In his eulogy for Pastor Zachery Tims on Saturday, mega-church evangelist T.D. Jakes compared the preacher to the biblical Jacob, a man with many problems and defects who was renamed Israel.
The names represented two different sides of the same person, Jakes said, just as "Dr. Tims" was different from "Zach."
Jakes, who pastors a 30,000-member congregation in Dallas, said he knew both Dr. Tims — the charismatic, compassionate spiritual leader who ministered to imperfect people — and Zach, who was an imperfect person himself.
"I thought I was the only one who know how unhappy Zach was, how broken he was, how afraid he was if anybody was to see any flaw in him. He tried hard to heal himself, to fix himself," said Jakes, chief pastor of The Potter's House.
As leader of New Destiny Christian Center in Apopka, Dr. Tims could help others with their problems, but Zach couldn't ask for help himself before he was found dead last Friday in a New York hotel room. Tims' death is under investigation, and the cause has not been determined.
"I don't know what happened in that room in New York, but I can only hope that as Zach was dying, Dr. Tims stood up," Jakes said.
About 5,000 people attended the three-and-a-half-hour funeral service at First Baptist of Orlando. It was a cross between a tribute and a tent revival, with songs, prayers, silence, stories and high-volume preaching. There was more rejoicing than weeping, more laughter than grief.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said he could never tell what to expect when he attended a Sunday service at New Destiny, where Tims once preached a sermon about the war to save souls while dressed in combat camouflage.
Another preacher told the story of accompanying Tims to London, where the pastor was mistaken for the actor Will Smith and chose not to correct the misperception.
First Baptist Pastor David Uth confessed his envy of Tims' preaching style: "I've watched Zachery on TV and I've thought, 'God, why can't I preach like that?' I've actually said a few times, you know sometimes being white just gets in the way."
Jakes said Tims sometimes reminded him of a mischievous child who knew he was too cute to scold.
"Zach had a way of acting like he was your kid," Jakes said. "He would come into your house and go straight for the refrigerator. You couldn't say anything, because he'd bust that big old grin on you."
Evangelist Paula White said the smile was Tims' defining feature.
"He smiled with his eyes. His eyes showed the depth of his soul," said White, pastor of Without Walls International Church inTampa.
A few weeks before his death, Tims spoke of dying in a sermon, White recalled: "He said, 'If I die — and I don't want to die — I want you to know I am saved and I'm going to heaven."
TIms' ex-wife, Riva Tims, who started New Destiny with him in 1996, commented on his short but productive life.
"Forty-two years may seem young, but in those 42 years he circled the Earth many times. In those 42 years he achieved goals few could imagine," she said. "Let us not forget what he has accomplished."
Dyer, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, Orange County Commissioner Tiffany Moore Russell, and U.SRep. Corrine Brown all praised Tims for his work in the church and the community.
"You have lost a spiritual leader, New Destiny," Jacobs said, "but we all gained an angel."
About a dozen preachers spoke of their admiration and friendship with Tims. Some called him a mentor. Some called him a brother. Some preached, some sang.
"Dr. Tims had one speed, and that was fast," one said. "He would start getting out of the car before it stopped because he was in a hurry to do the work of the Lord."
Jakes said Tims' life, and death, were a wake-up call for many young preachers who are in a hurry to get somewhere fast. The greater the light, Jakes said, the greater the heat.
"The light burns things you don't want it to burn," he said.
Two hours before the 11 a.m. funeral, the line of mourners snaked from the doors of the First Baptist and around the parking lot. Many of those in line were dressed in black: men in their suits, women in their finest dresses, and children dressed as if for church.
"He made a great impact on the lives of people," said Dorothy Douglas, 58, who joined the church in 1999. "He didn't wait for them to come to him. He went into the neighborhood to bring the church to them."
Saturday, they returned the favor.
Thousands stood in the heat to pay their final respects to their spiritual leader.
"This is for closure and to be supportive of his family. For me, I respected and loved Pastor Zach, but I also loved him as the son I never had. You could approach him. You could talk to Pastor Zach," Douglas said.
Others spoke about Tims' impact on the congregation.
"He has prepared us for this," said Jackie McCall, a 55-year-old church member who joined the congregation three years ago. "We are ready to go on."
Another mourner, Randy Brundidge, 44, met Tims once and saw him preach several times. Brundidge, an elder with the Young Tabernacle Holiness Church in Buffalo, N.Y., was visiting relatives in Orlando when Tims died.
"This takes us by surprise, but it doesn't take God by surprise," Brundidge said. "Thank God I got to meet him. He was a dynamic speaker, but he was down to earth."
Following the funeral service, Zachery Tims Jr. was buried in Woodlawn Memorial Park in Gotha.
email@example.com or 407-420-5392Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times