Leadership 88: Will Confusion Give Way to Cooperation?
About six months ago, thousands of younger, emerging Christian leaders around the U.S. began receiving packets of material inviting them to attend Leadership 88, a Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (LCWE)-sponsored conference to be held June 27th through July 1st in Washington, DC.
Recipients responses ranged from dismay to anger to confusion.
The biggest item in the packetan 8 1/2 by 11-inch blue, white, and black folderboldly asked, For five days next June, a select group of leaders will gather to guide the church into the 21st century. Will you be one of them?
You have an opportunity to help shape an historic movement. . . . The time has come to rekindle the spirit of Lausanne in the hearts of a new generation.
. . . Over 2,200 men and women from across the country will be gathering . . . to consider the awesome changes that will sweep our planet in the century to come. And to begin to build the character and strategies they need to meet the challenges of world evangelization in the years ahead.
Glandion Carney, Leadership 88 chairman, wrote: The shape of the church in the twenty-first century depends on your participation. . . . Together, well begin to form new networks for completing the task of world evangelization.
Thousands of young emerging Christian leaders tossed their invitations in the trash. As Grace Dyrness, director of Harbor House, an inner-city ministry in Oakland, California, put it: I was aghast at the cost. As chief fund-raiser for a small, mission-style agency, she simply could not justify the expense and so decided not to go.
I thought, When will (the Lausanne Committee) learn? Its a repeat of Pattaya 80 (a Lausanne-sponsored meeting held in Pattaya, Thailand). According to Dyrness, Pattaya exhibited total disregard for non-Western attendees in that it was held in one of the most luxurious resort areas in east Asiaalbeit at a reduced cost.
Whos it For? Not Me!
One woman felt the brochures approach was pure snob appeal.
Others merely tend to think of themselves in other ways than as holding or aspiring to positions of power and influence.
Maria Henderson, administrative assistant to the Mission, Evangelism and Students Department at Bel Air Presbyterian Church, Bel Air, California, said she is going to the conference, but not because she thinks of herself as a leader.
Im not sure inside myself that Im really the kind of person they want. I mean, I could see other people Ive worked withJay Gary (program director for the conference), Gordon Aeschliman (editor of World Christian magazine), and the likegoing, but I dont see myself in line to receive (the honor of being designated an emerging leader) . . . . Like Billy Graham is going to hand me something! What? Who? Me?
Several of the conferences organizerspersonal friends of hershave had to encourage her repeatedly that she really is the kind of person they think should attend. Yet still she wonders . . .
Dyrness said the program leaves out poor people (partially by its expense, but for other reasons too) and, for that reason, it leaves me out. It isnt aimed at the kinds of things Im interested in or involved with.
Further, she said she thought the brochure exhibited an insensitivity toward those who are not white, Anglo-Saxon, and male.
She criticized the fact that the conference is scheduled for Washington, DC: I guess the organizers thought that city has the feeling of leadership. . . . Its not the kind of leadership Im interested in.
Theyre not hearing the voice of the very poor because theres not a poor person on the (organizing) committee, she philosophized. And what about women?
She pointed out that there is only one woman on either the Leadership 88 Conference or Executive committees. There are only two ethnic minority members. And theyre both black. (And Im not even sure they can accurately represent the black community in the United States.)
She called it all a case of tokenism: Its thinking in terms of weve got to have representation from the women and the blacks. But its not thinking strategically.
If there had been someone on the committee from the Mien and the Cambodian communities, and two, three or four from the Hispanic community, and a similar, proportional representation from among the Blacks and womenthen youd see a program truly representing the needs of the church.
The High Cost is a Regrettable Mistake, But . . .
Mike Aldrich, vice-chairman of the Leadership 88 Committee, said he thinks the confusion arises from the name of the conference itself. He said that when the organizing committee had its first meeting, they spent half their time debating the meaning of leader and leadership.
If I had it to do over, Id do away with the name leadership, he said. The focus is not leadership but joining together. Its a networking conference. The speakers, the plenaries, everything were doing is designed to promote involvement and activism on the part of the delegates.
Pam NiCastro, womens concerns coordinator and lay recruiter for the conference, said the use of the word workshops to describe the hour-and-a-half long afternoon sessions is also misleading.
They wont be one person making a pre-sentation. They will be very open-ended discussions. They will be panel-led and very dialog-oriented. Participants will bring their own stories and examples. Well have everyone involved. Even when talking about pastors, the panel will consist of laypeople and pastors, women, ethnics . . . .
She noted that the schedule calls for free time immediately after the workshops. That way, if people want to continue their discussions, they can.
Yes, This Conference Is for You
As important as the participants are to the final outcome of the program, however, Jay Gary, program director, said he is looking for several results from Leadership 88.
1. Networking. As might be expected, foremost among his goals is networking between younger leaders. Strategic relationships begun at Leadership 88 must continue after the conference at various levels, he said. Among peers in common spheres of ministry. Within ethnic lines. Across ethnic lines. Between lay and pastoral leaders. . . . All must be done for the purpose of the Great Commission.
2. Mobilizing. Besides networking, organizers want to see younger leaders mobilize their constituencies for world evangelization. Gary expressed it in terms of alumni of Leadership 88 being better equipped to lead their people toward practical involvement in world evangelizationwhether by praying, giving or going.
Eric Watt of AIMS (Association of International Mission Services) in Virginia Beach, Virginia, said his main purpose for going is to help mobilize the church. Most conferences you go to, its just singing to the choir. The people youre talking to are already interested in missions. At Leadership 88, most of the people will have very little interest at all.
Conference organizers are looking for a one-third/two -thirds mix in that regard: one-third mission enthusiasts, two-thirds people with only moderate to no interest in missions.
