Who would Tony Horsfall have to lunch?

Tony Horsfall is a freelance trainer and retreat leader based in Yorkshire, and the author of several books including most recently Deep calls to Deep (BRF 2015). He is often in N.Ireland leading clergy retreats through Cleopas, and will be taking part in New Horizon again this year. You can find out more about Tony’s ministry here, and read his blog here.

Here are three leaders he’d enjoy a meal with.


Hudson Taylor (1832-1905) was a pioneer missionary to China who came from my home town of Barnsley. As a young man I was greatly influenced by reading the story of his life, and my call to mission came largely through this link. Sharing this Yorkshire ancestry means we would have a lot to talk about, but 2015 would make it a special time to have lunch (fish and chips?) with him  –  it is the 150th anniversary of the mission he founded, Overseas Missionary Fellowship International.

I would love to hear from him about ‘perseverance’, a quality he showed in abundance as he endured many personal hardships in his work in China. How did he keep going when he faced setbacks, heartbreak and disappointment?

I would also like to ask him what he thinks about the current emphasis in mission on ‘member care’. Would he think that we have gone soft nowadays in the way in which we seek to take care of our cross-cultural workers? Or looking back  would he have valued a pastoral care visit, the opportunity for critical incident debriefing and a re-entry seminar on his homecoming?


The Dutch born Catholic priest and writer (1932-1996) influenced people worldwide through his books, and in particular ‘The Return of the Prodigal Son’. This book impacted me deeply and has been foundational to my own spiritual formation, as well as in shaping my belief that knowing our identity as God’s beloved children is at the heart of the Christian journey.

Nouwen wrote a great deal about what we might call spiritual leadership, that is not so much about the technicalities of leadership (how to build a bigger church, have a greater influence etc) but more about the inner life of the leader, and the kind of person the leader is becoming. I would therefore look forward to a spiritual conversation over lunch, we might say to an opportunity to receive spiritual direction for my own sake.

I would like to know how Nouwen would describe ‘Christlikeness’. But more importantly, I would like to know what he had to say to me. Would he see Christlikeness in me? Where might I need to grow and change? What are my blind spots?  Hearing his comments might be quite painful, but I’m sure he would do it in love!


I doubt if I will be the only one inviting John Stott (1921-2011) to lunch since this amazing Bible teacher and clergyman was rated as one of the 100 most influential leaders by Time magazine. Still, I hope he might find time for me! I did have the privilege of hearing him preach occasionally at All Souls in London when I was a student, and I have to say my understanding of preaching has been forever shaped by what he modelled then.

However, I would not want to discuss preaching with him, but the transition into old age! Stott was preaching until he was 80, but then suffered a fall and spent the last years of his life in a nursing home. How did he make such a transition, from international leader with a world-wide reputation for scholarship and erudition, to one who was dependent on others for daily needs? What advice would he give me as I approach ‘retirement’ and then the prospect of growing old? I am sure words like ‘humility’ and ‘dependency’ would crop up in the conversation, but it would be fascinating to learn from his life journey.

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