Elam B. Kuykendall: Friend of God

By Ron Halbrook

Just as Abraham “was called the friend of God,” Elam Kuykendall was by his faith and godly character a friend of God. Elam Brents Kuykendall was born 10 June 1908 in Cookeville, Tennessee and died 3 April1993 in the Decatur General Hospital at the age of 84 years. He had lived in Athens, Alabama for many years.

Both of his grandfathers before him had been gospel preachers: William Y. Kuykendall and James K. Polk Whitefield. Brother Kuykendall himself was named for two gospel preachers: E. A. Elam and T. W. Brents. After his baptism, his first gospel sermon was preached near Campbell’s Station in Tennessee on 16 June 1929 on the subject “Rightly Dividing God’s Word.” He married Mary Goff McElroy in Franklin, Kentucky on 7 February 1932. They lived in Nashville, near Cookeville, and near Murfreesboro, Tennessee during their early married life. After his graduation from David Lipscomb College in June of 1937, the Kuykendalls alternated between living in Nashville and in North Carolina as he worked with churches and continued his education at George Peabody College.

Brother Kuykendall began teaching at David Lipscomb College in 1941 and resumed teaching again in June of 1947 at the Dasher Bible School in Valdosta. Georgia. A year later he moved to Athens, Alabama to teach at Athens Bible School and started a printing business as well. Beginning in September of 1962 he taught industrial arts at Florida Christian College (now Florida College) in Temple Terrace, Florida, but a year later moved back to Athens after suffering a heart attack. On 9 January 1984 his wife passed away.

Brother Kuykendall was a great believer in the power of printed literature to spread the gospel of Christ. Kuykendall Press was a printing business devoted primarily to the publication of religious materials. His daughter, Frances D. Owen, continues to operate this printing business. A monthly magazine named Gospel Digest was started in March of 1943 by W. Clarence Cooke in Denver, Colorado, patterned after the Reader’s Digest. The paper changed hands in 1947 and then was purchased by Bennie Lee Fudge and Elam Kuykendall in December of 1949. It was edited by Fudge through February of 1953 with brother Kuykendall as the production manager. In March of 1953 brother Kuykendall became editor with brother Fudge as associate editor, and this arrangement continued until the Gospel Digest ceased publication with the September of 1961 issue. It was a 32-page paper at the time. These two brethren surveyed 70 publications each month, not including bulletins and news reports, to select material for Gospel Digest! In the April 1953 issue Kuykendall commented,

It is our aim in Gospel Digest to publish articles that teach the truth as revealed in God’s word on as nearly every phase of Christianity as possible.

In any comprehensive effort to teach the truth it is necessary to also condemn error…. It is our aim to teach the truth and condemn error both without and within the church.

From many able writers in recent years come warnings of the danger of apostasy in the church of our Lord. We recognize this danger and shall continue to print articles that discuss the various danger points that confront us (“From the Editor’s Desk,” Gospel Digest, April 1953, p. 1).

For many years he edited a bulletin under the name of The Graphic Evangelist for the Jackson Drive Church of Christ in Athens. (The issue for 8 Oct. 1989 arrived in my mailbox on 27 Oct. 1993!)

A number of tracts were written by brother Kuykendall on such subjects as “How the New Testament Reveals God’s Law to Us.,” “What Must I Do to Be Saved?” “Will Only Members of the Church of Christ Be Saved?” “The Christian’s Day of Worship,” “Woman’s Work in the Church,” -How to Avoid the `Pastor System,”‘ “Dressing to Please God,” and also “Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage.” Whether through the printed page or in the pulpit, brother Kuykendall made his constant appeal to the text of Scripture.

Brother Kuykendall’s son Wayne made the following remarks at his father’s funeral,

You know, many people are born into homes where there is a lot of money, and great wealth. They feel very fortunate. Sometimes we envy them for that wealth. But the three of us, Frances, Ken and 1, were the most fortunate. We were born into a home where God’s name and His Word were revered.

