Pastor of Main Street Baptist Church is remembered as 'giant of gospel ministry'
By Jennifer Hewlett
Elder D.J. Ward believed in the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible as the word of God, and he preached that word for 40 years. And so, as he lay dying in a hospital bed last week, he not only was fully aware of his condition, he knew where death would take him.
Elder Ward, pastor of Lexington’s Main Street Baptist Church for the past 19 years, died of complications from lung cancer Friday at Hospice Care Center at St. Joseph Hospital.
“He witnessed to his faith, even as he was dying,” said the Rev. T.H. Peoples, pastor of Lexington’s Historic Pleasant Green Missionary Baptist Church, a friend. Although Elder Ward was unable to talk, Peoples said, he lifted his hands heavenward as he and Peoples prayed in his hospital room days before his death.
“Lexington has witnessed the home-going of a giant in gospel ministry,” Peoples said.
Elder Ward was a 24-hour-a-day pastor who liked to preach series of sermons, said Florene McGhee, his assistant for the past 31 years.
His last sermon at the church, on April 13, pertained to the book of Romans. Many of his Sunday sermons for the past five years had been about passages in the book of Romans, she said.
“He said you couldn’t rush through Romans, there was so much detail and fullness there,” she said.
“His Thanksgiving sermon each year was one verse from Psalm 116.”
Sometimes Elder Ward’s sermons included mention of his maternal grandmother, Emmer Sims, who influenced his spiritual growth as a child.
“He often referred to Good Mammy in his sermons,” McGhee said.
Elder Ward was known for his strong biblical teachings, his serious nature and his concern for others. He often visited the sick in hospitals and reached out to those who had a death in their family, whether or not they attended his church. He knew each of the several hundred parishioners at Main Street Baptist by name, Peoples said.
“He had a personal touch to his ministry.”
Elder Ward came to Main Street Baptist Church from Mount Zion Baptist Church in Oak Ridge, Tenn., where he preached for 17 years. Before that, he pastored Mount Olivet Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., for four years.
A native of Murray, he was a graduate of Murray’s Douglass High School. He received a degree in theology from American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville.
During Elder Ward’s tenure as pastor of Main Street Baptist Church, the Frederick Braxton Educational Building and the Sovereign Grace Chapel were added to the church. Outreach programs were expanded to include a feeding ministry, a clothing bank, a substance abuse ministry called Exodus and a cancer support group. The Carl Brown Summer Work Program for Youth, in which youths work for local businesses and the church supplies the money for their paychecks, was started. Elder Ward also organized the annual Thomas Page-Brutus Price Brotherhood Retreat and the annual First Lady Day, an appreciation day for the pastor’s wife.
Elder Ward started the denomination’s annual Sovereign Grace Bible Conference while he was pastor of the Oak Ridge church. That conference led to the establishment of the annual Preachers, Ministers and Deacons Conference and the annual Women of Grace Conference.
Elder Ward participated in the latter two conferences in March and April. He preached his last revival April 7 to April 11 in Chattanooga, Tenn.
“He was a warrior. As sick as he was, he stood right with it, preaching right up until just about his death,” Peoples said.
Elder Ward is survived by his wife, Brenda J. Ward; a son, Kimon A. Henderson-Ward of Knoxville, Tenn.; a grandson, Gabriel A. Henderson of Knoxville; four sisters; and six brothers.
Services will be at 1 p.m. Friday at Main Street Baptist Church. The body will be at the church beginning at noon Thursday. Visitation will be at the church Thursday, from 5 to 7 p.m., when a praise and worship/memorial service will begin there. Memorial gifts are suggested to Main Street
Baptist Church. Smith & Smith Funeral Home is handling arrangements.