This week I had the honor to be with about 50 student pastors from the largest churches in my tradition, the Southern Baptist Convention, at an annual event called Youth Metro. I enjoyed fellowship with former (and future) students, old friends, and making many new ones. I also had the joy of speaking on missional student ministry. I was delighted at the enthusiastic response as I challenged them to place the gospel at the center of student ministry and to raise up a generation of students to live as missionaries. Once again, as has been the case in evangelism conferences, missional gatherings, church planting events, and so on, I found a great sense of urgency for gospel-centered change among so many.
They also reminded me of the power of leadership in movements. Too often people think that movements start out of an event, a big gathering with a large crowd of committed people. But movements that make lasting impact start with a few, often not in the center of a tradition, spreading virally because of the importance of the cause and key leaders. For movements to bring change, they must be led well. This leads me to the man who spoke after me at Metro.
Mark Miller nailed some issues on leadership that relate to the movement called the Great Commission Resurgence in the SBC. By the way, I am convinced the GCR is in fact a movement, but that will have to be another article for another day. Miller, a VP at Chick-Fil-A, spoke from his new book co-authored with Ken Blanchard called The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do.
Mark offered the five qualities of great leaders using the acronym SERVE. I believe these are the qualities we see in the GCRTF as they lead. Here they are:
First, Great leaders SEE and SHAPE the future. Miller noted: “Leaders give words to the things other leaders sense in their heart.” Johnny Hunt as SBC president, Danny Akin in his Axioms message, Al Mohler, Ronnie Floyd and other leaders on and off the Task Force understand the future better than many. Managers, who by the way are greatly needed for any endeavor to have success, focus much more on the status quo than the future. But leaders understand the need to be proactive as we move into the future. I think the GCRTF is doing this well.
People want certainty. They want to know the future will be good and healthy. But we cannot wait until we know the outcome to step out in faith. Change does not always promise immediate certainty. So great leaders, while not always able to give certainty about the future, can give clarity. Leadership is defining reality. Numerous articles by the GCRTF have helped to give clarity regarding the future.
Second, great leaders ENGAGE and develop others. Bill Bright said, “Great men lead, but greater men train leaders.” Leaders in the Great Commission Resurgence get the importance of developing the coming leaders and equipping them. I affirm that personally for that is my life’s calling. I wish I had space to list the leaders who have been personally taught or mentored by Hunt, Akin, Mohler, and so many others engaged in this movement. Increasing metrics alone will not bring change-give more, serve more, etc. Besides that, increasing numbers of people no longer give to causes just because of the way things have been done in the past. We need a new and compelling vision for the future and centered on the gospel, and young leaders by the scores get that. And if you are reading this and do get that, then get yourself to Orlando. I have witnessed in state after state, church after church, a hunger not only for gospel-driven change, but to be mentored and trained to be more effective. The GCR has brought more leaders to the table to discuss matters that, well, matter.
Thrid, great leaders REINVENT continuously. While you do not lose your core convictions (see point 5), how you apply those must change. Miller noted we must reinvent our
-selves-as believers we must continually be growing, adapting, learning more how to serve Jesus in this world. Example: I once thought that the way to get believers to share their faith was simple: teach them a program. I believed information equals transformation. It can in the lives of those passionate for transformation. But for so many, much more than a program is needed, and sometimes a program actually works against growth because it teaches people to do the minimum necessary. I am still learning, growing, and hope to until I die.
-systems-Southern Baptists have been entrenched with programmatic ministry. We have had a stronger methodological core than a theological one. That reality is being dismantled, and the goal of a vibrant, theologically driven core founded on the Word, directed by the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, and centered on the gospel will keep us on task in the future. We have to reinvent-not the gospel-but how we share it and live it in our time. Just look at the dramatic shift in priority given to church planting to see a positive change.
-structure-we tend to hope that because our structures have been successful in the past they will be so in the future. To quote Miller, “Hope is not a strategy.” And to quote him again, “Non-leaders hate change.” I am grateful for leaders who have stepped up and called for substantive changes in a Southern Baptist Convention that by virtually any measurable statistic, and by the stories of scores of pastors ministering in the world daily, we desperately need to change. We cannot simply hope that because we have had great victories in the past we will inevitably see them in the future by embracing the status quo. We have leaders calling for a healthy, biblical reinvention and I think the time has come.
Remember the quote attributed to Einstein: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.”
Fourth, great leaders VALUE results and relationships. Each of us is either more results-oriented or relationship-oriented. When results are emphasized for the most part, relational people get nervous, fretting over those being left out. When relationships get too much focus, results typically don’t come. But when we as followers of Christ shift the focus off ourselves and begin to think about results and relationships with a lost world, we see the need to make changes to become more effective in both categories. We are not enjoying relationships with the world in terms of communicating the gospel, and we are not seeing great results, either. We must value both. We should value the things we share and relationships forged over convictions growing out of the Great Commission rather than dividing over our preferences
Fifth, great leaders EMBODY their values. The people calling for change in the Great Commission Resurgence demonstrate a great amount of consistency in this. Jim Richards has given great leadership as the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention models well a healthy structure. Johnny Hunt has shown how a pastor who is passionate for the Great Commission can lead his people to reach others locally and globally, through conventional evangelism, church planting, and missions. I believe one reason Southeastern Seminary is seeing her greatest years of new student enrollment comes from Danny Akin’s ability to lead our school to embody the values of a Great Commission seminary in today’s world.
The Great Commission Resurgence, particularly when it comes to the report presented by Ronnie Floyd at the SBC, will be more than a vote on budgets, direction, or structure. It will be more than a referendum on methodology. It will be a vote on leadership-do we have confidence in those leading us? Do they embody what we hope for the future of the SBC? It is not a vote on their perfection (they are not). It is not a vote on every letter of their report (it too will not be perfect). But it will be a vote on whether or not a Southern Baptist Convention stuck in the status quo will follow the leaders before us, and whether those leading us have effectively grasped the currents of our time that can lead us to a greater future for the glory of God and the fulfillment of the Great Commission..
I for one believe in the leadership of the GCRTF. I will follow them. I believe God is moving, and I want to be a part of His work. Join the movement.