Leslie The Man I Knew
Karl, the eldest son of Leslie Diestelkamp, recently called and asked if I would write a few things about his father. Having known Leslie for almost forty years and being privileged to be very closely associated with him during the years I spent in the Chicago area in the late fifties and most of the sixties. I am happy and honored to be a part of this tribute to a great and good man.
I first met Leslie in the late summer of 1956 when I was in the Chicago area for meetings in Moms and Elgin. During that three-week stay the first issue of Truth Magazine was printed and prepared for mailing and this began a practice (i.e., the preparation, addressing and mailing of the magazine) of which I was a regular participant after my move to Elgin the following spring. That practice brought several of us together of-ten and it was during this period that I came to be very close to Leslie along with Gordon Pennock and Ray Ferris among others.
Obviously there are many things that could be said about Leslie in an article such as this, but I shall limit myself to three things that especially impressed me about him.
A Man of Conviction
When I first became acquainted with Leslie the brethren in Chicago land were just becoming aware of the issues being raised by institutionalism and the sponsoring church. This awareness was later coming to that area than was the case in most of the southern states. Leslie, having preached in such states as Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota for many years, was widely known, loved and respected by most of the brethren. However, as the aforementioned controversy became more pronounced and the men who stood opposed to institutionalism and its related errors be-came clearly identified, no man in the area suffered greater loss in terms of friends and approving brethren than did Leslie Diestelkamp because he had so many to lose! Yet in all of this he never wavered, even though he suffered a deep hurt as did all of us who similarly experienced such losses. Indeed, throughout his life he always exhibited a strong conviction for the truth of God. I believe his only thought in arriving at any conclusion relative to the word of God was simply this: "What does the Bible teach?" or "For what do we have authority in the New Testament?" And as a man of such deep conviction he has left an example worthy of imitation on the part of everyone who professes to be a follower of Christ, be he a preacher or not.
A Man of Zeal
Paul described Christians as the Lord's "own special people, zealous for good works" (Tit.2:14). Leslie was certainly numbered among such because he always exuded an enthusiasm and zeal for the Lord's cause that was a joy to be around. The first time I ever heard him speak was at the Abilene Lectures in the mid-fifties. This was before I actually met him, but I remember hearing him as he spoke on one of his favorite themes, evangelism. I have always remembered his closing remarks as he exhorted brethren to a greater effort. He said, "If you can push, push; if you can pull, pull; and if you can't do either one, get out of the way!" Those words express graphically the zeal and positive attitude of the man I came to know and to appreciate. He not only preached zeal, but he lived it. He spent all of his years in the "mission field," often in very difficult places and where the saints were few. He even spent some years in far away Nigeria and promoted the cause there until the end of his days. The church of which I am a member has supported a faithful Nigerian preacher for many years because he was known and recommended by Leslie. Truly he was "zealous in a good thing always" (Gal.4:18), and the apostle A Sad Thing, continued from front cover said that "is
A Man of Good Will
One other quality that stands out in my remembrance of Leslie was his good attitude in the midst of any kind of circumstance. As I mentioned earlier, during the controversy over institutionalism wherein he had many past friends to turn against him and often misrepresent him, and this during a time when I was very closely associated with him, he never succumbed to bitterness or rancor. In reading back over those early issues of Truth Magazine I noticed that well after many liberal brethren had cut him off, he was still mentioning many of them in his news briefs and keeping up with their activities.
I have observed in the past that "the issues" in the fifties and sixties never became as inflammatory or bitter as was true in the southern states. Having close family and close friends in the south, as well as reading the various papers written by brethren, I was well aware of the situation there. However, it is my view that attitudes never were as bad in the Chicago area and I attribute that in no small part to the good will and loving attitude of Leslie. I know that some brethren almost equate a "loving attitude" with softness or compromise, but we have already touched on the matter of conviction, and believe me Leslie was not lacking in that. However, he realized that there is no incompatibility between speaking the truth and at the same time being characterized by love and good will (Eph. 4:15). He truly loved even his enemies.
Outside of my own family, there is no man whom I have respected more or has had a greater influence on my life than Lesllie Diestelkamp. He was truly one of my heroes, and I shall miss him here, but I don't expect to miss him over there! Thank You, Lord, for his good life.
Guardian of Truth XXXIX: No. 23, p. 20-21