How were you chosen to become the Youth President of WOTCC?
I was elected by majority vote of the national body during our youth convention in August 2007. In our organization, the NYFC president is the only office elected by the majority vote of the entire body.
What qualifications did you have to meet to be the youth president?
According to our youth constitution, other than the general requirements for age and character, one must have served as an executive officer. Prior to becoming President, I had served as 2nd vice president for 7 years. Before that I had served in other capacities with the NYFC. I was elected to my first office at 13 and served in elected office, in different roles and at different levels, even while in college and law school, until I was elected president. At age 29, I was the youngest elected youth president in WOTCC.
What has been your greatest accomplishment since being placed in charge of the youth department?
I give glory to God for all things that have occurred over the last six years. God has blessed me with an outstanding leadership team that consists of some of the most gifted, talented, dedicated, and skilled staff.
I thank God for the souls that have been baptized in Jesus name during our national meetings and filled with the gift of the Holy Ghost. I am grateful for the new initiatives such as our young adult ministry, bible bowl & bible bee challenge, essay and oratory contest, national academic recognition service and the expansion of our national scholarship program. We also adopted a new mission/vision statement along with 7 core principles for our national and local youth departments. I am also proud to have been able to visit over 90% of our churches with plans to visit the remaining churches before I leave office.
With mentorship such an important part of ministry how important has mentorship been to your ministry and who are your mentors?
I am grateful for all the men and women of God that he has placed in my life. I initially grew up under the ministry of my great uncle, Bishop James T. Agnew, Sr. who was Presiding Bishop of the Greater International Pentecostal Holiness Church based in Martinsville. The greatest mentor in my life has been my Pastor and father in gospel, Bishop Earley Dillard, Pastor of Shiloh WOTCC. Under his ministry, I was baptized, filled with the Holy Ghost, and started in ministry. Ironically, he too, served as NYFC president, and I was elected to my first position under his administration.
While in college, at the University of Virginia, I started preaching and gave my first sermon at the Charlottesville Church of Christ (Bible Way World Wide), under the leadership of Bishop Rufus Hayes. In law school, I had the privilege of serving at the WOTCC Mother Church in Washington, DC and sit under the ministry of Bishop Alphonzo D. Brooks. There I had many teachers and instructors that were and still are great mentors to me in ministry. Bishop Brooks is our current Vice Bishop and son of our founder, Bishop H.C. Brooks. Bishop Brooks also served as NYFC president for 19 years. I learned a lot about the history and heritage of the WOTCC while at the Mother Church.
Upon moving to Hampton, for six years I served at two churches, Gates of Praise WOTCC in Hampton under Bishop Carl Miller and at Living Waters WOTCC in Newport News under Bishop James Jackson.
I've also had other great mentors such as my wife’s grandfather, the late Bishop John Williams, Sr. who was Vice Bishop of WOTCC and a former NYFC president. Many nights he would stay up and talk to me about what it takes to be a successful youth president and pastor. My other mentor is Bishop Keith Nesmith. Bishop Nesmith served as 2nd Vice President when I first became an officer in 1991. In 2000 when I was elected 2nd Vice President he was the President. Today, as President, he serves as our Auxiliary Bishop.
What is your overall vision for the youth department?
As mentioned before, when I came into office we adopted a new mission and vision statement with core principles that reinforced the motto given to the NYFC by its founder, the late Mother Isabell B. Ford, “education with salvation.” Thus our vision has been to become a church body that continuously produces saved and successful youth who will make a positive impact in their homes, schools, communities, churches, and careers. To reach our goal our core principles are emphasizing salvation, worship, discipleship, leadership, fellowship, scholarship, and evangelism.
What do you want to be said by people when they think of your presidency?
That I love God and his people and that I did my best to serve them to the best of my ability. I tried to be an example to the youth that one can be professionally successful yet keep “Christ first and foremost” in their lives. Although I tried to emphasis other education and other areas, I never compromised or diminished the value of salvation and being filled with the Holy Ghost.
