"Just because you came to church today doesn't mean death is not out there waiting for you," said 62-year-old Bishop Barnett K. Thoroughgood to his congregation at New Jerusalem Church of God in Christ, the Virginian-Pilot reported
"Some of us think that we're going to live forever," Thoroughgood said, his baritone voice booming. "Because you're not sick, because you have good health, and you think you have plenty of time. But you don't know where death is standing.
Minutes after he finished his sermon,Thoroughgood looked into the face of church member Leatrice Pierre
and said one word: pray.
The 6-foot-4 preacher sat down and collapsed in his chair.
Stunned, church members embraced and prayed together while church leaders, then paramedics, worked to revive him, to no avail. He was pronounced dead on the scene, according to members who were present.
"He always said when he died, he wanted to go away preaching the word of God," Mekia Thoroughgood, the bishop's daughter, said to the Virginian-Pilot as she wept. "He passed away doing exactly what he lived for."
Mekia told WAVY.com
, her father "loved the people, loved helping, loved his family and he loved his wife."
And they loved him.
According his biography,
Bishop Barnett Karl Thoroughgood was born November 7, 1949 in Virginia Beach to the parentage of Mr. John Thomas Thoroughgood and Mrs. Mildred B. Cooper Thoroughgood.
They loved the man, who as a son of a preacher, began preaching himself at the age of 5, sharing Jesus with prisoners he saw in the summer digging ditches in his neighborhood. Even then it seemed he had way to see and then touch the brokenness in others.
"Some of the men - usually the older ones - would cry," Thoroughgood told The Virginian-Pilot in 1987.
And by the time he hit 16, he began delivering sermons at a Chesapeake church where his father was pastor. This early experience combined with delivering sermons at his father's church as a teen, planted the seeds that lead him to start his church ministry when he was 20 "with two members and a small church house that lacked running water."
In 1970, Bishop Thoroughgood founded the New Jerusalem Church of God in Christ.
That small church eventually increased to 2,000, becoming one of the largest churches in the community.
In 2007, CBN's
"The 700 Club" named New Jerusalem its "Church of the Week."
But his members say, his goal wasn't to be the largest, or the most well known or to prop up his own status by broadcasting the celebrity status of members in his congregation that call him pastor or "Pop" as a spiritual father such as Teddy Riley, Pharell Williams, Missy Elliot and Timbaland.
"He was only interested in saving souls," Eric Curry wrote of the bishop on Twitter
. Thoroughgood married he and wife in his church office because they couldn't afford a big wedding. "He had the heart of a servant and never ever did anything for money or fame."
Shortly after learning about his death, Timbaland, whose mother Thoroughgood turned to and asked to pray before he died, tweeted
his hundreds of thousands of followers saying, "i am sittin here in shock. the news is overwhelming so i just lay in bed & stare. some of you may have seen him on my true Hollywood story."
Timberland highlighted the Bishop in his recent E! True Hollywood story
special and spoke about how he would spend $50,000 for a ticket on a private jet just to fly home to hear one of the bishop's sermons and leave right back out afterward.
Recording artist Pharrell Williams, a Virginia Beach native echoes Timbaland's sentiment. Williams paid to install video equipment in the church so he and others could stream Throroughgood's messages anywhere in the world, reported the Virginian-Pilot.
According to his online obituary,
Bishop Thoroughgood leaves behind his wife of 39 years, Mrs. Ernestine Thoroughgood; his sons Bertram, Emmanuel, and Jonnathan; One daughter, Mekia Bonita and five grandchildren.
Timbaland later tweeted,"Rest in peace to my pastor, a true angel, Bishop Barnett K Thoroughgood."