By Chris Moon
Carroll Kakac, 93, has been preaching for more than seven decades for churches in Missouri and Illinois, and he hasn’t thought much about retirement.
His hearing isn’t great, he said, and neither is his eyesight. But it’s good enough.
“As long as my health will permit me to do it, I’m going to do it,” said Kakac, who serves as minister of McLeansboro (Ill.) Christian Church.
He is currently preaching a sermon series on the parables of Jesus from Matthew’s Gospel.
In July, Kakac received the Lifetime Christian Service Award from Lincoln Christian University, honoring his more than 70 years of pulpit ministry.
Kakac told Christian Standard he was surprised to receive the recognition from his alma mater. LCU was known as Lincoln Bible Institute when he attended in the early 1950s.
“I can’t hardly explain to you how much I appreciate it,” he said.
On social media, LCU lauded Kakac’s long ministry: “Congratulations to you, Carroll, on a lifetime of faithfully serving the Lord!”
INTO THE CHURCH
Kakac grew up in an Iowa farm family that didn’t attend church, at least initially.
He was in high school when a local preacher finally convinced the family to come to church. The entire family of seven was baptized on the same day.
Kakac said he decided to be a preacher in the aftermath of World War II. One of his older brothers was killed in the war.
“I made up in my mind I would like to try to be a preacher,” he said.
After the war, in 1948, Kakac was drafted and served two years in the Army. Afterward, he attended Lincoln Bible Institute.
While there, Lincoln’s founder and president, Earl Hargrove, directed him to a church that needed someone to fill in as a preacher. That began Kakac’s preaching career.
He eventually landed at Benton City (Mo.) Christian Church—150 miles from the Lincoln campus; he would drive there every week for the Sunday service.
Kakac said he preached each Sunday on what he was learning in his classes and at the Lincoln chapel services.
“I virtually gave them what they gave me at Lincoln,” he said.
His longest ministry—from 1970 to 2004—was at First Christian Church in Fairfield, Ill. Kakac said the church’s attendance exceeded more than 400 at Fairfield.
He did indeed “retire” from Fairfield, but it was short-lived.
The little church in McLeansboro, Ill., had fallen on hard times and needed someone to fill in while it looked for a new pastor. Kakac has been “filling in” for 17 years now.
The church averages 25 to 30 people in attendance on Sundays.
“He’s been a real blessing,” said Hunt Bonan, an elder at McLeansboro Christian Church. “Brother Kakac lives an exemplary Christian life.”
Bonan said many people who get older can become more judgmental, but “Brother Kakac is just the opposite.”
The pastor is very accepting of people just as they are, but he’s also glad to talk about faith and the important things in life, Bonan said.
“Seventy years is a remarkable achievement,” Bonan said. “Brother Kakac takes this like he takes everything else—very graciously and humbly.”
Kakac’s wife, Karen—the two have been married 62 years now—said her husband hasn’t found any place in the Bible that discusses the proper retirement age for pastors. And that applies to her many years as a preacher’s wife.
“I knew what I was getting into,” she said.
Carroll Kakac said many things have changed about ministry since his earliest days as a preacher.
Back then, he said, pastors more easily could connect with people outside the church. More mothers stayed at home with their kids. A pastor typically could knock on someone’s front door and find someone home.
And parents readily sent their children to church activities.
“It was a way you got to the parents,” he said.
Now, most homes are empty during the day. Both parents are working. The kids are at school or daycare.
Pastors need to find other ways to reach the community.
“It’s completely different than it was when I started 70 years ago,” he said.
A new pastor just starting their career, Kakac said, has “got to go where the people are because they aren’t going to be coming to you.”
Another piece of advice: “The only message that we’ve got is what is found in the Bible.”
Kakac said his preaching style hasn’t changed much over the years. With each biblical text, he still asks “who, what, why, and what difference does it make.”
“I still go by that,” he said.
Kakac said he is concerned about the state of today’s world, particularly about the amount of violence occurring. But he remains optimistic.
“Right now, [it] is not a pretty picture,” he said. “It doesn’t mean we are supposed to quit. It means we need to find out where the Lord would have us to go.”
Chris Moon is a pastor and writer living in Redstone, Colo.