A question that has come up more often lately in my hearing has to do with leadership. Are we facing a crisis in leadership? I am sure that at the end of World War II our grandparents were wondering who would emerge on the world scene to provide stable governmental leadership in the second half of the twentieth century. During the sixties, adults were bound to be concerned about the future as they watched the radical behavior of students lead to bizarre points of view and life choices. Once again in our day we hear the questions regarding the future leadership capabilities of our sons and daughters who have grown up in a culture which has largely been stripped of its moral, ethical and spiritual moorings.
Although we look on the national scene for strong political leaders and struggle to find much encouragement, we in the body of Christ should focus our attention on the leadership problems facing our generation by taking responsible action. What we need in each successive generation is a steadfast commitment to build and develop godly leaders in the power of the Holy Spirit. Who will pastor the great churches of our nation whose pastors are nearing an age where new leadership should take over? Vital Christian ministries which have enjoyed strong vision and godly leadership for decades now face the inevitable changing of the guard. Not many years ago people began to ask questions like, “Who will be the next Billy Graham? Bill Bright? Howard Hendricks? Where are the new writers to replace C. S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, J. I. Packer, John Stott, Elisabeth Eliott in the years just ahead? Or new pastors to step forward to follow men like John Piper, John MacArthur, Chuck Swindoll, Tim Keller?
I could go on listing the names of great Christian leaders who have influenced my life for Christ, but I think you understand what I am saying. Obviously some of those mentioned have many more years of fruitful ministry ahead of them, but we must always be asking who is coming along to take their places. By God’s design, He wants to provide the kind of leadership needed as we continue into the twenty-first century with boldness, courage and confidence in the power of Jesus Christ.
Are we truly facing a leadership crisis in our day? As I have examined that question over the past several years, I honestly do not think that has to be so. If there is a leadership crisis it has nothing to do with the generation coming up. Leadership is developed and cultivated as leaders train those who come alongside to assume more and more responsibility until they are equipped to function as fully qualified leaders themselves. Therefore, if there is a problem with the leadership of the next generation, it will be our fault in this generation for failing to do what it takes to grow godly leaders. We have a tremendous privilege entrusted to us by the Lord, not only to lead, but to develop leaders. In other words, we are charged with the unusual responsibility of working ourselves out of a job.
How does this impact you and me in our ministry? It is quite simple. In order to avoid a leadership crisis in our church, our community, our schools and our government, we must take seriously our calling to train and develop leaders. We must accept as inevitable that we will one day pass the baton to those coming along behind us. To do so with integrity requires much thoughtfulness and commitment on our part and theirs.
As the coming year of ministry unfolds, we face the exciting but uncertain prospect of watching the Lord raise up godly men and women to positions of leadership. Like Paul’s word to young Timothy, we must take what we have heard and learned and entrust it to faithful men and women who can then do the same for others. “And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2).
The Lord never comes up short of leaders. He gives all the necessary gifts to His people so that there is never any lack. But we must cultivate that leadership, making commitments on both sides of the equation, both to accept the leadership challenge set before us to lead, and to accept the leadership responsibility to teach and train new leaders.
Every year we need more leaders because there are more sheep in the fold who need someone trustworthy to follow. Pastors, elders, deacons, teachers, disciplers, mentors, directors, and other ministry positions too numerous to name are always in need of those who will “stand in the gap” and lead others to follow Christ. What leadership role has the Lord placed before you?
Oswald Sanders once wrote,
“The overriding need of the church, if it is to discharge its obligation to the rising generation, is for a leadership that is authoritative, spiritual, and sacrificial. Authoritative, because people desire leaders who know where they are going and are confident of getting there. Spiritual, because without a strong relationship to God, even the most attractive and competent person cannot lead people to God. Sacrificial, because this follows the model of Jesus, who gave Himself for the whole world and now calls us to follow in His steps…The real qualities of leadership are to be found in those who are willing to suffer for the sake of objectives great enough to demand their wholehearted obedience” (Spiritual Leadership, p. 18).
May God raise up in this church such leaders for His own glory!