Rev. Tom Fred Tenney (1933~2018)
United Pentecostal Church International
Tom Fred Tenney was born December 6, 1933, in a home on Pine Street in the city of DeRidder, Louisiana. His father, Fred Eugene Tenney, was of cajun descent, having moved north from the bayous to DeRidder when he was twenty years of age. There he met and married Jennie Veve Nichols. His mother’s family were pioneers of southwest Louisiana. Prior to his birth, his mother miscarried a son and promised the Lord if He gave her a son, she would dedicate him to the Lord and to ministry. Little did she know what that ministry would be-and how far-reaching the effects of her promise fulfilled would be.
T.F. Tenney’s boyhood years were spent on a farm-600 acre and 200 head of cattle. When he and older sister, Nelda, played church, as kids often do, he was always the preacher.
The Tenney’s family members were what one would call “good Baptist folks” – attending the First Baptist Church in DeRidder. Thesincere preaching of some of those early pastors made a profound impact upon the young man Tom. He recalls, “The Baptists taught me that the Bible was the infallible, inerrant Word of God. This served as a backdrop when I literally read my way into the full gospel experience.
The summer of 1949, at the age of sixteen, Tom Fred Tenney had an encounter that forever changed his life. Slipping into the back row of the Pentecostal church across the tracks to hear a nun give her testimony, more on a lark than anything else, he found himself fascinated as the nun spoke for about twenty minutes; then a lady preacher delivered a semon. He had never heard such preaching-and from a woman! It simply was not done that way in the Baptist church. Yet, feeling something he could not escape, he found himself back there the next night. He did not understand their doctrine. He did not understand their worship. He did not understand their lifestyle. But he could deny what he felt. The connection had been made. The Holy Spirit was drawing and before school started in the fall, Tom Fred Tenney was a new man in Christ.
Almost immediately he felt called into ministry and service. Opportunities were given for him to speak at youth rallies and fellowship meetings. Remembering those early days of his experience, he says, “I felt that you had to do whatever the Word said and whatever leadership told you to do.”
His mentor and spiritual father was a great Christian, George L. Glass Sr. He was a man of prayer and of the Word. Consequntly, in those early days of his walk with Jesus, T.F. Tenney made a commitment to prayer and to the Word. He promised the Lord he would pray at least an hour a day. He says today, “By His grace, I faithfully fulfill that.” He also made a vow to God that he would study and, as far as he could, master thre chapters of the Bible a day. It took him over thre years to go through the Scriptures in this manner. He had very little reference material. His mother bought him a Jameson-Fawcett-Brown Complete Commentary. He had a Cruden’s Concordance, a Bible dictionary, and later a set of books called Handfuls on Purpose. “Some nights I was up until two or three o’clock in the morning, keeping my vow-especially when I got to the 119th Psalm! It wasn’t just a cursory reading-but it was looking into the Scriptures, searching everything I could find on the subject. Things that God gave me then-when I was sixteen, seventeen, eighteen years of age-are still with me today.”
In 1952 T.F. Tenney was elected Louisiana District youth secretary. From 1952 until this day, almost without exception, he has held some position within the United Pentecostal Church International.
Tom Fred Tenney and Thetus Caughron were married in West Monroe, Louisiana on December 27, 1952. They have two children, Tom Gregory and Teri Denise (Spears). They have been blessed with five grandchildren and now two great-grandchildren.
T.F. Tenny was ninteen, and Thetus was eighteen, when they were elected to the pastorate of a fine home missions church in Monroe, Louisiana, in February 1953. He comments today, “Those were such precious people! Many of them to this day bear in their bodies the marks of T.F. Tenney and his immaturity. They were patient and kind.”
During their time in Monroe, T.F. Tenney was elected as sectional youth leader. In 1954 he was subsequently elected district youth president. He continued in that position until 1960 when he was elected international youth president-a position he held until 1969.
During the time T.F. Tenney was Pentecostal Conquerors president, the Bible Quizzing program was launched, a number of youth camps across the country wre initiated, and Youth Conventions were founded. Sheaves for Christ reached all-time highs and was expanded to bless a number of other divisions of the church. The Conquerors Tread was first published under his leadership-the forerunner of today’s Conquerr magazine.
