Ken (Fanta) Clarke’s dinner guests

Ken Clarke (known to many as ‘Fanta’, and not to be confused with the politician) is the Mission Director for SAMS (South American Mission Society) UK and Ireland. Despite what you might think from his youthful appearance, he has been involved in Christian leadership for over four decades; he was Bishop of Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh for twelve years and before that served in Chile as well as Church of Ireland parishes in Magheralin, Dundonald, Dublin and Coleraine.

The three leaders he would choose to invite to dinner span the world of the New Testament church, the Church of England in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the world of football management.


For many years I have been impressed by, intrigued with and impacted massively by Charles Simeon. He was born 24th September 1759 and died 13th November 1836. He is probably one of the most influential Anglican leaders the Church in England has ever known. He is not only one of my heroes but is a hero of 2 of my other heroes!! John Stott and Gordon MacDonald.

For over 50 years he was in Holy Trinity Church Cambridge. He influenced generations of Christians and many were called to ordination and mission service through his ministry. He taught the Scriptures faithfully. He preached the Gospel fearlessly. He discipled younger Christians relentlessly and no words can adequately describe his legacy. It wasn’t easy for him as for over the first 30 years of his ministry in Cambridge he was criticized, ostracized, maligned and opposed. But he remained faithful and when he died he commanded so much respect in the city and in the University that on the day of his funeral not only were all lectures cancelled but the shops all closed. What a man! What a preacher! What a leader! You can see why I would want to spend time,…a lot of time, with him!


He is known as the son of encouragement but his qualities extend far beyond that. He was a good man and full of the Holy Spirit. He was incisive, discerning, an enthusiastic team member and for many years he was willing to be  “second fiddle” to the apostle Paul.  I am intrigued with the importance of people who play second fiddle in church growth, mission advance and leadership fruitfulness. Recently someone said to me…

“It takes more grace than tongue can tell, to play the second fiddle well.”

I would love to talk with Barnabas about this. I would also ask him what he would have done differently to have avoided the conflict situation with Paul or was it inevitable?


I have a series of questions for Sir Alex…

  1. What kept you going all those years as manager of Manchester United?
  2. You have had a long marriage and family life is important to you: how did you balance family and work?
  3. Is leadership inherently instinctive or can it be learned? Is there some vital characteristic that no amount of training, no number of courses and no years of experience can give you?
  4. What do you consider to have been your finest moment?
  5. What makes someone a consistently effective long haul leader?
  6. At the end of our conversation over dinner my last question to Sir Alex would be…
  7. Would you mind paying for dinner…I am just a poor preacher! My fear is that he might just say, yes, I have heard you!!

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