The Life and Death of Bob Kinney

“It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:2). Today is a day of feasting. But yesterday was a day of mourning. I want to enjoy today’s pleasures with yesterday’s perspective.

Bob Kinney died of a massive heart attack on Saturday, November 19. He was working on an outdoor project with a family member when he died. He attended First Baptist Church of Fairfield, Illinois, right off I-64 between St. Louis and Louisville. Left to grieve and to remember are his wife Sheila and three children — two married, and one enrolled at Boyce College where I work. Bob Kinney was 47.

I didn’t know Bob Kinney — had never heard of him — until late Saturday night. But I learned a lot yesterday at his funeral. I only wish I could’ve met the man. One day I will.

Bob was a petroleum geologist in the smalltown Midwest. At some point later in his life God got ahold of him in a new, fresh, and powerful way. Bob recognized that he had grown stagnant and lukewarm. He couldn’t stay this way. By the work of the Spirit of God, Bob was lit on fire. He began devouring the Bible, leading his family toward Christ, and exhorting others to do the same. He longed for revival, in himself and in others.

A close friend from Kansas gave the eulogy. He spoke about Bob’s constant joy. Joy in his family, joy in his friendships, joy in his work, joy in serving, joy in the Lord. Bob once drove 14 hours to Kansas simply to express to his friend that he sensed a growing distance in their relationship. Bob asked, “Have I done anything to offend you?” Nothing had been done — just the common tension of busy schedules, limited time, and overwhelmed lives. But Bob was committedly biblical. He left his offering (and everything else) at the altar and went to be reconciled. And he didn’t ask, “What’s the problem?” or worse, “What’s your problem?” He asked, “Have I done something wrong?” The wise man said, “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24b). The wise man would’ve loved Bob Kinney.

Pastor Bennie Tomberlin preached a wise, passionate, courageous, and sensitive sermon, interweaving poignant lessons from the Bible with Bob Kinney’s shining life. This smalltown pastor comforted, challenged, reminisced, and most of all, shared Jesus Christ. What passage did he turn to? Genesis 5:21-24: the life and departure of Enoch.

Enoch breaks the dark rhythm of the Genesis 5 genealogy. The death-knell rings hauntingly throughout Genesis 5, but pauses at Enoch.

  • “Seth lived… he fathered… and he died” (Genesis 5:6-8).
  • “Enosh lived… he fathered… and he died” (Genesis 5:9-11).
  • “Kenan lived… he fathered… and he died” (Genesis 5:12-14).
  • “Mahalalel lived… he fathered… and he died” (Genesis 5:15-17).
  • “Jared lived… he fathered… and he died” (Genesis 5:18-20).

But then: “Enoch lived… he fathered… he walked with God… he fathered… he walked with God… and he was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:21-24). Enoch’s life was distinguished from his contemporaries. Enoch walked with God.

But Enoch’s life was also distinguished from his contemporaries in another significant way: its length. Seth lived 912 years, Enosh 905, Kenan 910, Mahalalel 895, Jared 962, Methuselah 969, Lamech 777. Enoch? Only 365. Enoch’s was a life cut short, and his departure was an untimely passing. But his life was shortened by a homecoming, a heavenly invitation. Indeed: “By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:5-6).

Bob Kinney, said Pastor Bennie, was walking the happy peak of personal spiritual revival. He was devouring the Bible, investing in his grown children, teaching his Sunday School class with gusto, exhorting and encouraging his fellow saints, and saying (even the very morning of his death) that he was longing to see the face of God. He wanted more of God, more of God’s Word, and more gospel life and flavor and impact in his church, in his community, and around the globe. Bob Kinney was walking with God.

I hate to watch what this family is going through with a surprise death and a vibrant life cut seemingly short. I hurt to see the tears and sobs that run so much deeper and will last so much longer than just the past few days of shock and mourning. But I am so glad I got to know Bob Kinney, even for a short hour as his body lay still in the coffin beneath the pulpit. For “through his faith, though he died, he still speaks” (Hebrews 11:4b). I want to listen well, and to follow him.


3 thoughts on “The Life and Death of Bob Kinney

  1. I was so touched by this. Life is so precious. I talked to Bob about every other week out at my job. I work for Murphy Oil(little gas station here in Ffld). I would chat a minute with him when he paid for his gas. It was so obvious to me that he had a bright light within in his heart. I know that light was Jesus. What a testimony he had. I have every day since his passing, thought of him and his family and been praying for them. I am a Chrisitian but I do not live as close to God as I should. I want to be closer to Jesus. To find that spark again that I had when I first accepted Christ into my life as a small child. I pray to find that place of peace and serenity that Bob had in his life. He touched so many peoples lives with his amazing witness. I continue to pray for his beloved family and that God will show them the way through this loss of their dear loved one. Go bless!

  2. While I am very sad for his family, who will miss him dearly, Bob’s testimony is powerful and encouraging for all. It’s a great tribute to see this article and hope it provides comfort.

  3. Very touching! My prayers r with the family through this very difficult time. Hoping they find confort in that they will meet again!

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