APPRECIATION & The Day Some Valentines Changed the Course of My Ministry. A guest article by Tom Crenshaw.

by Rev. Tom Crenshaw, 10/11/21.

Dear Friends

This Sunday our pastors were surprised when we were called us up front during the service to receive special recognition. I guess October is Pastor Appreciation Month. I don’t know who first suggested this special day. Maybe it was some pastor who was going through a tough time and who himself was badly in need of some encouragement. In any event, I am grateful for the day for who doesn’t like to be appreciated?

The word appreciate means to raise in value, and this is just what encouragement does; it raises the value of the person receiving it. But it also has significant benefits for the person giving it. The writer of Proverbs reminds us that “He who is generous prospers, and whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.”

Encouragement is oxygen to the soul. We can’t live very long without it. Someone remarked, encouragement is biodegradable; it has a short shelf life, for as soon as we receive it, we quickly need another dose.
Everyone loves an encourager. “Flatter me and I may not believe you. Criticize me and I may not like you. Ignore me and I may never forgive you. But encourage me, and I will never forget you.

I often think back to one day when encouragement changed my life and my ministry. I had been pastoring in Greenville, Pa for four years, and suddenly I found myself looking discouragement square in the eye. I was tired, discouraged, and feeling like I had not accomplished all that I had set out to do. I began asking myself if I was really the one who was best prepared to lead the church, and I seriously began thinking it might be time to look for a new challenge.

I guess I wasn’t very good about hiding my feelings for somehow word got out to the congregation, and sensing my discouragement, they performed one of the greatest acts of encouragement I have ever received. It was shortly before Valentine’s Day when my mailbox began filling up. They were love letters from the congregation dressed up as Valentines. Someone had orchestrated a love letter writing campaign, and for the next few weeks my mailbox was brimming full of letters written by different members of the congregation. They were letters of encouragement. They were filled with gratitude and appreciation for me and my ministry. They screamed, “Tom, we love you.”

Those Valentine love letters, overflowing with gratitude and appreciation kept me in Greenville for another three years, a time that proved to be one of the most productive periods of any ministry I have enjoyed. And to this day those ‘love letters” continue to remain as some of my most valuable deposits in my bank account of memories.

I wonder how many people quit to soon because no one ever came along to encourage them.

Why not take some time today to write or call someone who might just need a little dose of encouragement? Like those loving Greenville folks, you just might change the course of someone’s life, and what could be more exciting ort more rewarding than that?

Yours in faith and friendship,Tom

CONFLICT RESOLUTION & “Listening leads to understanding people. The biggest communication challenge is that most of the time we do not listen to understand. We listen to prepare our reply.”

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel. The author of this post has been shadowing me to become a missional coach. He is an experienced pastor having served in megachurches such as D. James Kennedy’s Coral Ridge Church in Ft. Lauderdale as well as Vineyard and Presbytetian churches. Now in his late 70s, Tom is still learning, sharing and serving (and inspiring me).

Leadership Thought: So You Think You Are A Good Listener! by Tom Crenshaw, 5/6/21 (quoting John Maxwell).

… This past year I read a book by John Maxwell called the Leaders Greatest Return. It was one of the most rewarding leadership books I have read in many years, and I would like to provide a few insights from his chapter on becoming better listeners.

“The average person suffers from 3 delusions: (1) that he is a good driver, (2) that he has a good sense of humor, and (3) and that he is a good listener. Most people, however, including many leaders, are terrible listeners; they actually think talking is more important than listening,” writes Steven Sample, author of The Contrarians Guide to Leadership.

“What most people want is to be listen to, respected and understood, and if this happens, they will be more motivated to listen to you and see your point of view (p 54).

“Listening leads to understanding people. The biggest communication challenge is that most of the time we do not listen to understand. We listen to prepare our reply. Effective listening requires more than hearing the words transmitted. It demands that you find meaning and understanding in what is being said. After all, meanings are not in words, but in people. (Listening) is more than hearing words. It demands you find meaning and understanding in what is being said …..…… People are far more likely to listen to us if we first listened to them” (pp. 55-56).

Listening is the best way to learn. Television host Larry King says “I remind myself every morning that nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening…… When we fail to listen, we turn off much of our learning potential” (p.56) …….”What others have to say to you is more important than what you have to say to them” (p. 57)

Listening engenders trust and connection. “Billy Graham said a suffering person does not need a lecture, he needs a listener………By listening you gain the trust of the people you work with” (p. 57). David Augsberger said, “Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable…… “Listening draws people to you, which works much better than trying to push your leadership on them” (p. 58).

