A few years ago I spent many months researching and creating a website in honor of the life and ministry of Erik August Skogsbergh, one of my spiritual heroes. I drive past his old summer home on my way to church each day — where hundreds of people used to flock on summer days to hear him preach by the lake — and I hope I am in some small way carrying on his legacy on Lake Minnetonka at MainStreet Covenant Church.
Erik Dahlhielm concludes his biography of Skogsbergh with some moving tributes written on the occasion of his death (1939) and the unveiling of his memorial stone on the 100th anniversary of his birth (1950). I wanted to share some of them with you today. Every time I read these I wonder what legacy I will leave when my time on this earth is finished. Like the Apostle Paul, I hope I can say with some degree of truth that, “My only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24).
Here’s what others say about Erik August:
Skogsbergh was a sort of modern counterpart of the apostle Paul. In a generation of original and strong preachers he was outstanding. A rich, vibrant voice, a magnetic personality, unruffled poise, playful humor, evangelistic fervor and the faculty of dropping from inspired eloquence to the most direct and immediate sort of address imaginable, gave him an unmatched command of a congregation. Henry Ward Beecher is said to have dropped into his church in Minneapolis and to have remarked, ‘I did not understand a word he said, but there was a remarkable spirit about that man.’ …He was also ‘the dreamer’ among the early Mission Friends. He built three great churches and was always afraid that they would be too small, as they often were in the days of the Holy Spirit’s moving….Sometimes he was called ‘the Swedish Moody,’ a name which does him some injustice, not because of its association, but because he was not a copy of anyone else. He was Skogsbergh the First, and there has never been another” (Herbert E. Palmquist, pastor of Eaglewood Mission Covenant Church of Chicago).
“Skogsbergh — the pioneer, the shepherd, the evangelist, the man of God — has been called home…A monument will probably mark the place where his body rests, but thousands of fires he kindled all over the land will outshine any block of stone no matter how finely polished….There will never be anybody like him. God does not create men like him in pairs….Only a very good pen will be able to do justice to the life of the little man with the big heart, the clear vision and the calm courage. His was a faith that dared to try the impossible, a will that refused to bend under difficulties, a hope that never lost sight of the goal” (Gustaf F. Johnson, pastor of Swedish Tabernacle, Minneapolis).
I can think of no word of Holy Writ that better depicts the ministry and motivation of Erik August Skogsbergh than the Pauline declaration, ‘The love of Christ constrains us.’ The consuming passion of his life from youth on was to do the will of God as revealed in Jesus Christ. An unmistakable sense of mission and destiny characterized his entire career. The imperative of his Christ like service was the Master’s own, ‘I must be about my Father’s business.’ …Though he was democratic and readily approachable, there was something royal in his voice and in his bearing. He belonged to God’s uncrowned nobility. No one could hear him present the claims of Christ without feeling that he brought the presence of God to the sacred desk. Small of stature, he was a man of altitude in mind and heart and purpose. Someone has said that the Christian church needs more firemen and fewer brakemen. Skogsbergh belonged to the former class. He was a firebrand for Christ. LIke Wesley he ‘was out of breath pursuing souls.’ Thousands were won to Christ not only by his sermons but also by his countless letters and personal interviews with troubled souls. He believed that Christ could revolutionize human lives. When he was reading the Scripture lesson from John 11 at the Crosley and Hunter evangelistic meetings in Minneapolis he made Christ declare, ‘I am the insurrection and life.’ Textually inaccurate, it was spiritually true. Virtually every chair in his church was at some time an altar where a penitent soul found release.
Deepest, however, in all his ministry was his spiritual concern for his people. The night was never too cold and the hours never too late for him to respond to the call of a soul in need. Only the recording angel knows how many wounds he healed, how many wrongs he forgave, how many bewildered people he counseled and how many sin-sick souls he directed to Calvary.
At one of the last Mission Covenant conferences he attended, though frail in health, he was brought to the platform for a greeting. With deep feeling he sang ‘When Jesus comes, will he find us watching?’ and ‘We shall know each other better when the mists have rolled away.’ Then he added, ‘When you will hear some day that Skogsbergh has died, you will know that he has only rested his weary head on God’s pillow’ (T.W. Anderson, message at unveiling of memorial monument, 1950).
An appreciation and tribute by Erik Dahlhielm read at Skogsbergh’s funeral service: