It has been a joy to read a book by my friend John Crotts titled, Graciousness: Tempering Truth with Love. Not only does Pastor John Crotts have a love for the truth, but he is a very gracious man at the same time. Therefore, I felt that the book was in many ways what he has learned and employed in his own life and ministry approach. One of the things I appreciated about the book was that John Crotts never once promoted the idea of capitulating on truth in order to be gracious to people. This is one of the greatest traps of our day. He keeps a good balance for the love and bold stand of the truth while delivering the message with love.
In the opening chapter, he writes, “God cares about more than just the words you say. He also cares about how you say those words” (2). As Pastor John begins the book he provides a good illustration about a golf expert who had the greatest experience and knowledge to help with your swing, but his breath was terrible. In fact, he describes him as one who had apparently digested a skunk. He writes, “No matter how good and necessary the content of his conversation, you no longer want to hear it. You need space. You need oxygen. The message may be clear and good for your ears to hear, but your nose wants nothing to do with it” (1). This is a good way of beginning the book to point out that truth zealots can often be full of really good information, but if it’s communicated without love it will often not be received well.
John Crotts does a good job of driving home the point that people who love the truth (and that should be all Christians) should not be using their “newfound knowledge of the truth like a club to assault those around them who have different understandings of the Bible” (4). The Bible is not a club to hit people with, it’s God’s Word that communicates the truth of his sufficient revelation and the hope of sinners in Christ Jesus.
Furthermore, one of the excuses that I’ve heard through the years is that some people are just born with a certain mean streak and a lack of tactfulness. Therefore, they walk around cutting people with their sharp tongue that has no filter and no sheath to protect the person from harming themselves or others in the process. John Crotts does a good job of driving home the point that all Christians need graciousness and should employ it in relationships and ministry. Regarding pastoral ministry, he writes, “An elder, according to Paul, must know God’s truth well enough to positively exhort God’s people in sound doctrine, and to negatively rebuke those who contradict that truth (Titus 1:9)” (21).
One of the best chapters and most helpful for the local church was the fifth chapter — devoted to “The Truth about an Ungracious Church.” At the beginning, John Crotts does a good job of explaining the good qualities of the church at Ephesus. It was a truth-loving church and devoted to guarding, preaching, and spreading truth. They were committed to training and developing elders for preaching and teaching the truth, but as John Crotts makes clear—they were an ungracious people. John Crotts writes:
The Ephesian believers were truth lovers who were harsh. Their love for the truth brought out an edge in the way they dealt with others, probably without and especially within the church. The sharp sword of God was rightly being used to cut the truth from error, but it seems that they were using it to cut each other up as well. Jesus charges them to return to the works they had done at first, which refers to loving, good works toward those around them. That is an important reason why this charge seems to refer to their first love for other people and not just their love for the Lord (55).
This is a short book, only ten chapters consisting of 137 pages. It’s well worth the time and investment as a church leader, but it would really be good for the whole church to read. It’s non-technical and intended for the average Christian in the local church. I commend this book to you and believe it will benefit your congregation as you read and consider the importance of permeating the spirit of love and graciousness throughout your church family.
You can purchase the book at Amazon.