His honesty was not an honesty that was living within the law. His honesty was an integrity that went deeper than just keeping the law. I could relate several, but I’m going to relate one, that just shows that he believed in and lived Ecclesiastes 9:10, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with your might,” and that was including honesty and everything else. But I was probably seventeen or eighteen years old, and I was printing a job for Alabama Supply, printing it on Bond paper. If you know this  I didn’t know this at the time but it’s got a right and wrong side. I printed it on the wrong side. And, I was ready to wrap the job and get out of the print shop and take it to town, glad to get out of the shop. And he looked at it before I wrapped it and said, “You printed it on the wrong side.” I said, “They won’t ever know it. “And he said. “They may not, but I do. Go print it again.” Daddy was an honest man.

And I want to tell this one early story about him that he al-ways found amusing kind of enjoyed telling it. But he and Mother had been married just a very short time, and he was in a meeting in Kentucky. And Daddy was raised a lot poorer than my mother had been  they were both country people, but Daddy and them were just a lot poorer nature. They had eaten ‘possum, and but they would take a ‘possum and feed it, and give it some food for about a week, and grain, and then kill it and eat it. So this lady that was there in the church asked Daddy, “Do you eat ‘possum?”

Daddy said, “Oh, yes.” Mother cringed, but Daddy had already said yes. She said, “Well, my boys went hunting last night and killed one.” And immediately Daddy realized he had made a mistake, because that’s not the kind of ‘possum he was used to eating. But anyway, they went to the house the next day and it was just a very meager place, out in the country; they walked in and they had, on their plates, everybody had a sweet potato  and that was it. They sat down, and Mother was nervous. They brought the ‘possum in on a platter, tail, teeth, everything was there, just grinning at them. Daddy used to say, “I ate a hardy bunch of sweet potatoes.” He managed to eat a little bit of ‘possum. Mother managed to rake hers in her purse when they weren’t looking. And they always chuckled about that story (quotations from transcript “Service in Memory of Elam Brents Kuykendall, April 6, 1993,” pp. 5,6, and 8 respectively, slightly edited for publication here).

My wife and I lived near the Kuykendall’s from late 1967 through most of the summer of 1973. We treasured our every association with them. They were sincere, trans-parent, godly people, without guile of any kind. They each had a keen and clean sense of humor. The influence of such godly people will live on through time and eternity to the glory of God. Our lives are enriched by the ex-ample of such friends of God. The influence of brother Kuykendall can be seen in the fact that some 500 people came through the line at the funeral home the night before the funeral. His body was laid to rest in the Roselawn Cemetery in Athens to await the great Resurrection Day. Not only do I hope that this article will encourage people now to be friends of God as were the Kuykendalls, but also I pray that future generations will be reminded and encouraged by this record of his godly life. Let us stand “every man in his place” in the war-fare against Satan and his hosts, as brother Kuykendall stood, and the Lord will give us the victory in the end (Judges 7:21).

“And They Stood Every Man in His Place”

By Elam B. Kuykendall (1908-93)

Israel had been oppressed by the Midianites for seven years when Gideon was called by God to deliver them. When Israel knew that he was to be their deliverer, 32,000 men gathered to him to help in defeating the great host of Midianites who were encamped in the valley of Jezreel. But to prevent their thinking that their own strength had defeated Midian, God wanted a much smaller army than Gideon. At last the number was reduced to only 300 men. These 300 were divided into three groups, each man being armed with only a trumpet and a pitcher containing a lamp, and were instructed to follow the example of their leader, Gideon. In the middle of the night these three companies surrounded the host of Midian. At the appointed signal every man broke his pitcher, blew his trumpet and cried, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon.” The result is described in Judges 7:21. “And they stood every man in his place round about the camp; and all the host ran, and cried, and fled.”

Today spiritual Israel, the church of our Lord, is con-fronted with a great army, the hosts of Satan and sin. In comparison to that host we are but few in number. Like Gideon’s army our weapons are not those ordinarily used in warfare (Eph. 6:11-17). The members of this church are varied in their talents and abilities as are the different parts of our physical body (1 Cor. 12;12-27), but each is expected to contribute his part in the great work of defeating the foe. As with Gideon’s army, our success depends upon each individual standing in his place and implicitly following our leader, Christ (Gospel Digest, May 1954, p. I).

Guardian of Truth XXXIX: 2 p. 11-12
January 19, 1995