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I often joke that my contribution to my high school class was that I was in the part of the class that made the top half possible. Actually, I was a better student than that and could have been much better if I had applied myself more to my studies. Math and English were two that gave me a lot of problems. Part of that was due to my own attitude towards those subjects. I had only been the pastor of our small, rural church for a few months when a member came to me expressing her concern about my poor grammar. She was a teacher and the only person in our church at the time with a college degree. She admitted that our church would not be troubled with my use of poor grammar, but she was concerned that it could hurt me in future ministry.
A few months later I enrolled in Boyce Bible School (now Boyce College) to better equip myself for pastoral ministry. The only concern I had was the two semesters of English that the school required. The day finally came when I had to register for English, and I soon learned that I was not the only person in the class not looking forward to it. The first day of class one student remarked to the teacher that no one had ever been able to teach him English, and she responded that was because he had never had her for a teacher. Her method of teaching English was to go over the basics and have us write and write and write. Our first assignment was to write a brief item for a newspaper. When I received that assignment back she had written on it that I was a good writer.
Something about that two or three word comment struck a nerve deep within me and inspired me to really focus on that class as well as the second semester of English, which she also taught. Suddently, the laws of grammar began to make sense to me, and I became much more focused on them in any writing I did as well as in more formal speaking. A couple of years later I was asked to give the commencement speech at our local high school where our daughter would be graduating.
This was the same school from which I had graduated, and many of my former teachers were there. As the bivocational pastor of a small church I had never spoken to more than 50 or so people at one time; there would be thousands of people attending this graduation. I was quite nervous as I began my message, but the confidence I had from having learned how to use proper grammar helped me find the courage to give my talk. Afterwards, some of my former teachers told me how proud they were that I had been one of their students. Later, at Boyce, I told my English teacher that it was her teaching skills and encouragement to me that enabled me to make that speech.
A few years later I wrote my first book. I had never taken a class on writing except for the two semesters of English I had at Boyce, but I remembered that teacher's comment that I was a good writer. When the book was published our local book store had a book signing, and I invited that teacher. She made the one hour drive to the signing where I told her that her class gave me the confidence to attempt to write a book.
None of us ever knows how we may influence someone with just a brief comment that we may not even remember making. Those of us in ministry have a wonderful opportunity to encourage others and influence them in ways that will enrich their lives. There is an old saying that if you see a turtle on a fence post you know he didn't get there by himself. Anytime you see someone experience success in life you can be sure that he didn't do that alone. Along the way someone spoke words of encouragement and provided positive influence. There are enough people out there who want to tear down others; let us be people of positive encouragement and influence. Let us aspire to be people who lift others up and help them be all God intended them to be.