It’s impossible to adequately articulate how Bishop T.L. Craft has impacted my life and ministry. He is best known around the world as the Bishop of First United Pentecostal Church of Jackson, MS. To thousands like my mother, who attended Jackson College of Ministry, he left an indelible imprint as JCM’s founder and president. Many think of Bishop Craft as a pastor’s pastor and a friend’s friend. He’s the definition of a scholar and a gentleman. Untold numbers of ministers, preachers, teachers, pastors, evangelists, and missionaries found their start under T.L. Craft’s kindhearted tutelage. Furthermore, hundreds of dynamic women of God, like my precious wife, credit Bishop Craft as the pastor that enabled them to launch out successfully into life and ministry. But if you ramble past the thick haze of accolades and success, you see a man who is steadfastly apostolic, warm, sincere, and imminently approachable.
Bishop Craft recently turned ninety, although he seems much younger. His mind is sharp, and his thirst for knowledge remains unquenchable. When I walked into his home a few days ago for a podcast recording session, he was well-dressed and just as dapper as always. The only hint of aging was the residual pain and mobility issues associated with a minor stroke. While talking with or observing Bishop Craft, I’ve always felt that he could have been wildly successful within any vocation. He has an enviable knack for making anyone feel totally at ease within seconds. It’s not a show or a put-on. It’s just who he is at the core. He genuinely likes people, and they really want to like him right back because of it. His consistent, approachable demeanor is a refreshing departure from the unfortunate arms-length attitude many high-profile preachers adopt towards people outside their inner circle. After spending just a few minutes with Bishop Craft, it’s easy to see why he’s had to build lots of new buildings over the years to accommodate church growth.
Season 2, Episode 6
The other day I had the opportunity to sit down in Bishop’s home and record a conversation for Apostolic Voice (listen to the whole conversation below or wherever you enjoy podcasts). But I wanted to give a few highlights from that conversation and links to books Bishop mentioned during the episode. As always, if you’d like to support this ministry, please leave an iTunes rating and review. And if you’d like to help financially for as little as $0.99 per month, follow this link.
The Criticism Flip
Christians, especially ministers, tend to feel above criticism. Or at least, we avoid criticism like the plague. I think that’s universal to the human condition. Even “so-called” constructive criticism hurts, particularly when it’s given without an invitation. However, Bishop Craft echoes the sentiment of the CEO of Tesla Motors, Elon Musk, by inviting criticism from outsiders and insiders alike. Bishop Craft smiled and said, “You’ll never hear more honesty than when you invite a visitor to give you honest feedback about things you’re church could be doing better.” “Ignore that honest feedback to your detriment,” he said somberly. He continued, “Inviting criticism is a great way to witness and teach a Bible study.” “You wouldn’t think so,” he said wryly. He explained with a twinkle in his eyes, “By giving them the upper hand, they don’t feel defensive, and you can defend your faith without seeming pushy or overbearing.” You can invite criticism and flip it to your advantage with kindness and open dialogue in countless areas of life.
Advice to Ministers
I’m adding a few bonuses that Bishop Craft mentioned when the microphones were off. I specifically asked Bishop for some ministerial advice. I’m summarizing it in bullet points for quick reference:
- Always be in service. Don’t miss church.
- If you’re traveling, let people know where you’re going and what you’re doing.
- Read voraciously.
- Be a well-rounded reader by engaging in books on theology, Christian living, history, philosophy, leadership, business, biography, science, culture, and politics.
- Give your phone number to everyone.
- Don’t prioritize a secular job over the work of ministry. If you must work a secular job, don’t allow it to become your first priority and define you.
- Take vacations.
Book & Commentary Recommendations
- The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
- Man’s Search For Meaning by Victor E. Frankl
- The Preacher’s Homiletic Commentary
A relevant apostolic resource that covers biblical topics of interest, ministry, Christian living, and practical insights hosted by Ryan French. An extension of the popular blog Apostolic Voice (www.ryanafrench.com). Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/apostolicvoice/support
Ryan sits down with Bishop T.L. Craft for a riveting conversation. Bishop expounds on his personal approach to seeking out criticism and harnessing it for good. He gives sage and time-tested advice to ministers and preachers. He lists two books and a commentary that everyone should read. And he walks Ryan through some little-known elements of his life story and ministry. Of course, Bishop also shares some funny church stories. Sister Martha Craft and the entire French family join Ryan and Bishop to taste and rate 110th Birthday Cake Chocolate Fudge and Confetti Oreo cookies as icing on the cake. You can find links to all the books mentioned by Bishop and in-depth show notes at www.ryanafrench.com.