As you know, I was in Cape Town for the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization last fall. The statement working group from the congress has recently released the Cape Town Commitment: A Confession of Faith and a Call to Action. Here’s the section on leadership, especially as it pertains to the church in the developing world:
The rapid growth of the Church in so many places remains shallow and vulnerable, partly because of the lack of discipled leaders, and partly because so many use their positions for worldly power, arrogant status or personal enrichment. As a result, God’s people suffer, Christ is dishonoured, and gospel mission is undermined. ‘Leadership training’ is the commonly-proposed priority solution. Indeed, leadership training programmes of all kinds have multiplied, but the problem remains, for two probable reasons.
First, training leaders to be godly and Christlike is the wrong way round. Biblically, only those whose lives already display basic qualities of mature discipleship should be appointed to leadership in the first place. If, today, we are faced with many people in leadership who have scarcely been discipled, then there is no option but to include such basic discipling in their leadership development. Arguably the scale of un-Christlike and worldly leadership in the global Church today is glaring evidence of generations of reductionist evangelism, neglected discipling and shallow growth. The answer to leadership failure is not just more leadership training but better discipleship training. Leaders must first be disciples of Christ himself.
Second, some leadership training programmes focus on packaged knowledge, techniques and skills to the neglect of godly character. By contrast, authentic Christian leaders must be like Christ in having a servant heart, humility, integrity, purity, lack of greed, prayerfulness, dependence on God’s Spirit, and a deep love for people. Furthermore, some leadership training programmes lack specific training in the one key skill that Paul includes in his list of qualifications – ability to teach God’s Word to God’s people. Yet Bible teaching is the paramount means of disciple-making and the most serious deficiency in contemporary Church leaders.
A) We long to see greatly intensified efforts in disciple-making, through the long-term work of teaching and nurturing new believers, so that those whom God calls and gives to the Church as leaders are qualified according to biblical criteria of maturity and servanthood.
B) We renew our commitment to pray for our leaders. We long that God would multiply, protect and encourage leaders who are biblically faithful and obedient. We pray that God would rebuke, remove, or bring to repentance leaders who dishonour his name and discredit the gospel. And we pray that God would raise up a new generation of discipled servant-leaders whose passion is above all else to know Christ and be like him.
C) Those of us who are in Christian leadership need to recognize our vulnerability and accept the gift of accountability within the body of Christ. We commend the practice of submitting to an accountability group.
D) We strongly encourage seminaries, and all those who deliver leadership training programmes, to focus more on spiritual and character formation, not only on imparting knowledge or grading performance, and we heartily rejoice in those that already do so as part of comprehensive ‘whole person’ leadership development.