At the LCWE meeting in January 1983, Chairman Leighton Ford asked us to consider if the LCWE should host a world meeting for young people.
However, following 16 years of ministry with Youth for Christ in Canada, I wondered why there seemed to be so few in my age bracket who were giving leadership to the church. Most were older and it seemed that those in my age group were trapped managing the ideas and visions of those who were older. As well, I wondered if those in the younger age grouping were opting for status and security instead of showing daring, risk-taking leadership.
I recall at one of the meetings of the LCWE committee, Leighton looked around the table and asked, “After the next world conference, to whom will we pass the torch?” From that moment on, the idea of “torch passing” has been uppermost in our minds.
It became my task to travel the world and asked Church leaders the question about leadership in the Church.
Wherever I went, I found much of the same story. The dominating leaders were often those who had grown into leadership in the 1950s. Their creative and effective leadership had forced my peers to be managers of their ideas and put them into organization.
Although more senior leadership agreed that they were in desperate need for younger leadership, there seemed to be little or no effort to put in place a strategy.
What I found to be even more frightening was the drift of younger leaders. In many countries and for varying reasons, I could see too many looking for positions which would provide social standing and financial security.
As well, too often we saw the reworking of old models, coming out of the colonial experience, inflexible denominations and stereotyped organizational patterns.
It is out of that background that we meet in Singapore. We are here to think, talk, debate, pray and reflect on leadership in this age.
Following WW2, Youth for Christ called 250 younger men and women to meet together in Switzerland to consider what they should do about world evangelization. The church in many parts of the world had been stripped of its leaders. Some churches had been spiritually neutralized by the force of theological liberalism. But out of the devastation of the war came a cry for life. There seemed to be a mood which was captured and set into motion by these younger men and women, many of whom had little formal theological education. But they had learned the lessons of leadership the tough way, on the field.
One of the older leaders present was Dr. O.J. Smith. He asked the question, “Why should anyone hear the Gospel twice until everyone has heard the Gospel once.” For those in attendance, this became the riveting theme.
What has emerged from that meeting in Beatenburg in 1948? A list of leaders who have in many ways dominated the evangelical scene over the last 40 years.
From that meeting came the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, World Vision, Youth for Christ International, Trans World Radio, Greater Europe Mission and countless other ministries.
After planning for four years, the international younger leaders committee, sponsored by the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, is about to hold a conference with up to 350 participants.
It is our prayer that this will be a catalyst to encourage a rising generation of younger leaders to be courageous and creative in planning and carrying out strategies which will touch those outside of faith in Jesus Christ.