At the General Conference in 1969, the name T.F. Tenney was one of the three presented for election as Foreign Missions director. The votes were tallied, and it was announced that he had been elected. He was only 36 years old. It was unprecedented for a man of his age to be elected to one of the highest offices-and one of the most responsible offices in the United Pentecostal Church International.
He assumed the responsibility of Foreign Missions director the first week in January, 1970. According to his recollection: “I walked into the office in St. Louis that first week in January totally ignorant. All I knew to do was pou myself into it. I would take stacks of files home at night and read through entire files of missionaries and past missions experiences, reading both current and history. In those days I had somewhat of a photographic memory. I am sorry to say that at my age now I’ve evidently run out of film! The Division had faced a major financial crises. We were in deficit. That year, Partners in Missions was launched. It was two years before there was a turnaround. But when it came, Foreign Missions zoomed! I can remember the year we passed the million dollar mark, and then the two million mark. It was unprecendented. God was with us. New nations were opened. We began an emphesis on Bible schools and a number of new Bible schools were opened around the world. Regional field supervisors were appointed. The School of Missions was begun. Short-term evangelistic policies and programs were implemented. Field conferences and regional conferences for missionaries were established. The fields were opened up for more participation from pastors and evangelists to make overseas trips and assist in the work. Missionary morale was on the rise.To God be the glory-revival came! Oh, the stories I could tell of my experiences as Foreign Missions director, if only time would permit.”
In the latter part of 1975, Pastor George Glass Sr. resigned the church at DeRidder, Louisiana. The church immediately called the Tenney’s and asked if they would consider the church. He promise to make it a matter of prayer. The reality was simple: he was leading a world-wide effort to proclaim the gospel-that he would even consider going to a small town of 12,000 people in Louisiana was almost beyond comprehension. But he did promise to pray. So he did. Some weeks later, seated on a swing on his back porch, meditating and praying, he knew he had to go.
From 1975-1978, Thetus and T.F. Tenney served the city of DeRidder and the people of the First Pentecostal Church untiringly. At that time, even though it was a small town, they averaged around 400 every Sunday. God was gracious and good. He blessed. Revival came. Before thay left, there were in excess of 200 active men, and they had seen attendance as high as 1200. Every Sunday morning the building would be filled for the morning worship service. Even the balconies were full. People from various denominations across the community would go to their Sundsy school and then come to First Pentecostal Church for the morning worship service.
The final night of Louisiana Camp Meeting in 1978, C.G. Weeks, who had been the district superintendent for twenty-five years, left the platform and called for an ambulance. By the next day, he had gone to his eternal reward and Louisiana was in need of a leader. An election was called for to be held in August. In forty-one years of existence, the Louisiana District had only two superintendents. It was a tense day that hot August afternoon when hundreds of preachers and delegates gathered from across the state for an election held in the tabernacle on the campground. The meeting was presided over by General Superintendent N.A. Urshan. T.F. Tenney was elected. It was a day of deep mixed emotions. To have been asked by the brethren, among whom he had labored and with whom he had been reared, was one of the highest honors of his life. In his first remarks to the ministerial body, he pledged to them an adminiatration of “progress and peace under the hand of God.”
From that summer day in 1978 throuh 2005, the Tenney’s servd the Louisian District and kept that marvelous portion of the family of God on the cutting edge of preaching, prayer, outreach, and giving. During their tenure, new departments and ministries were launched and the existing departments were strengthened and experienced growth. In the last couple of years, the Louisiana District’s giving to each of the UPCI programs placed them as first in the nation, being the first district to accomplish this. Conferences, seminars, camps, and camp meetings continue to be hallmark events benefiting ministry and laity alike. As pledged, they were days of progress and peace!
The Tenney’s have entered their retirement years. They continue to travel and speak. They continue to share the gospel and invest themselves in people-teaching and preaching the whole gospel to the whole world. Thetus Tenney continues to serve as the coordinator of the World Network of prayer. T.F. Tenney is the bishop emeritus of the Louisisna District and serves as an honorary member of the UPCI General Board.
T. F. Tenney went to be with the Lord on June, 1 2018. His legacy lives on with everyone he influenced through his ministry.
“I have often said I could see further because I stood on the shoulders of giants. If I had another life to give, I would want to give it again for this lovely Lord and His great gospel.”-T.F.