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Emerging Leaders or Submerging Servants?


As a 26-year-old pastor I am excited about the potential for the emerging generation of Southern Baptists. We live in a changing culture, and our generation will encounter unique and challenging obstacles that previous generations did not experience. I believe God is gifting many in our generation with the capability and creativity to reach our diverse world for Jesus Christ. Even now, I know several young pastors and other leaders who God is using to make a tremendous gospel impact in local churches and the wider culture. While I am amazed at our potential, I am concerned over a growing attitude that seems to be tainting the reputation of my generation. This attitude is present in some young pastors and others who believe they should be privileged with a voice of leadership in the Southern Baptist Convention. These self-appointed “young leaders” are in disagreement over several methodological and philosophical issues that they believe pervade the older generation of SBC leadership.


Language and actions

Debating the issues is always appropriate; no methodology or attitude is above godly criticism. It is the way these individuals are pushing for change that is so troubling to me. Some younger Baptists are under the assumption that leadership is a right available to anyone with an opinion and a weblog. Furthermore, many in my generation are guilty of a sort of “doublespeak,” something that plagued a previous generation of Southern Baptist leadership. They claim to have the utmost respect for our present leadership, but their language and actions seem to indicate otherwise.

My generation is blessed to sit in the afterglow of the blazing sun of the conservative resurgence. Those who have gone before us were capable and godly men. Some of them we might even designate as “spiritual giants.” They are men who we should be honored and humbled to sit under and learn from.

This unwillingness to appreciate our leaders appears to be a lack of respect toward the older generation, a trait that is all too common in my generation. We should be honoring these experienced leaders who have shown much wisdom in leadership and pastoral ministry. We should be washing the feet of these great men instead of arguing that our generation has a right to leadership positions in the convention. We should be striving for the humility that ought to characterize every Christian, regardless of their age and experience.

1 Peter 5:6 commands us to “humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.” Rather than labeling ourselves as emerging leaders, we should strive to be the generation of submerging servants.


Not a voice, but revival

Two things particularly trouble me about some of the pastors in my generation. First, not enough young pastors allow their ministries to be their voice, opting instead for verbal jostling. In too many cases, it appears the desire to see denominational change has trumped the desire to see life change. Convention change, should the Lord desire it, will occur through the ministry of our local churches, not denominational politics.

Our prayer should never be, “Lord, give us a voice,” but “Lord, give us revival!” We must not act like army privates wanting to stand in the boots of five star generals. We are young, we need mentoring, and we need to serve before we lead. Most importantly, we need to be faithful in the small opportunities, focusing on the grassroots of our convention, the only place where lasting change can really be initiated.

If some young pastors are obsessed with change, others are obsessed with personalities. I am troubled when I see some young pastors caring more about whom they know and who knows them than the precious old saint stuck in her hospital bed for several weeks.

We must always remember that God has called us to serve Him and others. Jockeying for leadership is always repulsive, whether it comes in the form of cronyism or coup d’état.

Although I have a deep love for the SBC, I do not have the time to constantly dwell on who is going to be leading us and why my generation is being “left out.” My family and congregation receive the majority of my attention, as they should. My generation of pastors would be wise to concentrate more on loving our flocks, winning people to Jesus, preparing biblical sermons, and seasoning our culture with the salt of the gospel than worrying that our voice is not being heard.

And the truth is, my generation is not being left out. There are several pastors, missionaries and professors in their 20’s and 30’s who the older generation recognizes as gifted leaders. Most of the emerging leaders are also submerging servants who have not sought recognition and leadership. Instead, they have been obedient in what God has called them to do, and God has visibly blessed their ministries.

Our true calling is never leadership, but servanthood. I want us to be creative in ministry methodology. I want us to be passionate, zealous, holy and faithful. I want us to see multitudes of people come to faith in Christ. I want us to preach His Word boldly. But we must not concern ourselves with “finding” a seat at the convention’s leadership table. Instead, we need to be waiters who serve those at the table, those who disagree with the table, and the countless souls who do not even know there is a table.

We must be submerging servants. I believe that if we are faithful to our callings, the Lord will take notice and place those whom He desires in more prominent fields when He deems necessary. But I leave that to the wisdom and providence of God.

Leadership is not a right, but a privilege. Even the King of Kings came to serve man. Let us be known as a generation of submerging servants who are thrust into leadership because of our faithfulness, rather than a group of emerging leaders who sit at the leadership table only to find out that we are sitting in someone else’s seat.