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No shoes to fill, but steps to follow

Longtime minister Arnelious Crenshaw follows a Paul/Timothy model as he prepares his successor

For Arnelious Crenshaw, the time has come to pass the baton. 

The beloved minister, who has preached for the Northeast Church of Christ in Oklahoma City for 32 years, is an accomplished author, speaker and organizer of efforts to improve underserved communities on the local and national level.

Earlier this year, as the minister was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, Christians who had heard him speak at gospel events across the nation offered fervent prayers for healing. But Crenshaw began preparing for his transition from the pulpit long before the diagnosis. Dwayne Case, the church’s family life minister, has trained under Crenshaw’s guidance — for 10 years. 

The two men follow in the steps of Paul and Timothy, whose model of mentorship appears in the epistles of the New Testament. It’s a model used by many predominantly black Churches of Christ, partly because past segregation — even in universities associated with the fellowship — made it difficult to receive ministry training. Renowned evangelist Marshall Keeble also was an advocate of long-term mentorship.

Dwayne Case
Case, who grew up in the Spanish Town Church of Christ on the island of Jamaica, moved to the U.S. at age 23 and earned a bachelor’s from Southwestern Christian College, a historically black college in Terrell, Texas. He earned a master’s in family life from Oklahoma Christian University and soon will earn U.S. citizenship.

Crenshaw, who also studied at Oklahoma Christian and the University of Tulsa, was mentored himself by Clyde Muse and A.C. Christman Sr. In addition to Case, Crenshaw has served as a mentor for ministers including Vernon Taylor of the Southlake Church of Christ in Jonesboro, Ga.; Wesley Leonard of the Southside Church of Christ in Orlando, Fla.; and David Wilson of the Kings Church of Christ in New York. 
What Scriptures guide your mentoring model?

Matthew 4:23: “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.” 

Jesus had a three-dimensional public ministry: teaching, preaching and healing. 

Matthew 4:15 refers to “Galilee of the Gentiles.” Though Jesus taught in the synagogues, his intent was to teach everyone — Jews and Gentiles. In the New Testament, teaching usually means instruction in the faith, whereas preaching is proclamation of the Gospel to the non-Christian world.   

I’ve always said that good preaching is just really good teaching. Teaching and preaching need to happen when you’re a minister. We teach principle, and we preach with passion. You’ve got to bring out the passion in your preaching. Sometimes, you have to tell the story with passion!

The third part of Jesus’ ministry involved healing. There is a contrast in the healing of Jesus’ ministry and the healing of ministry today. Our healing involves helping people to have a better life. At Northeast we minister primarily to a community that has required a lot of healing over the years due to systemic social inadequacies. This reality gave birth to an entity called Central Urban Development, Inc., the economic development component of the Northeast Church of Christ.  

So teaching, preaching and healing people is the focus of ministry I am teaching Dwayne.

Dwayne Case, left, and Arnelious Crenshaw preach for the Northeast Church of Christ. (PHOTOS PROVIDED) What specifically have you done to prepare Dwayne for ministry?

I’ve tried to model for Dwayne the importance of teaching, preaching and healing so that my mentorship has been evident in my approach to ministry. I’ve taught him that you must teach, preach and be concerned about the community. 
What challenges have you faced to make this work?

The biggest challenge has been to keep my passion for this approach in context because brother Case may not decide, as my successor, to do it this way. It’s difficult, but it’s a part of transition, and I will have to give him the right to bring to fruition that which he can be passionate about. 

That’s the biggest challenge. He may see it totally different, and I’ve got to be OK with that.
Dwayne, how are you preparing to follow a longtime minister?

I’ve always been fascinated with Joshua and Timothy’s preparation. Both men sat at the feet of great leaders. Joshua aligned and acquainted himself with God’s promises by becoming Moses’ assistant (Exodus 24:13). While Moses communed with God, Joshua was in the middle serving Moses and serving the people. In the New Testament, Paul refers to the young evangelist Timothy as his son. He tells the church in Philippi that there is no like-minded person who cares for the church as Timothy does. These two young men give me a confident assurance that I am on the right path. 

I am grateful for the formal training I have received at Southwestern Christian and Oklahoma Christian. My continual, informal preparation from conferences, lectureships and a growing reading list does not compare to my preparation from mentorship by brother Crenshaw and other men such as Leslie George Goode of Jamaica, David Wilson of Brooklyn, Timothy Daniels of Houston and Richard Barclay of Atlanta. 
How will you be yourself and also incorporate what brother Crenshaw has taught you?  

It is understandable that a mentee will imitate certain mannerisms or character traits of his or her mentor. I find this to be true because there are certain phrases, pastoral practices and mannerisms I do like brother Crenshaw. 

I am humbled that such a quintessential man of God is willing to share with me the highs and lows of ministry. I remember being impressed by brother Crenshaw’s style of preaching — it’s called expository preaching — and deciding that I wanted to be mentored by brother Crenshaw in biblical exposition. 

However, before that could happen the Lord tempered my skills and fortitude by sending me to David Wilson, Richard Barclay and Timothy Daniels. I thank God for preparing such a great storyteller as brother Crenshaw — and for allowing our lives to collide at the intersection of purpose. 

However, my focus is not on whether I say or do things like brother Crenshaw but rather on God’s vision for his church. I appreciate that Joshua and Timothy maintained their identities, but God was with them and their predecessors. 

God has been with brother Crenshaw, and I have faith that he will be with me in my ministry. Brother Crenshaw has taught me, “I’m not giving you shoes to fill, but steps to follow.”
What do you see as your preaching mandate?   

I see my preaching mandate being the same as those who have come before me. What we have come to call the ministerial charge reverberates in my spirit, to fulfill my King’s commission (2 Timothy 4:2). 

With my formal training in family life ministry, Titus 2 will be the platform I seek to build on the ministry vision and mission, to positively impact the lives of people through evangelism, benevolence, edification and ministry — a charge that was laid by brother Crenshaw and brother Thomas O. Jackson before him. 

I intend to proclaim sound teaching and develop healthy families, which in turn will produce a healthy church.
How has the church been prepared for this change?

The congregation has been going through an intentional transition process for the past 10 years. Brother Crenshaw, as a remarkable visionary guided by the Holy Spirit, started to share with me, key leaders and the church the eventual passing of the baton. 

The process involved not only brother Crenshaw casting vision in meetings, classes and preaching, but also allowing the church to see me serve. The congregation was able to see me succeed and fail in ministry (and) put up with my immaturity in handling the Scriptures in Bible class and preaching. 

Because of brother Crenshaw’s influence, the congregation has received and loved me. And as we run together with me reaching behind and him reaching forward with the baton, those men on whose shoulders we stand are cheering us on to continue God’s legacy.

WEBSITE: www.necoc.org

Filed under: Dialogue Headlines - Secondary

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