Friends, mentors and fathers who built my faith
Matt Gregor is an Elim minister whose life has been shaped by a number of key mentors. We spoke to the Elim Vazon Church leader about those who have enriched his life.
Tell us a bit about yourself. What do you do now and how have you got to this point in life?
I am 39 and married to Hannah. We have four children – Chloe is four, Joseph is three, Jemima is one and Abigail is six months old. We lead Vazon Elim Church one of the three on Guernsey in the Channel Islands, and one of the first Elim Churches in the Movement. We have been here for three years.
I was on the team at Cardiff City Church as the youth pastor for 13 very formative years surrounded by great people to encourage and call out what God has put in me. Although I get on great with my dad, who is a wonderful godly man, he didn’t live with us from when I was about eleven years old and, looking back, I can see how God put significant people around me to encourage and help me and take some of the edges off – although I’m still a work in progress!
Who have been the key mentors in your life? How have they enriched you?
Growing up in Newtown Assemblies of God in mid-Wales, there was and still is a strong and healthy culture of children’s and youth ministry. I benefited significantly from being encouraged by male role models from an early age. I sincerely believed God loved me and had a good plan for my life. I now realise what a great foundation this was for me.
My father is one of my heroes whose faith in the Lord Jesus through difficult times has been a great inspiration. His commitment to the Lord and character have helped me so much growing up. During university and with my Elim ministerial studies he was key in encouraging me to persevere when I didn’t want to carry on and was a very practical help proofreading my assignments.
Nigel James has been a significant friend to me since I was in my mid-teens and he encouraged me and helped me to see the call of God on my life, especially when I doubted it. He gave me lots of opportunity in ministry in churches and summer conferences – as well as lots of encouragement and time together – including a road trip in the States with the Christian music band Third Day.
I gave Nigel lots of reasons not to believe in me and lots of opportunities to show me grace, which helped me see for real the love of God at work.
I worked for Chris Cartwright and Steve Ball while they were senior pastors in Cardiff and each of them showed incredible care and concern for me. I had a front-row seat to watch and learn how they navigated the different seasons of family life.
They continually thought the best of me, encouraged me and gave me a significant platform to serve. They gave me lots of quality time to process together all that was happening in church life.
Today, Eric Gaudion, a retired minister, is in our church and serves as my associate. He is worth his weight in gold and is a source of constant support, encouragement and help. He has stood by me on this great adventure of leading a church myself for the first time, and serves so humbly and is so loyal to my leadership. I am grateful for him.
Can you recall a particular conversation with one of your mentors that changed the course of your life?
During university, I was involved in leading the Christian Union and after graduation, I was planning a career in business, not ministry. I remember distinctly a conversation with Chris Cartwright and Nigel James in Caffè Nero where Chris was prompting me to join the team in Cardiff and suggesting I could become the youth pastor. It was a clear change of direction for me to become a youth pastor in Cardiff. Nigel and Chris were involved in my mentoring process which led to me eventually getting ordained, but it was certainly a long process as I developed in vision and skills with young people.
I hadn’t realised the lengths Chris was going to behind the scenes in order to find a salary for an additional team member, but his positive can-do attitude achieved a huge amount in the church and the city. The bias towards faith and possibility inspired me to go after things so much bigger than I would have otherwise settled for.
How have your mentors differed from each other?
The different personalities of my mentors help me see a fuller dimension of the Father heart of God. They are all incredibly generous with time, money, help and advice. Steve Ball is a man of great integrity – someone who will always do the right thing and is very conscientious with his work. I didn’t always do the right thing, even in ministry, but I was watching godly leaders navigating life and learning about the person that I wanted to become. I was given the gift of quality time with leaders to develop and grow into the person God was calling me to be.
Nigel would take time out every week to go through a youth ministry or discipleship book and talk it through. We would often discuss personal and ministry situations and how we could improve things. He was often vulnerable about his shortcomings and weakness with the guys on the youth team, which was very challenging for us doing our best to present ourselves as ‘got it all together’ leaders.
Have you begun to mentor others in ministry? How has this taken shape?
If I was going to wait until I was the finished article before I mentored others I would still be waiting! I think that mentoring and spiritual father figures are often just those a couple of steps ahead helping those who are a bit behind them. I have learned to try to bring others along with me in ministry – this great harvest we can see with the eyes of faith takes workers to bring in. And they need to be encouraged and developed.
We are to do all we can to give opportunity and a platform to raise up more workers in the harvest field. I don’t want to keep others waiting for me to retire or go on holiday before they get a chance to do real ministry – I want to encourage, equip and release people right where they are at.
I have tried to get others in on what I am doing, both to share the load and to invite them into the journey. In Cardiff’s youth ministry, some of the volunteer team went on to significant leadership responsibility in other areas including James Martin, who has just got back from Rwanda with Elim Missions.
I was shown how to do ministry, then given the opportunity to work together with others, and then supported while I took my first steps. In Guernsey, I have tried to follow the same model.
A good father shows his family by being present – physically and with undivided attention. And our heavenly Father delights to meet with us. Mentoring is also about presence, and while I have learnt a lot through books or other teachings, I believe that nothing can take the place of spending quality time in the presence of people as we walk through life together.
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