Church facing leadership crisis, warns Evangelical Alliance

The church is facing a crisis of leadership and we need to act - that was the challenge facing 60 leading evangelicals at the Evangelical Alliance council this week.

The council responded by endorsing a set of potential initiatives to mentor young leaders and use new media to inspire them into deeper theological engagement.

Key thinkers on leadership appealed to the council last Wednesday and Thursday to address the problem of an aging church leadership, being depleted through factors including exhaustion and depression, and a lack of younger leaders to replace those who are leaving or retiring.

Pete Greig, International Director of 24/7 Prayer, preached on excellence in leadership, using the example of Moses and Joshua. He said leaders need to aim not to simply to replicate themselves but instead to encourage their replacement to have the same spirit but in their own style.

"We need a new generation of leaders, not to replace anything that has been done by the last generation, but to entrepreneurially think of new ways of taking the timeless gospel of Jesus and making it relevant," he said.

Internationally acclaimed author, speaker and futurologist Tom Sine warned the council that we are facing an "incredible shrinking western church" in which only 17 percent of members are predicted to be aged between 20 and 44 by 2025. Mr Sine explored ways forward based on his research from his book The New Conspirators.

"We're struggling with diminishing resources, but I think there's tremendous potential in young people," he said, adding that the church needs to take young people more seriously and listen to them.

"We need to re-imagine succession that welcomes the imagination of a new generation."

Richard Tiplady, British Director of European Christian Mission and an expert in leadership in a postmodern context, told the council good leadership succession can be like an Olympic relay race.

"Winning is all about the handover," he said.

"One of the primary responsibilities of leaders is to grow new leaders. If you're not doing that, you're not being strategic."

And Ruth Valerio, manager of A Rocha's Living Lightly 24:1, speaking on Passing the Baton, identified a problem of several churches doing the same job in the same area, and all needing resources.

"I wonder, quite bluntly, whether some of our institutions and organisations are going to need to die in order to accommodate this new situation," she said.

"I think some of these churches should die and come together and we can use our money, we can use our dwindling resources so much more effectively. Then, maybe, we can use some of that money to help people who are in need instead of propping up our churches."

Krish Kandiah, the Alliance's Executive Director of Churches in Mission, drafted a set of potential initiatives for the Alliance to address the issue, based on recommendations from the council.

These included facilitating mentoring programmes across denominational and cultural boundaries and making greater use of new media to encourage deeper theological engagement for leaders.

Dr Kandiah said: "The Alliance is uniquely placed to help catalyse leadership development across the denominations. We are already involved in this through resources like Slipstream, which networks younger leaders together across the country - engaging with thinkers as diverse as David Jackman from the Proclamation Trust to Brian McLaren and Shane Claiborne.

"There was a real sense of unity among the gathered MPs, denominational leaders, pastors and agency directors on the need to work together to support both current leaders and raise up the next generation."