The San Diego-based Maranatha Chapel of California has lost one of its founders to COVID. Pastor Ray Bentley, who helped in founding the influential Evangelical megachurch, passed away from COVID complications on Tuesday afternoon. He was 64.
"With grieving hearts, we need to let you know that our dear Pastor Ray went home to be with the Lord this afternoon due to complications of COVID," the Maranatha Chapel said in a statement posted on its Facebook page. "We are all in shock and heartbroken. We find comfort in knowing that he is rejoicing in heaven with his beloved Jesus."
Maranatha Chapel called upon the faithful to pray for Bentley's wife, Vicki, their family, and the church. Harvest Christian Fellowship's senior pastor, author Greg Laurie took to Twitter to offer his condolences, writing, "So sad to hear that my friend, Pastor Ray Bentley died due to complications from COVID. Death does not have the final word, Christ does! Ray is alive and well in Heaven! He will be deeply missed."
According to the Christian Post, NBC 7 San Diego news anchor Monica Dean, whose family was baptized by Bentley, took to Facebook to share her thoughts on the pastor's passing, describing him as "a spiritual leader, a profound biblical teacher, an inspired author, a mentor."
Dean wrote that Bentley was "a shepherd to a global congregation. He loved others with the heart of Jesus and reminded us regularly 'God is good all the time.'"
Meanwhile, bestselling Evangelical author and EO of Near East Media, Joel C. Rosenberg, who is based in Israel, took to Twitter to pay his respects to the late Maranatha Chapel co-founder. He shared his gratitude for Bentley's love for Jesus, his passion for the Bible and "deep love for Israel."
According to Newsweek, Bentley co-founded the Maranatha Chapel in August 1984, at a time when he began teaching a small Bible study in a recreation center with just 30 people. The small congregation outgrew the space in just three months and moved to a local junior high school, where they held Sunday morning services. It was in March 1990 when the church established its first official facility on 4.5 acres of land before breaking ground in 1996 in Rancho Bernardo, where it is currently headquartered.
Today, Maranatha Chapel is home to a weekly congregation of up to 7,000 throughout its various ministries. The church is also informally associated with Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, as they shared its philosophical and spiritual values and through the participation of its pastors in intra-church conferences.
Aside from being a pastor, Bentley was an author of "The Holy Land Key: Unlocking End Times Prophecy Through the Lives of God's People in Israel." He also established the outreach ministry called The Nehemiah Fund, which advocates for Israel and its neighboring countries. Bentley is survived by his wife, Vicki, with whom he shared 40 years of marriage with, two children, and six grandchildren.