Lester F. Sumrall (1913 -1996) was an American Pentecostal pastor and evangelist. He founded the Lester Sumrall Evangelistic Association (LeSEA) and its humanitarian arm LeSEA Global Feed the Hungry, World Harvest Radio International, and World Harvest Bible College [Wikipedia]. He ministered in over 100 countries and wrote many books.
His book, The Total Man, was retitled Spirit, Soul, and Body and published by Whitaker House in 2002 (254 pages). Sumrall sought answers about the soul/spirit distinction for twenty years, asking many different leaders with little benefit. After his discoveries about biblical psychology, he concluded that discerning the spirit/soul/body design of man is very important.
The volume is written at a popular level; it is not an academic work. (There is no bibliography or footnotes.). But the author’s goal was pastoral and practical. He introduces the book, “In this study, I am going to help you understand yourself and therefore know how to live. I want to make you aware of the three-dimensional nature of the human personality. As long as you treat the human personality as a dualism [body and soul], you will never discover it. A psychologist or psychiatrist might be able to pick you to pieces, but he will not be able to put you back together again… He does not even know that man has a spirit. This is a very sad situation because man’s biggest problems are spiritual” (p. 15,16).
The practical aim may explain some lack of clarity at times. For example, early in the book, he stated that the unsaved person only has a body and soul, and gets a human spirit at regeneration (p.24). But later he ends up with the mainstream trichotomist view that the unsaved person has a human spirit that is dead toward God and needs to be regenerated (p.224,231). Similarly, he initially assigns the role of conscience to man’s soul (p.187,195). But later in the book, he agrees with the majority trichotmist view that the conscience is a faculty of the human spirit (p.230, 252).
Sumrall gives seven of the book’s forty chapters to the function of imagination, describing it as “the hidden force of human destiny.” Although he identifies imagination with the conscious mind (p.138), as a facet of creativity, he also affirms its role in Adam before the fall and in the regenerate human spirit (p.155,170).
Admittedly, sometimes the role of conscience and imagination overlap soul and spirit, like links in a chain. The case can be made that conscience is a faculty of the spirit (an aspect of being made in God’s image), yet the function of conscience is processed in the soul (and, therefore, can be desensitized or sensitized). We have the “mind of Christ” [in the new human spirit], but also need to “renew” our minds [in the soul] (1 Cor. 2:16; Rom. 12:2).
Although Sumrall doesn’t quote sources, he refers to Watchman Nee’s writing (p.227). It seems obvious that he alludes to the content of Nee’s The Release of the Spirit and probably the larger volume, The Spiritual Man (which details the faculties of soul and spirit).
The author’s pastoral concern is evident in the many practical points he makes about avoiding defeat and living a Spirit-filled, God-designed life. Discipleship Counselors appreciate the relevance of an accurate, biblical model of man to personal ministry. As a leader who ministered in over one hundred countries, Sumrall’s diagnosis is worth noting: In many churches as much as a third of the whole congregation is depressed and sad. They are not living in their spirit; they are [primarily ]living in the soulical realm…God’s kingdom., which is in you, is God’s righteousness, peace, and joy” [Rom. 14:17].
The book is available from the publisher here: