How’s life for you since you retired as Elim’s GS? You seem like you’re keeping yourself busy. What have you been up to?
Life’s been good. There are very few weekends in the year where I am not away ministering and my mid week is mostly spent mentoring leaders. I also work with networks of churches and have a close relationship with the Destiny churches (Andrew Owen), OneChurch Network (Simon Jarvis) and the All Nations (Steve Uphall) as well as national ministries. My latest book has just been released by award-winning publishers “Instant Apostle”. It is a novel centred around the people trafficking industry and is written as an evangelistic tool. I also have a regular program on the TBN network. It is currently running a twelve-week series of teaching programs.
2) Although you don’t have any natural children, you seem to have lots of spiritual children. How have you developed these relationships?
People who visit us around Father’s Day or Mother’s Day are often surprised to see a number of cards over our fireplace. Most of these ‘sons’ and ‘daughters’ people we have known for many years. They are not drawn from the churches we have pastored but from connections that were made when I was a Regional Leader or General Superintendent - a period that spanned twenty-five years. Having said that, these days my connections are as much with people outside of Elim. I see all of them as ‘sons’ and each of them are very important to me.
3) How important is it for younger men and women to have spiritual fathers and mothers and mentors?
I believe it to be very important. The people I mentor are mostly, though not exclusively, around the age that my natural sons would be had I had any. In other words they are already strong and effective leaders in the their own right who themselves are mentoring ‘sons’. This relationship is totally different to a forty-year old mentoring a twenty year old. At my age - I am seventy - my role is as a sounding board. They know I am there for them 24/7 and there is no way that they would ever consider their connecting me an imposition or intrusion. I will advise, when my opinion is asked. I leave it to them to decide to act, or not, on the advice that I give them. I am not ‘over them’ in a hierarchical sense. The parallel would be with a married man who ‘drops round to see his Dad’ knowing that the relationship is a ‘safe place’ in which he will be ‘heard’. The son will take as a given that he will be affirmed, encouraged and occasionally challenged. What they will know, as in any father-son relationship, is that I want God’s best for them.
4) What traits should younger leaders look for in spiritual mentors?
This is a very important question. No one mentored me as I was developing as a leader in the way that we understand it today. However there were those that I saw around me that were functioning at a higher level of faith than I was as a young man or had had already achieved goals that I had not yet attained to. I endeavoured to learn from everyone who I felt could help me be a better pastor or leader. However, beyond their ‘gifting’ they would need to be people of integrity and those I felt confident would keep in confidence anything that I shared about my spiritual journey. People who are being mentored need to feel free to share their weaknesses as well as talk about their strengths.
5) What is the most common piece of advice you give to the people you mentor?
Everything that I have shared in answer to your questions has been in the context of mentoring leaders. However every Christian would benefit from mentoring. At some levels its just another would for discipleship. To the people I already mentor I encourage transparency, openness, accountability and malleability - being able to listen to the ‘hard word’ as well as the affirming word. To the church in Corinth Paul writes Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ you do not have many fathers. In the Message 1 Cor 4:15 it is put perfectly There are lots of people who cant wait to tell you what you have done wrong, but there aren’t many fathers willing to take the time and effort to help you grow up.
In your opening question you asked about what I was currently engaged in and I listed them. If I had to give up everything in that list with the exception of one it would be connecting with spiritual sons. I place this as a higher privilege than preaching.
**The above were questions put to me by Direction magazine (Elim's monthly publication) and due to be included in the June 2019 magazine that featured Father's Day. However at the last minute my answers were cut without explanation. I include them on my website given I believe the comments may be helpful to those who see themselves in a role as spiritual mentors (fathers or mothers)