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.