Kingdom Warrior: Remembering Dr. Archie Parrish (1932–2019)
As a Navy Corpsman in the Korean War, Archie Parrish found himself in the middle of action far more than he cared to remember. Although, he did remember one particular moment. On this occasion, in the midst of a firefight at the Chosin Reservoir, he found himself next to someone who seemed unusually calm. Archie asked, “Everybody here is either crazy or afraid—which are you?” “Neither,” came the reply. “What is it that you know that I don’t?” asked Archie. He responded to Archie, “It’s not what I know, but Who I know.” Archie then informed him that political connections would not stop bullets. The man replied, “This is not a political connection. It is a personal relationship with the living God.” This man—Archie never learned his name—then told Archie that if he got hit, he knew he’d be with God. If he didn’t get hit, then he’d still be with God. And at that, the man crawled away. This captured Archie’s attention. It would be another eighteen months until he would meet someone who would explain the gospel to him. From the moment of his conversion until his final days, Archie Parrish told people how they could have a personal relationship with the living God.
Though Archie had never even heard the gospel until his early adult years, he quickly made up for lost time. After seminary, he served as associate pastor of Christian education and evangelism at Wallace Presbyterian Church outside of Washington D.C. Since evangelism was in his job title, Archie decided to go to a clinic on evangelism, taught by D. James Kennedy. Kennedy had started Evangelism Explosion in 1962. From its home base at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church near Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Evangelism Explosion reached across the country, igniting a passion for gospel outreach.
That was 1969. Kennedy personally took Archie with him on a door-to-door evangelism outing. Kennedy saw in Archie the gift of evangelism, which prompted Kennedy to invite Archie to join the pastoral staff at Coral Ridge. Ten months later, Archie was teaching his first Evangelism Explosion clinic, held at Coral Ridge, in February of 1970.
Meanwhile, a certain theology professor at Conwell School of Theology had just accepted a call to College Hill Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, as pastor of theology and evangelism.
Like Archie Parrish, R.C. Sproul thought if he had evangelism in his job title, then he should go to this seminar on evangelism at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Florida. Not to mention it was February. That was the first time R.C. Sproul and Archie Parrish met, and it began a forty-eight-year friendship and partnership in the ministry of the gospel. Decades later, in a wheelchair and not in good health, Archie Parrish nevertheless made his way to Sanford, Florida, to attend the memorial service for his dear friend in December of 2017.
Six months after that clinic back in 1970, R.C. called Archie and invited him up to Cincinnati to hold a seminar there at College Hill. By the time they scheduled the seminar, it ended up being one of the last things R.C. did at his post in Cincinnati. He, Vesta, and the family moved back to Pennsylvania and opened the doors of the Ligonier Valley Study Center in 1971.
Meanwhile, Evangelism Explosion incorporated in 1972, and Archie was busy. He would crisscross the country leading seminars. Then he would cross the globe, visiting over forty countries, teaching pastors and laity how to present the gospel.
Archie Parrish also made his way to the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in Western Pennsylvania to teach students at the Ligonier Valley Study Center. In 1977, R.C. invited Archie on the board. While Ligonier had a board from the beginning, initially made up of staff and people internally connected, the board began adding external members in the 1970s, Archie Parrish and Chuck Colson among them. Archie held the title of emeritus member of the board until the time of his death.
Archie served with Evangelism Explosion for thirteen years. He later founded Serve International and acted as its president. Two things marked Archie Parrish’s ministry: evangelism and prayer.
Not satisfied with his own prayer life, Archie launched a personal study through the Bible on the topic of prayer. His studies kept circling back to the Lord’s Prayer. From there, Archie developed what he called kingdom-focused prayer. This study also led him to two historical figures: Martin Luther and Jonathan Edwards. His time with Luther resulted in the book A Simple Way to Pray: The Wisdom of Martin Luther on Prayer. His time with Edwards led to The Spirit of Revival: Discovering the Wisdom of Jonathan Edwards, a book he cowrote with R.C. Sproul.
In the final years of his life, health issues prevented Archie from traveling and speaking. So, he prayed. He printed out the staff directories of the leadership team at Ligonier and the faculty of Reformation Bible College and he prayed for each one by name every morning. He said that as you get older, there’s less you can do physically. You can get huffy or bitter about that, or you can see it as God’s way of calling you to co-labor with Christ in the ministry of intercession.
If you called Archie, he would ask you how he could pray for you. Most phone calls ended with prayer. Sitting in his chair in a tree-lined suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, Archie prayed around the globe. He had friends just about everywhere, and they all knew he was praying for them. He thrilled at the news of the gospel’s advance. He longed to see awakening, to see God’s kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Praying was Archie’s full-time job. He said of prayer, “I think that it may be more powerful than anything else I’ve ever done.”
Dr. Archie Parrish, kingdom warrior, went into the presence of the living God on October 19, 2019.