“You will never get the best out of people if you do not know who they are, where they want to go, what they care about, how they think and how they want to contribute. You only learn these things by listening. When you listen to people. it makes them feel like they are at the very heart of things, like partners, and not employees. They trust you because you care about them” (p. 59).

And in conclusion I might personally add to what our brother James has to say in his charter text on listening. “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). I know these words are so easy to say but yet so difficult to live, that is, unless we allow the Holy Spirit to take full control of our tongue.

Let our prayer be, “Lord Jesus, help me this day to open my heart to your Spirit and allow me to be more interested in hearing what others have to say than what I wish to say.

Yours in faith and friendship, Tom

INTEGRITY & Are Pastors Making Status Statements with Their Sartorial Splendor? A guest article by Tom Crenshaw.

My Leadership Thought for March 24, 2021 by Tom Crenshaw.

The other day l received an e-mail article from a good  friend. The headline intrigued me: “Preachers and their $5,000 sneakers: Why one man started an Instagram account showing churches’ wealth.”  

The article by Ben Kirby documents well known pastors whose names many would recognize (I choose not to mention them, but should you be interested, you can go to the link at the end of this message for the article). The story spoke of pastors wearing new designer suits in the $ 2,000’s, sporting $5,000 sneakers,  and $ 2,ooo crocodile belts. 

The writer simply asks, “How much is too much? Is it okay to get rich off of preaching about Jesus? Is it okay to be making twice as much as the medium income of your congregation?  Kirby  highlights a nationwide trend of pastors wearing oversized glasses, tight jeans and pricey kicks, who look  like they belonged at your local craft cocktail watering hole instead of church.”  

As one who does much of his clothes shopping at the Calico Cat and Monarch thrift stores, and who gladly welcomes his family’s hand me downs,  not because I am cheap, but because I never met a bargain that I didn’t like,  I was surprised by the lengths some well-known pastors would go to provide  statements of their status. 

My e-mail friend who sent me the article reminded me of the words of well-known evangelical speaker Tony Campolo who happened to be speaking at a church I was pastoring. I was excited to have him share the pulpit after having heard him at an outdoor Creation Festival in the early 90’s when his message on discipleship profoundly impacted my life. 

I  quickly discovered that inviting Tony to speak was a dangerous proposition; it doesn’t come without risk as  Tony is as unbridled as can be and you take your chances for you can never be sure who he is going to challenge, and yes, even offend. Tony has never been known to mince words when talking about the cost of discipleship.

Midway through the message, Tony asked. “If Jesus had been given $40,000 and was living in Haiti, would he have spent it on the purchase of  a new BMW? It was a penetrating question, designed to make some people extremely uncomfortable, and I am sure it did. I still remember wincing and slinking down behind the pulpit hoping to hide my eyes from the icy stares from some of our more wealthy church members. 

My friend remembered the message and reminded me of it, and the fact that I even invited him back for a second time a few years later.  I e-mailed these words back to him:  “Unfortunately, it is so true that there are well respected pastors who are milking their flocks……. Thanks for sending me the article and the reminder of Tony’s message. Don’t you ever go out and buy a new Beemer or a Mercedes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, that is, unless you want to be the subject in my next Leadership Thought.” 

The writer of Proverbs reminds us “Trust in your money and down you go! Trust in God and flourish as a tree!” No, the Bible is not suggesting it is wrong to have and enjoy wealth, but only that one needs to be careful how you use it, for wrongly used, it will destroy you. 

Pastor Rick Warren  writes in one of his recent  Pastors’ Newletters, “Money shows what you love most, (and) shows you what your trust most……….. There is a direct connection between maturity and money. There is a direct connection between God’s blessing in your life and what you do with your cash. Don’t miss the connection. How you handle money determines how much God can bless your life.” The bible says, “If you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own” (Luke 16 :11-12)? 

I know I may have lost some friends among those of you who own and drive new and expensive cars but having been to Haiti several times on mission trips I don’t apologize for the challenge. It is easy to wear WWJD bracelets on our wrists; it’s another thing to be good stewards of worldly wealth.  

I don’t begrudge any one for the money they make or how they choose to spend it. However, let me provide one last suggestion: “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim with new wine” (Proverbs 3:9-10). 

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