ co-author dies, had ties to Forsyth County church

The Rev. Richard Lee, founding pastor of First Redeemer Church in Cumming, remembers the time he got a call from longtime friend Tim LaHaye about a new book.

LaHaye wasn’t interested in selling “Jesus: Who is He?” in Atlanta; he wanted to give it away.

“He called me one day and asked if I would give away copies of that book to the people of Atlanta,” said Lee, then pastor of Rehoboth Baptist Church in Tucker. LaHaye paid a “very large sum” of money for Lee to make a video that aired on a local television station, he said.

“He gave away literally thousands and thousands of copies, and he paid for the mailing. Those were books that cost around $38 or $40 each. He simply wanted to minister to the people who may be hurting and tell them about the love of Jesus.”

LaHaye, an influential evangelical leader, died Monday in a San Diego area hospital, shortly after suffering a stroke. He was 90.

LaHaye was already a best-selling author when he called Lee. He had written numerous books on marriage and temperament.

But it was his best-selling 16-book “Left Behind” series, written with Jerry B. Jenkins, that propelled him to international fame. The series sold more than 80 million copies.

“Thrilled as I am that he is where he has always wanted to be, his departure leaves a void in my soul I don’t expect to fill until I see him again,” Jenkins said of LaHaye’s death, according to the Christian News Service.

Jenkins said that LaHaye had become a “spiritual giant.”

Lee and LaHaye had been friends for more than three decades.

“He was a good man,” Lee said. “Tim was one of the most prolific writers in the history of Christendom.”

LaHaye and his wife, Beverly, often came to Atlanta to hold conferences on marriage and biblical prophecy. His wife was the founder of Concerned Women for America.

When Lee left Rehoboth and went to Forsyth County to establish a new church, the LaHayes were there to support him — financially and spiritually.

“Tim and his wife joined our church during the first month of existence,” Lee said. Although, LaHaye never lived in metro Atlanta, “he had the vision of what kind of church could be built in the area that we showed him. He said, ‘Although I travel and speak every Sunday, every Sunday I’m not traveling I’ll be in Atlanta and at church there.’”

He made good on his promise for many years. The congregation at First Redeemer later voted to make the LaHayes lifetime members — the only ones to hold that honor. The church has between 5,000 and 6,000 members.

The last time Lee saw his friend was about three weeks ago. Lee was speaking at a Faith & Freedom Coalition conference in Washington, with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and others.

LaHaye was sitting in the front row. Lee hugged him and thanked him for all he had done.

“One of the things I remember most about him was his humility and graciousness,” Lee said. “There was no pretense. He was a fine man.”

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