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Believing God for ...

Interview with Carolyn Tennant

Carolyn Tennant, Ph.D., an Assemblies of God minister, recently retired as a professor of English at North Central University in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She is currently writing, speaking, and teaching doctoral classes at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Missouri.

WIM: What have you had to "believe God for" in your ministry?

Tennant: I have needed to believe that God was big enough to cover up my weaknesses and mistakes. I have had some responsible places to serve where, as vice president of a university, I had to make some tough calls. I didn't want to hurt anybody or make a wrong judgment, but sometimes it was tough to decide what to do. I had to trust God to lead me and give me wisdom, and if I were to make an error, I had to believe He was big enough to fix it. All I could do was the best I knew how.

The same thing goes for preaching, teaching, and counseling. I wanted to say the right things and not lead people astray. Every time I preach I still ask God that I would say everything He wants me to say through me - nothing more and nothing less.

Sometimes my biggest areas to believe God for are related to other people. I have to believe that God is at work in people's lives, even when they are making wrong choices and going downhill away from God. I try to treat them with respect and value with the help of the Lord. God's continuous love wins back so many people. It is why I so long to see revival: so God will be maximally allowed to work through His church to win the lost and those who have crept away from Him.

Sometimes my biggest areas to believe God for are related to other people. I have to believe that God is at work in people's lives, even when they are making wrong choices and going downhill away from God

WIM: How do you personally distinguish between "a good idea" and "a call" to do something in ministry?

Tennant: I take time to pray and to ask that the idea would be confirmed. Lots of time it is God's plan, but not yet His time. He just wants me to wait on Him until He can raise it up. I don't like to run off and try to do something by myself. I need Him so much. During this waiting period, God usually sends people to help me and He confirms His plans.

I remember once in my early days of being vice president for student life at North Central University, I had an idea that I thought was from God about starting a late Wednesday evening "Praise Gathering." I sensed what the Lord wanted in my heart: no or little preaching, mainly worship and flowing in the gifts of the Spirit, and time at the altar. I prayed for a while about it without saying anything to anybody, and finally a young man I did not know made an appointment to see me. He started by telling me he felt God was talking to him about something, but he didn't know how I would feel about it. I listened and smiled while he explained every last thing God had put on my heart. He led our first years of Praise Gathering, and I believe God was pleased. This ministry still continues after nearly 30 years, drawing hundreds of students every week for a time of seeking the Lord. That was a God call, not just a good idea.

WIM: What hopes sustain you over the long haul?

Shrodes: My biggest hope is truly the grand and amazing hope of heaven. I think it will be much more wonderful than we can now imagine. I believe we will continue to grow and learn and change. We will get to create with God and access new truth. I also think that now we really do "see in a glass darkly" and so there are a multitude of things we are just not yet capable of knowing or understanding. I am anticipating that when it all becomes clear, it will blow our socks off!

Every day I try to make decisions with eternity in view. What will have the most impact for the kingdom of God? What will best bring about its expansion? I want to see as much fruit as possible collected in heaven - fruit that will remain throughout eternity. I try to concentrate on what is really important to God.

And when I get down or depressed about something, I often think, What difference will this make in eternity? One of my very best friends in ministry says this all of the time. She is right. So many things that seem to matter down here on earth will matter little with eternity in view.

WIM: How have you responded (emotionally and practically) when your God-given hopes are thwarted or dashed?

Tennant: I think sometimes I see too small a picture. One time I asked the Lord why I hadn't seen revival in a spot where I had been praying for it for a long time. I felt like the Lord said to me that I was thinking way too narrowly - that He wanted to send a worldwide revival, and I needed to start praying in bigger terms and seeing the larger timeline. This has helped me to realize that I often get impatient for a small thing to happen when it is really the bigger things that He is orchestrating, not just my minor part. There is a grand symphony going on, and I need to take in all of it. This has stopped me from being tempted to pout or get cold or even throw a tantrum. God has His reasons for His timing and ways of doing things, and I need to learn to trust Him and follow the conductor.

WIM: What practical strategies do you use to "dream God's dreams?"

Tennant: I think it is easy to think we have heard from God, when in essence He has only given us part of the picture. We need to wait on Him for the dream to expand even more. Consider Joseph whose dream started out being that his older brothers would bow down to him. God's plan, however, was to save Joseph's family and his people from starvation - certainly a much broader picture. Likewise Abraham started his journey away from his home, not realizing he was about to create a nation and country. We need to let our dreams grow even bigger and discover the depth and breadth of what God intends. This only happens when we have space in our lives to read, pray, think, and meditate. God likes white space to write His ideas upon. We need to learn to wait in His presence.