Irving Laird: Educator, Helper, Friend

Irving Laird: Educator, Helper, Friend

Irving "Doc" Laird and his wife, Beverly, reside in Nampa, Idaho, near Northwest Nazarene University (NNU) where he taught religious education and special ministries for 30 years.

Known for his example of servant leadership, Laird enhanced his teaching for 17 years by inviting about a dozen college students to his home every Tuesday night during the school year for a discipleship group. It was called "The Covenant" and 122 young men participated (many for all four years of college). Beverly had a similar group of college girls for several years called "Servanthood." These groups were based on eight principles: accountability, affirmation, availability, confidentiality, honesty, openness, prayer, and sensitivity. Now years later, the Lairds remain in some contact with almost all those who participated in the groups. These former students are scattered around the world.

Before launching his teaching career at NNU in 1969, Laird held several associate positions and one senior pastorate. Since his retirement, he and his wife have taught several short-term classes at various Nazarene campuses around the world, including time as interim chaplain at his alma mater, Eastern Nazarene College, in 2001. Currently he is a volunteer at Mountain States Tumor Institute and is active in several special ministries at Nampa First Church of the Nazarene. The Lairds have two grown children, Rebecca Laird (Christensen) and Steve, as well as four grandchildren.

Share a great memory from your teaching years. Getting to teach spiritual formation classes in several countries, and seeing students from various cultures all responding so positively.

You are on Facebook. Why? Primarily because it gives us regular contact with our college-age grandchildren. However, Facebook does have an incredible network system. All on my list are connected in some way with Nazarene higher education, the primary focus of my life the last 60 years. Hundreds of former students and fellow classmates from NNU, ENC, and NTS have reconnected with me in a personal way.

What person, living or dead, has most inspired you? My dad, Russell C. Laird. He lived a Spirit-filled life of love and compassion for everyone he met.

Why is mentoring important? I was blessed to always have some older person to "walk patiently with me" on my spiritual journey: A Sunday school teacher when I was a child, a college professor, a seminary professor, a senior pastor, a college president, an associate pastor, a retired pastor. They all modeled the love of Christ to me in a personal, consistent way. Also they were all willing to be vulnerable with me.

Best part about aging? You can turn your hearing aids down when the music in church gets too loud.

Worst part? Looking in the mirror.

Favorite author or book? Henri Nouwen is my all-time favorite author. I also like Calvin Miller's new book, Into the Depths of God, and Phillip Yancey's Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?

Greatest fear? Presently, falling.

Describe "personal holiness." For me it must be relational. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind... and... Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:37-39). I can only obtain personal holiness by the constant, daily infilling of God's Holy Spirit, who is personal and holy. I am a Wesleyan (Irving, Wesley , Laird) and I believe with Wesley—there is no holiness without social holiness.

What phrase do you most overuse? "I forgot."

How can a person find zest in life? Stay around a Nazarene college campus and listen to what the students are saying. Also become proactive within your church and community in both discipleship and compassionate ministries. Currently the worship highpoint of my week is Tuesday nights at our church with an on-fire "Celebrate Recovery" group. The philosophy there is you can "belong before you believe." Last Tuesday night I counted eight cigarette butts in the canister outside our family life center after the meeting. I said, "Well, praise the Lord." Then I looked across the street at the Care House and rejoiced that our church had raised $3,000 (USD) recently to buy food this week for the hungry people who live in the neighborhood.

You once told a student: "Fan the flame, but don't forget to stop and smell the roses." What did you mean by that? I don't remember that exact combination but I used both phrases many times with the young. Pastor Earl Lee taught me a new "spiritual gift" called "Blessed Subtraction." I shared that one with the students in Jamaica and they laughed right out loud. They knew what it meant.

How has your faith in Christ affected your worldview? My faith in Christ has affected my worldview by seeing what God is doing through the younger generation in His Church today. My local church, Nampa First Church, has for its worldview and motto, "Sharing Christ Across the Street and Around the World." Whosoever will may come in and is welcome! Inclusive rather than exclusive. This is Wesleyanism to me.

What is your life's motto regarding discipling and mentoring? It is taken from I Thessalonians 2:7-8, 19-20. I want to be "gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well... For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy."

How many students have you mentored or discipled, personally? I don't know-but I do know hardly a day ever passes when I don't have contact with a younger person who has allowed me to "walk with them" in years past.

What is it like to see people you knew as students now pastoring and teaching in higher education, and knowing that your influence played a role in their spiritual formation? I am thankful that I lived during the time the Church of the Nazarene rediscovered "The Lost Art of Discipleship" and renewed emphasis on compassionate ministries.

Holiness Today