A Tribute to Keith McCaslin

Keith McCaslin, the man who taught me how to preach, died yesterday.  He was one of my favorite people.

Our relationship evolved over the years in ways I never would have imagined.  When I was 19, he was my teacher.  In my 20’s and 30’s, he was a sounding board and advisor.  In my 40’s and 50’s he became my cheerleader.  I can’t tell you how many emails I got from him praising my writing and encouraging me to stay with it.  Words cannot express what his support and encouragement meant to me.

Keith was many things.  Many wonderful things.  But one thing he always wanted to be was a novelist.  I’m not sure how many people know this.  He once sent me a novel he wrote, which I thought had tremendous potential.  My only criticism was that it was too short.  Word count matters to publishers and I told him he needed to find a way to expand the story a little.  But the quality of the writing showed a real talent at work.

Keith was also a resource for me.  I’ve written several books about Old Testament characters (Samson, Caleb, Solomon) and I frequently asked for his take on Scripture verses that seemed a little fuzzy.  His answers were always very thoughtful and detailed.

But my favorite thing about Keith was his sense of humor.  One story in particular says it all.

About 20 years ago I invited him to Florida to preach a revival at Poinciana Christian Church.  Just before the first service started, he said, “I’m going to step into the restroom.  I’ll be right back.”

A couple of minutes later he stepped up beside me and whispered in my ear, “Oh man, I almost broke the first rule of homiletics.”

I gave a little laugh, but the truth was that I had no idea what the first rule of homiletics was.  I’d sat through all of his classes and preached for 20 years, but nothing was flashing in my memory about a first rule of homiletics.  I was embarrassed and loathe to admit to my former homiletics professor that I didn’t know what he was talking about.

That’s when I noticed that he had a sly look on his face.

He said, “You do know what the first rule of homiletics is, don’t you?”

Sheepishly, I said, “Um, no, I guess I don’t.  What is it?”

He said, “Zip up your pants.”

I exploded in laughter.  The people in that small auditorium all turned and looked at us.  Keith was trying to look dignified, and failing.  We snickered and giggled for a minute, then walked up and started the service.

I am a better man for having known Keith.  I rejoice in his graduation to heaven and pray that God’s peace will comfort his family and friends.

 

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7 Responses to A Tribute to Keith McCaslin

  1. Kathy Wennlund says:

    He was absolutely one of the BEST, preacher, teacher and human beings I have ever known!

  2. Dolores says:

    Mark,
    So sorry for the loss of your friend. I am sure by your writing that he gave
    you many words of encouragement. May God touch you with peace and
    comfort in your sorrows. I smiled when you gave us a memory of him.
    God and memories is what keeps us going!!

  3. Denny Leerhoff says:

    I, have a funny story to share with you regarding Keith McCaslin. During my Freshman year at St. Louis Christian College, we were giving demonstration speeches in our Forms Of Public Address class and I was giving a demonstration speech on how to care for and putting contact lenses in and out of your eyes. When Keith McCaslin gave me my evaluation of my demonstration speech, Keith wrote down, “No pun intended, but not enough eye contact”.

  4. Gary Hall says:

    Keith McCaslin was a dear family friend to my wife’s family (the Zeiglers). My father-in-law was instrumental in leading Keith to Christ & Keith graciously consented to conduct my father-in-laws funeral many years ago in New Castle, PA. The thing I remember about him is the story he told at the funeral of a man who was observing some ants as they marched single file across the ground carrying an empty cocoon. It seems as if they were taking it to its place of burial while overhead the butterfly soared, released from the bondage of this world. I have told that story many times at the graveside. I am sorry for his family’s loss but joyful for the release he has received as he has entered into glory. The cocoon is empty but the butterfly is free at last!

  5. M.R.R. says:

    My condolences.

  6. Mary Poston says:

    Although I haven’t seen Mr. McCaslin for years – I will always remember him as a very generous and kind man.

  7. One of my regrets in life was not attending Bible college. I did, however, take several of Keith’s 8 week classes he taught at the Christian Church of Litchfield. His books, his teaching methods, and most of all his revival preaching not only inspired me to preach, but also to follow his model. He was, in ALL ways, my training on how to preach. Many hours I spent listening to tapes of his sermons, analyzing them, dissecting them, then trying to model mine after them. 22 years later, I still ask myself, “How would Keith explain this passage?” But more than a role model, Keith was a giant in the faith. His love for God and his family will never be forgotten. May God grant his family and all who knew him, peace and comfort.
    1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

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