My most intensive mentor was Dr. Charles (Chuck) Farah. I studied under him when he was a professor in seminary at Oral Roberts University and co-pastor of Tulsa Christian Fellowship. He was a brilliant theologian and thinker with with the heart of a pastor. He became acquainted with esteemed philosopher/theologian Dr. Harold Ockenga, who encouraged him to get a Ph.D. in theology from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, one of the toughest and most prestigious universities in the world. As a professor, he was tough, but fair and affirming.
We related well together because of our mutual Christian & Missionary Alliance background, as his father was an Alliance pastor and he was acquainted with Alliance missionary/professor Dr. V. Raymond Edman, president of Wheaton College. He was a man of humility, preferring to be called Chuck. After his Ph.D., he went to work with the Navigators in Colorado Springs. Part of the routine for all workers was to help clean toilets. Not long after, the founder of Navigators, Dawson Trotman, passed away, and Chuck helped to dig his grave. Chuck had a dry sense of humor. He “chuckled” with me that some people call PhDs “post-hole diggers.” He mused that on the day he helped dig that grave he was literally a post-hole digger. He was personally discipled by Lorne Sanny, who carried on the Navigators torch.
Chuck showed up one Sunday unannounced at the small church I was pastoring. I was nervous to be preaching to Dr. Farah, one of my toughest seminary professors, especially on the subject of healing, wondering what kind of a grade he would give me. I was relieved that, with a couple of up-front but mild critiques, he affirmed me with an A- rating. Then he told me he was praying about whom the Lord would have him mentor, and the Lord showed him me. I was humbled that he would choose me.
For 2 years Chuck (as he preferred to be called) and I met for 2 hours almost weekly. He stretched me spiritually—he had a passion for souls. In his later days in the retirement home, then the nursing center as he was getting feeble, he was still sharing his faith, leading people to Christ, and leading a weekly Bible study.
As a hardcore Navigator’s guy, on the top of his agenda was Bible memory—we memorized and memorized and memorized together, reciting verses we had memorized. He would ask me, how is your soul? He approached me with humility, sharing his own struggles, being vulnerable with me. We would keep each other accountable and pray together for each other.
Chuck challenged my thinking intellectually—he stretched me—sometimes I felt I was on the rack. He would give me books, papers, or articles to read that stretched my thinking—not necessarily that I or he would agree with, but I learned to do critical thinking, dissect, distinguish, discern. We had our share of disagreements theologically, but he sharpened my mind. He prepared me and challenged me to get my doctorate.
He was a man of the Spirit—who combined the academic and the supernatural, a Ph.D. who experienced speaking in tongues. He shared that an Alliance missionary once asked his father, “Have you ever been so touched by God that you just wanted to break out in holy laughter?” Chuck was also a man of spiritual warfare. He developed a deliverance team of himself, a psychologist/ professor, myself, and others. Even though I had done a lot of deliverance ministry through the years, I learned a lot more from him—his combination of intellect and Spirit, his methodology, his ordered approach, his calmness, his team approach. He told me there is a lot of wild unsound deliverance theology and practice, but I was one of the few he knew that understood the need for balance and discernment.
He was also a moderate theological critic of the Word of Faith movement, writing a book entitled From the Pinnacle of the Temple: Faith or Presumption that stirred controversy. However, he was very gracious, and unbeknownst to most, he had Word of Faith friends with whom he dialogued, concluding years later, as I had discovered in my research and shared with him, that they had moderated. When one of the men whom he personally discipled wrote condemning diatribes of the movement, he could not endorse the radical attacks. Chuck shared with me how sad he was that some of his mentoring did not work out so well. His mentoring was the most rigorous and stretching of any in my life.
He encouraged me to pursue a second doctorate on a fair assessment of what is sound and unsound in faith teaching and practice. He did not live to see me finish it, but I dedicated to his memory the book that was published from it: Only Believe: Examining the Origin and Development of Classic and Contemporary Faith Theologies.
The toughest thing in his life, apart from the death of his wife, was that he was bi-polar, and he would sometimes go into bizarre mood swings, even imagining and hallucinating. In addition to bi-polar meds, he had to take heart and diabetic medications, which would mess up his mind and body. If you have ever seen the movie A Beautiful Mind about a brilliant professor with schizophrenia, you will understand. I understood, because my own mother was paranoid schizophrenic, and yet was a beautiful person who loved Jesus.
Chuck shared openly and honestly with me his struggles with his sanity. He could be lucid and sharp intellectually, yet his mind would wander off in strange directions. He told me he once read Martyn-Lloyd Jones’ book Spiritual Depression, which only depressed him more because the book was saying that all depression had spiritual roots. Chuck finally came to grips with his condition by realizing that it was not spiritual inadequacy or psychological craziness or a lack of faith, but a biological chemical imbalance that also was genetic (his father, a pastor, was also bi-polar, although they did not know what to call it or how to treat it back then).
I had the privilege of driving him to church weekly until 3 months before his death. At Chuck’s funeral, man after man after man shared how Chuck had impacted his life. Some of them were very significant men who had great worldwide ministries—such as Terry Law of World Compassion, mega-church pastors Billy Jo Daugherty and Larry Stockstill, singer Keith Green, and Keith Wheeler, known for carrying a cross around the world (we became involved with the same Promise Keepers discipleship group led by Chuck). I have never met anyone else who exemplified 2 Timothy 2:2 more than Chuck: “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful people who will be able to teach others also.”