When I survey today’s ministry landscape, I’m encouraged.
First, I’m hopeful for revival. The fact that our culture is becoming increasingly hostile toward Christianity is disappointing, but it’s nothing Scripture didn’t warn us would happen. I pray for revival of God’s people which will certainly result in renewed evangelism and fruit. In fact, the world’s antagonism toward Christ could be setting the stage for a great last days revival.
Second, I’m encouraged because of the next generation of leaders who desire to see a great moving of God and have the faith to believe it could happen. I know that, at times, leaders of my generation or older look on a younger generation of leaders with dismay or treat them dismissively. Sometimes this is rooted in misunderstanding, sometimes pride or jealousy, and sometimes valid concerns.
Each generation has its strengths and weaknesses, for sure, but as I’ve had the opportunity over the past several months to spend significant time with younger leaders, I love what I see in the strengths of today’s independent Baptist millennial leaders:
1. Desire for Biblical Preaching and Teaching
There is a tremendous emphasis in today’s leaders on biblical teaching and preaching. And I love this.
I’m thankful for the early leaders of the independent Baptist movement who contended for the major doctrines of the faith and the Baptist distinctives from Scripture. I’m thankful for how they stood against modernism from without and apostasy from within their denominations. This heritage was the birth of our movement.
And I’m thankful for how today’s millennial pastors are contending for a return to theologically-rich messages and expository preaching that avoids hobby horses, soap boxes, and pet peeves. They have a desire to rightly divide Scripture and a rejection of messages that mostly relate a preacher’s experiences and counsel with a few proof texts thrown in.
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.—2 Timothy 2:15
Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.—2 Timothy 4:2
In truth, if we are to move forward for God in this day, it will be because God’s people understand His Word—not just the doctrines of it, but the words themselves. Expository preaching and thorough biblical teaching are essential to this process.
2. Desire for Christ-centered Ministry
In today’s celebrity culture, today’s leaders are weary of man-promoting and instead desire to lift up Christ. They are conscious that He is the head of the church. They are sensitive to the church centering around a pastor or even outside leaders rather than around Christ Himself. They want their preaching and every ministry of the local church to point people to Jesus.
And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.—Colossians 1:18
3. Desire for Emphasis on Transformation through Identification with Christ and Fullness of the Spirit
Today’s leaders know, sometimes from personal experience, that outside-in transformation doesn’t work. They don’t want young Christians to feel pressured into first conforming their lifestyles before being convinced biblically of truth. They believe the Holy Spirit regenerates us in the new birth and gives us a new heart. They want change to happen from the inside out as Christians understand who they are in Christ and yield to the commands of the Holy Spirit through His Word. This is the only kind of lasting change that brings real spiritual fruit that glorifies God.
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.—2 Corinthians 5:17
4. Desire to Work with Others
For all the strengths of independent Baptists, there has been way too much infighting. Today’s leaders are tired of pride, jealousy, and superfluous contention and just want to work with others to reach the world with the gospel. They are more concerned with making a difference than with getting the credit or with whose methods get used. While I caution them to maintain biblical ecclesiastical separation, I applaud the Philippians 1:27 spirit of “striving together for the faith of the gospel.”
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!—Psalm 133:1
I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.—1 Corinthians 3:6
5. Desire for Authentic Ministry
Big services and special Sundays are awesome for the ways they motivate and mobilize a local church in reaching their community. But today’s leaders want there to be an emphasis on the week-to-week local church functions that bring ongoing personal growth. They want Christians to see real life change—not just for churches to see single big Sundays or services. They want to impact lives—not just have a smooth-running Sunday program. They want authenticity, where the ultimate measure of effectiveness is change, not size; Christ-likeness, not numeric growth.
Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men:—2 Corinthians 3:2
Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.—Philippians 4:1
6. An Emphasis on Grace as a Motivator
Today’s leaders are well-aware that pressure, guilt, and shame do not work as long-term motivators. They are also aware that grace is the God-given change agent and internal motivator that sustains Christian growth over the decades. When properly understood and personally experienced, God’s grace leads us to resist temptation, to give, to share the gospel, to be strong through suffering, and to be made into the image of Christ.
Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also.—2 Corinthians 8:7
7. Desire to Reach Their Generation
I love and appreciate my heritage. But I also hunger for revival today.
Today’s pastors are well-aware that if all they have to offer newly-saved Christians is other people’s recollections of leaders they never met from the olden days, they don’t have much. They want to be part of something great for God in their generation. They get frustrated when they sense defeatism over the changing culture and desire instead to truly impact this present culture.
For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.—1 Corinthians 16:9
Do these seven areas of emphasis describe you? I hope so!
If not, you might want to do some soul-searching before the Lord, because all seven of these are biblical. Yes, I see them more strongly in younger generations (as a whole—thankfully, I’ve also seen them modeled in some of the godliest mentors I have been privileged to know). But ultimately, these aren’t generational; they are biblical.
If yes, I’d like to encourage you to never let someone tell you that these traits are incompatible with independent Baptist beliefs or a conservative ministry philosophy that practices biblical ecclesiastical separation.
(Leaders who stumble over the doctrine of separation tend to broad brush separatists as incorrigible, unreasonable leaders who are stuck in their ways and unwilling to work with others or dream for souls. I know there are separatists like this, but they aren’t walking in the Spirit or by God’s grace.)
I’m thankful and encouraged by the heart of so many of today’s leaders described by these seven traits. May these increasingly describe all of us.