A New Kind of Leadership.. Robert Webber
an excerpt from "The Younger Evangelicals" 240-242

But what kind of leadership will the younger evangelical offer to the church? Where will they take us? One way to answer this question is to acknowledge their leadership will be very different than that of the evangelical traditionalists and pragmatists. Traditional evangelical leadership of the twentieth century is driven by the concerns formed out of the fundamentalist/modernist controversy. This traditional movement, its churches, publishing houses, mission boards, seminary and college education, have been and are now shaped by an apologetic Christianity that is fueled by the desire to be right. On the other hand, pragmatic evangelical leadership is driven by the market. It drinks from the hydrant of the church growth movement, the megachurch, the self-help books, and the program emphasis of the church that is fueled by religious consumerism. What do people want? How can we market to every need? How can we get the numbers?

The leadership of the younger evangelical is not shaped by being right, nor is it driven by meeting needs. Instead, it arises out of (1) a missiological understanding of the church, (2) theological reflection, (3) spiritual formation, and (4) cultural awareness. For this reason the most appropriate title of this chapter is "A New Kind of Leadership for the Twenty-First Century."

These four areas represent a circle of leadership, so there is not a correct point of entrance, nor a linear sequence of understandings through which a person must travel. Enter at any point and the entire arena explodes with connections and interrelationships that continue to expand in numerous directions, none of which come to closure. Consequently, leadership from the younger evangelicals will be dynamic, organic, and continuously changing paths as it constantly responds to cultural changes and to the hope for the eschatological reign of God overall of creation (see illustration 2 on p. 241).

I have decided to end this book with a brief presentation of the scope of each area of future leadership. This will help us gain a perspective on the kind of leadership the younger evangelical will offer.

the leadership circle They enter the leadership circle at any point. There is no linear sequence. Rather, all aspects of leadership are immediately connected and interrelated to each other all at once. The new leadership is a dynamic, unfolding interplay of "action-reflection-action" that touches every aspect of Christian life, thought, and ministry.

First, younger evangelicals are increasingly affected by the missiological understanding of the church. The Missio Dei identifies God's purpose in the world to rescue the world, save it, redeem it, restore it. To this end God sent Jesus Christ. By his sacrificial death and resurrection he has conquered the powers of evil. He has sent his Holy Spirit to apply his saving work to the entire created order, so that at the end of history God will reign over his restored creation and every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. This is the gospel- it is the good news of God that we are to share with the world, calling people to repent from their sin and by God's grace through faith come under the present reign of God in their personal lives and in the church. We are to be individually and corporately the people of God's present rule in the world. The ramifications of the Missio Dei are manifold. We do not define God's mission. It defines us. It tells us who we are, what our mission is, how we are to do ministry, worship, spirituality, evangelism. There is no aspect of the Christian life, thought, and ministry that is not connected with God's mission to the world.

For this reason theological reflection is inextricably linked with the Missio Dei. It is not an abstract objective discipline that is subject to reason, logic, or science. It is instead a communal reflection on God's mission that arises out of God's people as they seek to discern God's work in history and his present action in the life of the community. As Jesus sends the Holy Spirit, so the Spirit fills the Church, sends it forth, and remains within it always serving Christ, the chief minister of the church. Theological reflection is guided by the Spirit and clarifies for the church the nature of God's person and work in history. The practice of ministry is already theology-theology in action. The church, reflecting on this action, does theological thinking. This process has resulted in a universally embraced trinitarian and christologically based theological understanding. The mission of God in the world is the mission of the triune God manifested in Jesus, who is both fully human and fully divine. Every aspect of Christian life, thought, and action is inextricably linked with this universally affirmed understanding of God. God's union with Jesus, the empowerment of the Holy Spirit in the church, and the work of reconciliation in the world arise from the church's theology of God, Christ, and the Spirit, which is expressed in the ecumenical creeds of the ancient church. When one enters the circle of leadership through theology, one is driven to missiological reflection, to spiritual formation, to cultural awareness.

One can also enter the circle through spiritual formation. Spirituality is no longer exclusively identified with spiritual habits of prayer, Scripture reading, and attendance at church, or with an ethical list of do's and don'ts such as prohibitions against drinking and dancing. Rather, spirituality is informed by the Missio Dei (italics mine) and the theological reflection of the church, emphasizing the holistic message of becoming truly human. God's mission is to rescue the world.

Through Jesus, the perfected second Adam, we see what man is called to be. The community of Jesus, the church, is called to be a corporate witness to what reconciled humanity, living as the extension of Jesus in the world, can become and will ultimately be in the kingdom of the future. True spirituality is the process of becoming human individually and corporately. This kind of spirituality, grounded in God's mission to the world, moves within the circle to action. True spirituality compels Christians to put themselves in the position of the poor and oppressed. It illuminates for believers how the exercise of Christ's ministry in the church and to the world works to liberate humanity from the demeaning affects of poverty and injustice. It releases the human spirit to participate in God's current, continuing redemptive action in history, which is moving toward God's ultimate victory over all evil and an eternal reign over all creation. Spirituality is a link between mission, theology, and ministry. It is not so much a knowing but a being -- a true embodiment of God's mission.

Finally, this circle of leadership being formed by the younger evangelicals is not complete without recognizing the deep concern they have for cultural awareness. Younger evangelicals point us to a new hermeneutic which is grounded in Scripture, shaped by the reflection of the church throughout its history, and expressed in the concrete situation of the church in its particular place in culture. We now live in a postmodern culture-a culture shaped by globalization; historical nostalgia; spiritual hunger; mystery; oral, visual and interactive forms of communication; the longing for community; and the fear of terrorism. God's mission through the church, our theological reflection within the church, and our search for spiritual meaning take place within this particular kind of culture.

Robert Webber was promoted to glory in May of 2007. Thanks be to God for his life, work and service to the world.



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Last Updated on August, 2005