Bryant, Orlando church remember city-born pastor
Bianca Prieto and Jeff Kunerth of the Orlando Sentinel report:
Members of Pastor Zachery Tims' New Destiny Christian Center packed the sanctuary Monday night for prayers, praise and testimonials following the death of the 42-year-old minister.
Tims' ex-wife, Riva Tims, told the capacity crowd of 2,000 that Tims enjoyed a family vacation in Puerto Rico a week before his death. The Timses, who were divorced in 2009, have four children.
"He was able to have fellowship with his daughters and sons," said Riva Tims, pastor of Majestic Life Church in Orlando.
Church officials announced that Tims' funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at First Baptist Church of Orlando. A wake and public viewing will be held from 3-7 p.m. Friday at New Destiny Christian Center in Apopka.
Jamal Bryant, a pastor at Empowerment Temple AME in Baltimore and a friend of Zachery Tims' from there, told church members that New Destiny will continue without Tims.
"You are not a personality-driven church. You are a purpose-driven church," Bryant said. "Pastor Zack's DNA is now on you. You are infected with excellence."
Although much of the service was joyous praise and singing, Bryant told the congregation that it was fitting to mourn the passing of their spiritual leader.
"Allow yourself the liberty to grieve. Allow yourself the freedom to cry," he said.
New Destiny Minister Wanda Robinson told the congregation that the cause of Tims' death on Friday night in a New York hotel room had not been determined.
Church member Jacob Moby said the cause of Tims' death would not change his mind about the pastor who inspired and encouraged his family to become better people.
"We celebrate the life he led and the legacy he left," said Moby, 45, of Orlando.
Earlier in the day, Tims' fellow pastors said Central Florida lost one of its most promising, up-and-coming ministers.
The Rev. Randolph Bracy Jr. said Tims was a charismatic preacher who appealed to young people in a way that few ministers could. He spoke to them about the issues of teen pregnancy, drugs, poverty and crime from a background of growing up troubled in Baltimore.
"That is where I think he stood apart. That was the background he came out of, and his ministry was shaped for those who had these kinds of problems," said Bracy, pastor of New Covenant Baptist Church in Orlando. "He filled a void that was tremendously lacking in the Central Florida area."
The Rev. Willie C. Barnes, head of the African American Council of Christian Clergy of Central Florida, said ministers will hold a pastoral prayer vigil at noon today at the Mt. Olive AME Church, 2525 W. Church St., Orlando.
"We lost one of our leaders," said Barnes, pastor of Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in Eatonville.
Barnes said Tims will be remembered as a minister who reached people who don't normally attend church.
"His ministry was very, very powerful, especially to young people. He brought a different style of ministry, and it reached a lot of the younger generation because it wasn't so traditional," Barnes said.
Barnes cited Tims' youth ministry and his programs that gave young people a place to go and things to do at night other than hanging out on the streets.
"It was a great ministry and a wonderful ministry, and I expect it to continue," he said.
On a national level, Dallas megachurch pastor T.D. Jakes sent his condolences out on Twitter: "DEEPLY saddened to hear of the passing of Pastor Tims @ztims ... praying for his family and church"
Tims, whose Apopka-based church has one of the largest congregations in Central Florida, was found dead at about 6 p.m. Friday. The housekeeping staff at the W Hotel discovered the pastor dead after attempting to clean the room. It's not clear how long he was dead before he was discovered or why he was in New York City.
The Office of Chief Medical Examiner, city of New York, is working to determine how Tims died. His body was claimed from the medical examiner by a Brooklyn funeral home on Monday, according to Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the ME's office there.
"The cause of death is pending further study," Borakove said. Toxicology testing is part of the analysis done to determine cause of death, she said. A determination will not likely be available until later this month.
A New York City police official told the Orlando Sentinel early Monday that Tims' death did not appear suspicious.
Later in the day, NYPD Detective Martin Speechley said, "It's an ongoing investigation. I cannot comment further."
New Destiny had a growing membership of more than 7,500 worshippers. Much of Tims' success was his ability to make biblical concepts accessible to people -- using props and visual devices with his sermons. He was also one of the first to utilize billboards to publicize his church and himself.
"Zack Tims was one of the first persons, particularly in the African American community, to use billboards to make sure he was seen in the community where the church did not go," said Bishop Richard T. Davis of the Church of Healing and Prosperity in Orlando. "He coined the phrase, 'A church that is alive is worth the drive.' "
A longtime member said Tims' "influence far exceeded the Apopka ministry and his death may be God's way of telling the world to wake up."
"He was an international pastor. He was known all over the world," said Madonna Alexis of Waterford Lakes. Alexis said she started attending New Destiny in 1996, but has since left.
A bouquet of roses was wedged in the locked front doors of Apopka's New Destiny church early Monday, beneath a sign that said, "The church will make a public statement at 7 p.m."
Zachery and Riva Tims were married in Baltimore on Jan. 8, 1994, and two years later started New Destiny in an Orlando hotel room. The congregation quickly began to grow.
In 2001, the church purchased 21 acres off East McCormick Road in Apopka after outgrowing a church on Powers Drive in Orlando.
Just four years later, New Destiny built a $3.4 million, 34,000-square-foot center as a safe place where area youths could hang out after school.
Zachery Tims preached the "prosperity gospel," which is the belief that God answers the prayers of those seeking success. He was an example of his own theology. According to divorce documents, Tims earned about $33,400 a month in 2009, owned a $2.2 million Windermere home, spent $1,500 a month on clothing, had $437,300 in the bank, and drove both a 2004 Hummer and a 2008 BMW. Giving back to the church, he tithed $3,500 a month.
He also wrote a book titled "It's Never Too Late: How a teenage criminal found his divine destiny and became a successful millionaire and pastor of a thriving church."
Riva Tims said she was fired from the church by her husband a year before she filed for divorce in November 2008.
Initially stated as "irreconcilable differences," a reason behind the divorce, according to Riva Tims, was her husband's alleged "multiple and repeated extramarital sexual affairs."