This is more than a word he often used when he wanted his students to pay close attention to what he was about to say. It is the word his students us to describe the man himself. Wendell Winkler was indeed a class act. From our first encounter with him to our last, it was evident that he was a genuinely convicted Christian gentleman who loved the Lord, loved the church, and loved to preach.
Winkler was both a talented teacher and a preacher’s preacher. He always seemed thrilled to share his vast knowledge with those who sat at his feet in a humble and helpful way. The life lessons learned from this great man of God are too many for just a couple of pages. A book would be more appropriate, but as we seek to pay tribute to him, let us notice a few of the things he often emphasized to his preaching students.
After the death of His servant, Moses, God instructed Joshua, “Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go” (Joshua 1:7). Winkler took “turning neither to the right hand or the left” very seriously. He believed both the liberal left and the radical right were dangerous and destructive to the Lord’s church. He taught his students to we preach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) without prejudice or crawling up on our “hobby horse.”
He believed in defending the truth. One of his great loves was reading debate books. He had his students read and outline some of the old classics to help them prepare to meet error. His class on Denominational Doctrines at Faulkner University left one with a notebook filled with denominational errors refuted by Scripture point by point. Yet, in addition to his firm stance for doctrinal purity, he emphasized the love, grace, and mercy of God. He occasionally remarked that if he had his preaching career to do over, he would preach more on the Fatherhood of God. This is but another testimony to his pursuit of balance in his preaching.
Winkler believed that one way to achieve balance in the preacher’s choice of sermons is to preach expository lessons. First, it assures the preaching is coming from the Bible. Second, it assures the preaching is covering a variety of topics. Third, it helps difficult lessons come across with less offense because if avoids the impression that the preacher is targeting a certain individual’s behavior or belief.
Winkler also believed and taught balance in the preacher’s personal life. He often spoke about making time to do things with the family. When his boys were growing up, family nights were treasured and guarded. As a parent his philosophy was that it was just as important to save his family as it was to save the world. This philosophy extended to the other families of the congregation. He would sometimes ask something to the effect, “Why would you schedule something at the church building every night of the week when you could accomplish the same in one night and preserve more time for the family?”
In his words, “Class, be balanced!”