Dr Cairns, a long-time clerical associate of the late Rev Dr Ian Paisley, served the Free Presbyterian church for 25 years in the United States as pastor of Faith Free Presbyterian church, in Greenville, South Carolina, before retiring and being named pastor emeritus in 2007.
Prior to moving to the United States, Dr Cairns, a south Belfast man, pastored in Free Presbyterian churches in Dunmurry and Ballymoney.
Dr Cairns also was professor of theology at the Whitefield College of the Bible in Gilford, Co Down and lectured at the Geneva Reformed seminary in Greenville.
He was an accomplished preacher, author and wrote a best-selling dictionary of theological terms, which went into several prints, both in the UK and US.
He was also responsible for setting up the ‘Let the Bible Speak’ radio ministry.
Armagh Free Presbyterian church minister and News Letter columnist the Rev David McMillan said Dr Cairns was “revered” as a pastor and preacher. He was a renowned Biblical expositor with his Christ-centered focus and gifts of scriptural insight.
“Dr Cairns was widely known”, said Mr McMillan, “as ‘the theologian’ within our church and he played a key role in the advancement of Free Presbyterianism globally, particularly in North America.
“He was secretary for a number of years of the World Congress of Fundamentalist churches.”
Dr Cairns, who is survived by his North Belfast-born wife Joan and son Frank, returned to spend his retirement years in Northern Ireland after his South Carolina ministry.