The Next Generation: Leadership and Communicating the Gospel

As the twenty-first century continues to unfold before us, it is fitting to reflect upon the next generation of evangelical leadership in this new millennium and in this quickly changing global context.

Many current Lausanne leaders, including yours truly, are either in or entering a season of senior statesmanship; yet, the task of world evangelization is too large for any one generation to fulfill on its own. Rather, it requires the cooperative efforts across generations—the strength and wisdom of one generation, as well as the passion and fresh perspective of the next. The need to engage, equip, and learn from the next generation of leadership is critical to bring fresh vision, energy, and relevance to the task of communicating the whole gospel to the whole world.

The 2006 Lausanne Younger Leaders Gathering in Malaysia was convened specifically to identify, engage, and connect new leaders for world evangelization. YLG ’06 was not a one-time event, but inaugurated a process that includes mentorship in small groups and Lausanne Younger Leaders Global Connections being held all over the world this spring.

In this media-saturated, skeptical world, it is with the humility of authentic servant leadership that we can effectively serve as models, as well as engage and hear from the next generation. Without a listening posture, it is impossible to gauge what the next generation requires in order to be equipped. In this vastly complex and ever-changing world, no one formula or program fits all. There are endless needs to be addressed, including:

  • Training in microfinance ventures
  • Literacy work in world relief organizations and seminaries
  • Biblical literacy
  • Mentorship skills
  • Peer accountability skills
  • Skills in actualizing visions and partnerships
  • Greater training to communicate more effectively
  • Greater ear training to be present and truly listen
  • Etc.

With the task of world evangelization so great, and with the desire to move forward, we must engage the next generation, not just as mentors, but also as learners. We have much to give and offer from our experience and maturity. Yet there is also much we can learn. We are to discover and celebrate the gifts each group has to offer. We must seek to be connected in one body, with mutual identification, nurturing, and development of gifts. Our goal must be to discover a new equilibrium of multigenerational leadership for the purposes of world evangelization.

Lausanne is committed to finding a new equilibrium in which the Church can communicate the gospel creatively, holistically, and powerfully.

As we plan and pray for the future, let us be mindful and deliberate in the development and refinement of the next generation of leaders who are to energize and lead us into the next era of world evangelization. It is indeed for the whole church to bring the whole gospel to the whole world. This is our shared commitment, vision, and call.

Doug Birdsall is executive chair of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization. He served as president of Asian Access from 1991 to 2007 and continues to serve on their board of directors. Birdsall is a graduate of Wheaton College, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Harvard University. He is co-publisher of Lausanne World Pulse.