I've also tried to show my support for local pastors and youth departments. Over the last 6 years I have visited 90% of our churches; many at my own cost, not to preach, but just to show my support and that they matter to me. I have plans to visit the remaining churches in the next few months. They mostly consist of churches that are not on the east coast. We’ve also tried to give most of our young ministers and pastors the opportunity to speak at our national meetings. We have also taken the majority of our national meetings to our young/smaller churches to provide support to them.
What do you feel separates you and your staffs presidency from the past presidency’s of the organization?
I think the biggest change in terms of how we run the organization is the use of the internet and social media. Before everything was sent to the churches with hopes of the information being passed down, from the pastor, to the youth president, to the people. Now we have a national website which is constantly updated, we’ve adopted a mass e-mail system so that anyone can personally receive all information directly as soon as it becomes available. We also use social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube. We also have at least 3 public meetings/planning sessions so that the national body can give us suggestions and recommendations on how to improve the NYFC.
The second thing that we do differently is that our staff made the decision at the beginning of our administration to meet monthly. At least once a month we have a conference call with our executive staff. Regular meetings are important. It also gives us the opportunity to not only plan the next national meeting but also discuss and try to resolve other matters to help us operate more efficiently and effectively.
This is important because each office is individually selected. I did not pick my running mate or executive officers. I always say “I didn’t pick them, but I am grateful that God gave them all to me” Thus our monthly meetings allowed us to get to know each other better, bond and become great friends. When my wife took ill after the birth of our first child, it was the officers, using the conference call line that called me and had prayer for us while she was in CCU. I love my team and thank God for them.
As a man of great education, how important is education in this era of the Pentecostal church?
For years education was frowned upon and perhaps discouraged because many of our youth went off to college and either backslid or left the Pentecostal church for other denominations. I think it is important that our youth see doctors, lawyers, teachers, judges, corporate executives, and entrepreneurs who are successful in their careers yet are baptized in Jesus name, filled with the Holy Ghost and don’t mind giving God the praise.
This has been one of the reasons we started the national academic recognition service. Not only to honor our high school and college graduates but our speakers have been what I term “accomplished Apostolics”; people who have excelled in their career/profession but are unashamedly hand-clapping, foot-stomping, tongue-talking Apostolics. I thank God for my education but I am most grateful for being saved and having Jesus in my life.
I am also grateful for my pastor that always taught that you could basically be anything and still be saved if you kept Christ first in your life. So when others thought it was not a good idea for me to go to law school, he was fully behind it. For me, what actually inspired me to go to law school was to help churches and pastors. I have been blessed over the years to provide legal services in this area.
Ministry wise who has been your biggest influence?
I admire a lot of ministers for various reasons. I mentioned my list of mentors but I love reading Apostolic history and have the biographies of many of the founders and patriarchs of the modern American apostolic revival. There are also several bishops that I view regularly on youtube – Bishop Robert McMurry, Bishop William Bonner, Bishop David Ellis, Bishop Norman Wagner, Bishop Huie Rogers, Bishop Lymus Johnson and Bishop G. E. Patterson. I also admire many that I view regularly on television that I have not met in person but hope to meet one day. But probably the two that I have tried to pattern my ministry style after the most growing up in WOTCC is Bishop A.D. Brooks and Bishop Earley Dillard.
What one thing under your leadership would you do over?
I regret not spending more time with the local pastor, youth president and youth departments when I visited their churches. Often I would visit for a service or preach but I did not get to have that informal time to talk with the youth where I feel like I could perhaps have been more effective in ministry by sharing my personal experiences and building relationships. Now as I have the opportunity to go back and visit many of these churches I now actually request time for a rap session or lunch with the local youth leaders and youth departments. For the churches where I have had this opportunity the sessions have gone really well. In some cases I left a church feeling that I had accomplished more in a one hour lunch with the youth than I had in 3 nights of revival with them.
