Our denomination-wide ministry plan, Our Journey 2020, speaks of our desire as a Christian Reformed Church to grow leaders for our churches and ministries: “Our churches and ministries will grow new leaders of many kinds. At all levels—local, regional, denominational—we discover the talents, skills, and strengths in our ordained and lay people. We cultivate those gifts through education, hands-on ministry opportunities, and guidance from mature leaders in order to raise new leaders who have deep roots and yield abundant fruit.”
Yet we know that living into this statement of intent can be difficult. Our congregations and ministries don’t exist in self-contained bubbles. Instead, we serve as Christ’s representatives in our communities, nations, and world, where many beliefs compete for our attention and acceptance.
Gone are the times when truth was universally found in a transcendent God or even in rational thought and science. Instead, we live in a time of “fake news” and competing narratives where truth can be understood from within each person’s own construction.
This becomes especially challenging as our world presents us with more and more issues to navigate. Whether these issues are babies genetically edited before birth or complex immigration policy, it often seems that the church is faced with a cacophony of competing voices telling us how Christians should respond.
Leadership becomes especially important in these confusing times. The characteristics of these leaders are also important. As Christians, we need gifted, faith-filled leaders who can direct our spiritual walk, foster civil dialogue, discern the Spirit’s leading, and guide our participation in the world.
We need men and women of God who understand the times in which we live and can show us how to give witness to the faith we have in Christ, just as in Old Testament times when there were those “from Issachar, men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron. 12:32).
Whether these leaders are parents around the dinner table reading the Today devotional booklet, volunteers leading a GEMS or Cadets group or discipling others during a Coffee Break session, deacons fostering community outreach, or pastors leading a congregation, all these forms of leadership are important to our congregations in a variety of ways, from a variety of people, and at all levels.
And this leadership doesn’t stop with today’s challenges. As we look to the future and the new issues, challenges, and opportunities that may arise, it is also essential that we—as a denomination—raise up a new generation of leaders.
Let us seek out those with leadership potential in our congregations’ youth groups, among emerging immigrant congregations, in college classrooms or InterVarsity Christian Fellowship groups, and any other place where leaders may be found. Let us share openly the leadership gifts we see in these men and women and provide them with opportunities to develop and use those skills. Let us encourage them to continue to grow and then walk alongside them by lending faithful support to seminary education, online learning, mentoring, and prayer.
Only through such efforts will we be able to achieve the desired future of Our Journey 2020 of raising up new leaders who “have deep roots and yield abundant fruit.”