With 2014 coming to a close, Keep The Faith felt compelled to interview Bishop Donald Bolt, the recently installed National Overseer of one of Britain’s oldest Black Pentecostal churches: the New Testament Church of God (NTCG).
Bishop Bolt took over from Bishop Eric Brown in September, following his election to the role in March 2014. He is a minister with long-standing experience. Ordained as a minister in 1981, he has served in the NTCG for over 40 years. Roles he has undertaken include serving as Senior Pastor of four NTCG churches, and was Overseer of the Aldershot District of Churches. He has been a member of the NTCG National Executive Council for 14 years, and was appointed as the National Secretary/Treasurer in 2009.
Bishop Bolt spoke with Keep The Faith about his new role, his plans for the church in the forthcoming year, and his plans for Christmas.
KEEP THE FAITH (KTF): Congratulations on your new role as National Overseer of the New Testament Church of God. What kind of responses have you received from other church organisations following your appointment?
BISHOP DONALD BOLT (BDB): Marcia, thank you so much for your well-wishes. I have received numerous well-wishes and messages of support from the ministers, members and friends of the church, as well as from para-churches and other non-church organisations from home and abroad.
KTF: What, in your view, are the key issues facing the NTCG, and how do you plan to overcome them?
BDB: We are concentrating our efforts on increasing spiritual growth, as well as diversifying the church, so as to reflect the make-up of the society that it is ministering to. Keeping the next generation of young people interested in the church must also become a priority if we are going maintain our place as a major church in this country.
KTF: What is your vision for the New Testament Church of God during the next four years that you are at the helm?
BDB: I intend to launch my vision document in February 2015 that will focus on the key points for the New Testament Church of God for 2014-2018. Part of that vision is to get the church to focus on its main priorities of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ and ministering to those in need.
KTF: The NTCG is one of Britain’s oldest Black Pentecostal denominations, with a great spiritual heritage. What was your initial reaction when you learnt that you been appointed as the new National Overseer?
BDB: The New Testament Church of God has a great spiritual heritage; one that I am very proud of and will be doing my best to ensure that we maintain. I am anxious to ensure that our ministry is inclusive of all cultures, as the Gospel of Jesus Christ is for everyone on earth and we have a duty to proclaim that.
I was actually elected in the first round of votes by the general body of ministers (including the National Executive Council), with a prescribed requirement of the two-thirds majority; in my case, 70% of the votes were cast in my favour.
KTF: Britain’s Black Pentecostal churches have contributed greatly to church life here in Britain; however, some people are of the view that the Caribbean Pentecostal church is in decline. What’s your view on this?
BDB: The Pentecostal message cannot be defined as Caribbean, European or assigned to any one culture. I am proud of the contribution that the NTCG has made and will continue to make to life in Britain – not just to churchgoers, but also to the wider community. However, we cannot afford to get complacent; we must strive to employ current and innovative ways of spreading the Gospel that will continue to have significant impact in this country and the world at large.
All of the Pentecostal churches, including the New Testament Church of God, will need to ensure that what they offer is attractive not just to people of Caribbean descent, but to people of all nationalities.
KTF: Do you think churches like the NTCG need to take steps to re-connect with Britain’s African and Caribbean community – particularly men – and, if so, how should they go about this?
BDB: I believe the Church does good work in the society as whole: in the prisons, hospitals, food banks, senior citizens clubs, etc. However, we need to do more in terms of the disproportionate number of men of Caribbean descent in our prisons and mental institutions, more in terms of absent Black fathers, etc.
KTF: With the recent publication of the first ever Black Church political manifesto, will the NTCG be getting more involved in politics and, if so, in what way?
BDB: NTCG is blessed with people who are contributing to the political life of this country, and the church will continue to encourage and support those with the calling to serve in the political arena.
KTF: Can you tell me a little bit about your background, ie. where you were born; how many brothers and sisters you have; what your parents did, and the role of Christianity in your childhood?
BDB: I was born on the island of Jamaica, the seventh of ten children – six girls and four boys. My father was a farmer in his early days, then he went on to be the manager of a major estate in Jamaica. My mother was a housewife; with ten children she did not have time for much else.
KTF: What inspired you to make the decision to become a Christian, and when did you receive the call to church leadership?
BDB: My mother was a committed Christian, who would always ensure that we went to Sunday school and to church. Although my father was not a practising Christian at that time, he would also insist that we go to church.
My mother, along with other Christians in my community, played a part in me becoming a Christian. At the age of nineteen, I made a commitment to Christ and started my preaching ministry about four years later. The leaders of the church soon recognised that I had a calling on my life, and gave me opportunities to minister. I started my pastoral ministry in 1981, and have been in active ministry since that time to the present.
KTF: What are the three key lessons you have learnt about being a Christian leader in your role as pastor, Senior Pastor, District Overseer and now as National Overseer?
BDB: That when God calls a person to work for Him, He will always give them the tools to get the job done; that in ministry, it is the people that matter, and that without the support of the people you cannot succeed; and that, as a leader, you must be trustworthy, transparent, exercise good stewardship, and treat people with respect and fairness.
KTF: Your role as National Overseer now means that your wife becomes the Head of NTCG Women’s Department. How long have you and your wife been married, and how has she supported you in your leadership roles?
BDB: The women represent approximately 70% of the church, so my wife has a great task to give leadership to this group.
I have been married to my beautiful wife, Joycelyne, for 38 years; our marriage has produced three children. I am very fortunate that my wife is my greatest supporter, and she has given me loyal support in my ministry over the years. I give God thanks for her life and for her dedication.
KTF: What, in your view, has kept your marriage long and strong?
BDB: Some of the ingredients that are vital to a long and strong marriage are: Christ, love, trust, respect, compromise, good communication, and working as team rather than trying to compete with each other.
KTF: Christmas is approaching. What does this season mean to you, and how do you plan to celebrate your first Christmas as National Overseer of the NTCG?
BDB: Christmas is a very important time in the life of Christians. It is a time when we should reflect on the love of God for all of humanity. I personally like Christmas and use it as a time for reflection, rest and relaxation with family and friends.
KTF: With 2014 drawing to a close, what should we expect from you in 2015?
BDB: 2015 is the time when I intend to launch and begin to engage others in my vision for NTCG for the next four years.
KTF: And finally, what message of hope would you like to share with your members and Keep the Faith readers?
BDB: John 3:16 reminds us of God’s love for His people. That is what we should be celebrating this and every Christmas season. The love of God is universal in its scope: “He loved the whole world”. The love of God is sacrificial in its nature: “He gave His only Son”. And finally, His love is personal in its appeal: “Whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal life”.
It is my prayer for all Keep The Faith readers that you will experience the love, joy and peace that Christ brings this Christmas season and in the coming year.
Visit www.ntcg.org.uk for more details.