As an attorney, pastor, youth president, professor, husband and father how do you have time for anything hobbie related?
I really don't in all honesty. I read; I watch news and sports on television when I get chance but usually I am working on something while I am watching it. Right now I am also trying to learn how to play the keyboard. I took lessons as a child but now I am trying to learn how to play for our church.
What impact do you feel WOTCC has on the Pentecostal world as a whole?
I hope that we are viewed as a body that has a level of consistency and steady growth. We’re not the largest or fastest growing Pentecostal organization, but the Lord has blessed us over our 85 years. The WOTCC was not birthed out of a major split nor have we had any major splits. In 85 years we’ve had only 4 Presiding Bishops. Some call us a traditional and old fashioned apostolic movement, yet while we have evolved some over the years in certain areas, for the most part we have remained fairly consistent in our doctrine, teachings, and leadership.
What activities do you like to do in your free time?
I try to spend as much free time with God, my wife, and my kids. At other times I am trying to catch up on rest.
As a college professor in your observation what does the church need to do to win this and the next generation to Christ.
Many youth are turned away from the church because they fail to see relevancy and authenticity. I think we have to do a better job of communicating how the timeless truth of the bible can be applied to their current lives.
In terms of authenticity, we have to be more transparent, patient, non-judgmental, and non-hypocritical. With many youth we lack credibility. We often do a poor job of demonstrating that we care and understand them, their struggles, and issues. We must do a better job of practicing what we preach. When you feel that a gang will accept you for who you are but the church tries to change everything about you, then we have a problem.
Youth can also easily smell when someone is a fake, fraud, or phony. They are turned off when they see the “adults” fighting, competing, mistreating each other and living up to their own professed standards.
One of my main prayers as a professor, pastor, president is that God will keep me from falling or ever be a stumbling block to some youth because of some failure in my life.
We also have to do a better job of utilizing our youth in ministry. In the secular word, a youth can graduate college and have a high level management position in their twenties. However, in the church, we often will not put youth in positions of leadership until they are in their 30’s. Thus many youth spend more time climbing the corporate ladder than working and serving in ministry. These are some of the reasons why we established our national young adult ministry.
What advice would you give someone feeling the call of the Lord on there life especially pertaining to young people.
Start working and serving. It's nice to have the picture on the website, name on the banner, and share the pulpit with great preachers but people often do not know the hours spent doing this job. I’ve made a lot of sacrifices to get where I am today. During conventions I get very little sleep. I am up late at night with late night activities and then up the next day for early morning prayer services. I’m often the one that drives the bus for the youth to go to the amusement park or other recreational event. I started young, age 13, attending the planning sessions, worked registration, stuffing envelopes, selling tickets. I travel to the churches, often at my own expense, I stay up late at night counseling youth and tarrying with them around the altar. It's not about being in charge of young people but about being willing to give your all to serve and help see youth be saved and succeed both spiritually and in life.
What aspect of being youth president came easiest and what was most difficult to you?
Having working with the NYFC for 16 years before becoming President, I had an idea of what it took to be president. However there is little that can prepare you for actually being President. I think the hardest thing is trying to balance all the interest, personalities, and view points. I have to make sure that I hear from God and do his will regardless of the opinion of others. I know that I am ultimately accountable to God for every decision that I make while in office.
What do you feel is the most difficult challenge young people of today face and what have you done to combat that challenge.
There are numerous issues that our youth face. One thing that we’ve tried to do is not just “preach at it” or “pray over it” but have seminars, workshops, forums that address hot topics and controversial issues that often are not properly address or dealt with in our churches. Our youth must not only have the Holy Ghost and know the Word, but be taught and trained to know how to apply it to their daily lives. Moreover they must see people who have applied the Word of God to their lives, gotten positive results, and are successful in every area of their lives.
As we can all see Elder Travis has an amazing perspective from both his spiritual and natural postitions that he holds. I pray everyone enjoyed reading this interview as much I did once I saw the finished project. God Bless!!!