I can’t remember who I heard say it last but it resounds with every emerging story of the decline of Christianity in the west, “The same strategies that created the problems will not produce solutions to solve such.” Seems like Lewis Grizzard first penned a version of that about 40 years ago as a sports columnist for the Atlanta newspaper when Atlanta’s professional sports teams earned us the moniker, “Losers Ville”.
Anyway, obvious to all is the need for some kind of leadership overhaul in protestant Christianity in North America and Europe in order to produce different results. Dr. Gary Maxey, President of the West Africa Theological Seminary in Lagos, Nigeria, recently shared with me some of his research which showed that in 1800 some 87% of global Christianity was located in Europe and North America. Projections show that in 2025 some 31% of global Christianity in North America and Europe. That’s not a paradigm shift, that is a paradigm earthquake! Praise God for what is happening in China, Africa, and some other parts of the world where people are on fire with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So, how can we who are now facing more church closures than plants explain the fire that once was in Europe and North America that has become a mobile torch in the name of Jesus to carry the very light of Christ to places like Africa and China?
Everyone from highly respected scholars to shade tree sociologists has opined on the cause/effect of that transition of the global Christian population, but the postulates are varied in accordance with the theological or social bent of the cause trying to be justified in undertaking such studies. Not to be out voiced, let me suggest two things: 1) when Christianity began to transition from a lay-centric movement to a clergy-centric movement in Europe and North America the evangelistic and missional landscape began to change. We moved from a primary goal of making disciples to other goals that became like counterfeit Gods as the western man began to fashion God in his own image rather than vice-versa and the biblically traditional potter/clay model; and 2) the morphing definition of Leadership post WW2, especially in spiritual and theological arenas, has been an interesting thing to behold, but more confusing than interesting. From the Dalai Lama, to Farrakhan, to John Maxwell and Rick Warren is a pretty wide circle, wouldn’t you agree? My fear is that we have so diluted the biblical definition of leadership by developing our own personal definitions that not only we are confused, but the emerging generations are beyond confused, they are more like speechless. Speechless in describing the great legacy of leadership that is theirs to follow and redefine.
Twenty years ago I was thinking that leadership needed a facelift; kind of like a Peter Drucker squared or a Billy Graham Third Day remix. Ten years ago I decided that a facelift was too shallow to produce lasting results and we needed spiritually surgical enhancement to regain leadership forms with a biblical worldview and today I am thinking organ transplant. Remaking the external just isn’t going to do it. We need the gut wrenching blessing of being made new inside and out if we are to cast an inspirational shadow to those who look to us to lead.
Is there any good news? By all means! God is in the business of raising the dead, healing the sick, giving grace to the downcast, and shepherding back to wholeness those who have wandered a pig trail to near demise. That we might pray fervently live as Paul described in 2 Cor. 3 that we would again be God’s people who are both hopeful and bold in our leadership as we, “are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory.” (v. 18, NIV)
May the Lord bless and keep you all and give you the great desire to follow Him and thus begin to lead like Jesus in all that you say and do. Amen.