T.F. Tenney on Leadership #TBT

#TBT is a throwback to content I wrote on previous blogs, that I think you might like. Feel free to skip it though - if you dare. 

This is a short paper I wrote at IBC (Indiana Bible College) for a class on leadership. I was able to interview T.F. Tenney (Twitter:@TFTenney | Website) who is a great leader in our movement. As I understand it T.F. Tenney has been speaking on the subject of leadership for quite awhile; such distilled wisdom is exceptional. I thought I'd share this with you as I gained a lot of insight. Please let me know what you think in the comments!


      I chose early to attempt to interview Bro. T. F. Tenney for his rich history in leadership, mentoring, and great success in ministry. His experiences in pastoring at the age of 19, attending Bible College (ABI), Evangelizing, being District Youth Secretary and Director, and presiding as the Louisiana District Superintendent for 27 years provide a wide stretch of ground to dig principles from. I hope to learn a lot more from this man in the future and count it an honor to have spoken with him for this paper.

     Several principles of leadership were exposed in our talk and the first off the top of his head was very quotable. “Follow-ship is more important than Leader-ship.” This continued as a theme throughout the interview: that a man must constantly follow God before he can lead effectively. Tenney made note that “Follow me” were both the first and the last words spoken by Jesus to Peter, leader of the Apostles. He expounded with the saying “God calls, Jesus called: servants; not leaders.” Later in our interview he explained how he still serves today, officially retired. He speaks, and mentors, and keeps ministering friends accountable as long as they will let him.

     One question I was very interested to ask was, "How does one, in Christian leadership, set goals. Can a man expect God to plot every line and dot on the map of his life? Or should we act and let God bless or hinder us?

     Tenney's answer was to let God set your priorities, and you be disciplined in achieving them. “Set your Goals, Define your Role, and pay the Toll” were his words. “No one can do this for you” Tenney followed. He stated that often people won't pay the toll for success, or they would, but they fail to define their role in achieving that success and thereby can't.

     When I asked how a young minister could develop a strong self discipline he started with reading the Bible. “The Lord doesn't lend himself to casual relationships” Tenney said. That is a point many Christians should hear, not just the leaders in church. Bro. Tenney said this three times in our chat, emphasizing it's importance. Bible reading will get one closer to God, and doing it daily will make one more practiced in discipline. He added that he keeps people around him for accountability. He typically has an assistant working with him, friends that are welcome to speak up in honesty, and gains support from these as well. It's not all about getting beat up, he seemed to say, but about supporting yourself on both sides of your ego. He shared that he attends seminars both inside the organization and out, and reads a great deal too.

     Leading up to ask “what has been your greatest accomplishment” I asked Bro. Tenney how he has measures success. The first words out of his mouth were “I fail my way to success.” This is a sentiment I've heard often recently outside of ministry. One must expect losses before they can win. The logic then is to pursue losses that you can learn from. Seth Godin wrote “The Dip,” Tim Ferriss wrote about it in “The 4 Hour Work Week,” and it's been explained and applied several times on the very popular Zen Habits blog as well. The idea works, I've used it in my own life selling, and it's good to hear the principle is spiritually relevant as well.

     Answering “what has been your greatest accomplishment” T. F. Tenney shared his joy in mentoring spiritual leaders today. He explained that his greatest success is sharing in others' success. He's fathered many ministers in his time in leadership, and enjoys his “sons in ministry.” This impact is more than many will have in their lifetime, and it inspires me that a man officially retired could still be changing the world. I hope I will be able to say the same someday, and will endeavor to apply these principles of leadership to my ministry.  

Is there anything you'd wish I would have asked? Or that you would add about leadership? Please just comment below