I think their ambition of bringing together people who are over-educated with respect to missions and those who arentthat will create an interesting dynamic, said Henderson.
3. Partnering between churches, agencies, and other institutions. There needs to be increased cooperation between local churches and mission agencies; better relationships between mission agencies and national churches; and closer, coordinated working relationships with non-western mission agencies as we all seek to reach the unreached peoples, said Gary.
He hopes that by the time they leave, Leadership 88 alumni will be more sensitive to the kind of strategic relationships needed between institutions and agencies if we are to effectively evangelize our world.
4. Carrying On the Lausanne Tradition. Finally, someonesomeonesmust be found who are committed to carrying on the Lausanne traditionpeople who are willing to join together to fulfill the Great Commission. The current leaders of the movement are in their late 60s and 70s.
Lausanne: Working Together for World Evangelization
One of the primary goals of the Lausanne movement is to pursue unity in the body of Christ so that evangelical Christians, no matter what their giftedness or what their more specialized calling may be, may work together toward completion of the Great Commission.
Too often the Christian movement has been fragmented into competing camps: evangelists vs. missionaries; those more concerned with social justice vs. those concerned with family and home issues. Whatever the calling, whatever the gift, its been an occasion for battle. As the Lausanne Covenant proclaims, however, . . . Our oneness strengthens our witness, just as our disunity undermines our gospel of reconciliation.
Unity Takes Work
A very significant Christian leader was in his room packing. He said, Im leaving. I dont have time for all of this. I was 15 years younger than he was but I physically stopped him and said, You are not going!
. . . Another fellow from Africa, with tears coming down his face, said, I didnt realize Christian leaders could be like this!
But, said Ford, God met us there.
I saw Peter Wagner and John Stott sit down together and, with different cultural understandings, work through a statement of purpose and mission that has enabled (the Lausanne Committee) to stand together and say, We are committed to the evangelization of the unreached peoples of the world. We are also committed to the total biblical mission of the church. Its in that context that we carry out evangelization.
These experiences, Ford said, are what Lausanne is all about.
. . . I think the vision (for Leadership 88) is that God would give young men and women a vision for the world, new relationships with each other, and a deeper sense of commitment to be men and women of God.
Dr. Arthur Glasser of Fuller Seminary has suggested there is a progression of interaction among Christians. Beginning with a base of communication, they can then move to fellowship, to cooperation and, finally, to association.
We have to join together first in spirit and purpose, said Gary. Cooperation is several steps down the path.
Diversity Among Participants
And so, by design, a quarter of all participants are expected to be women. A quarter will be from non-white ethnic groups. A third will be lay people. A third from para-church organizations. A third from churches. A third will be mission enthusiasts. Two thirds will have only moderate interest in missions.
And the purpose for this diversity? To develop relationships across lines, said NiCastro.
To those who wonder if they should come to Leadership 88 because their personal or organizational concerns are not part of the agenda for the meeting, Leadership 88 coordinators say it is precisely because of their concerns that they should come.
As we approach the year 2000, theres no way were going to see the kind of cooperation we need to complete the task of world evangelization unless we start communicating now, said Gary.
I think theres going to be a fork in the road. We may face it in 88 or 92 or 2010, but well have to face it. There are a lot of streams out there. The question is, will they come together to form a river? Are we going to be committed to calling the whole church to take the Gospel to the whole world? Or are we going to be going our separate ways?
Weve missed the opportunity in the past to create networks and relationships. Will we miss it again now?
Preliminary indications are that Leadership 88 may indeed succeed in bringing together representatives from diverse groups. Not merely into physical proximity with one another, but into personal and spiritual interdependence and involvement.
Conference organizers paid her way, Dyrness said, and I thought it was a good opportunity to assess the situation and determine if God wanted me to go to the main conference.
That weekend convinced her that the Leadership 88 organizers were, indeed, interested in what she and others had to say, and they wanted to make changes as a result. The experience has given her higher hopes for June. High hopes and two reasons for going to the main meeting:
First, to stand in solidarity with the issues we presented on that weekend. Its my way of saying, These are important issues.
Second, I realized (during the womens weekend) that many, many women felt they had no adequate female role models for their lives.
I feel God put me in a home with two very, very powerful female models: my grandmotherco-founder with my grandfather of Latin America Mission; and my mother, who followed in the footsteps of my grandmother. I go representing my grandmother and my motherrepresenting them to other women as role models.
I also go representing Harbor House and our concerns as an organization.
Ethnic Leadership Development
Rick Gray, ethnic leadership development coordinator for Leadership 88, said the objectives for the meeting were 1) to help establish mentoring relationships between emerging and senior ethnic leaders; 2) to provide an introduction to world evangelization concerns; and 3) to provide opportunities for cross-ethnic networking.
By the time the two-day meeting was over, he said, feedback suggests that it exceeded all expectations with regard to all three objectives.
The participants came with mixed expectations, said Gray. Some came desiring ethnic-specific groupings. Others wanted an opportunity to fellowship beyond their ethnicity. Initially, this caused the conference to be viewed with a sense of suspicion by some. Questions began to surface about hidden agendas or preconceived notions of cooperation.
When the participants discovered that they were the ones who would determine the level of cooperation, they took ownership of the conference and began breaking down barriers and walls.
You dont realize whats going on here, said Nancy Clark, a mentor to Laotian and Cambodian immigrant communities in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A real healing is taking place between groups that have been factionalized since their arrival in this country.
This is the first conference weve been in where we were allowed to be ourselves. We dont feel as if anyone tried to use us, declared John Maracle, an Assemblies of God pastor, chief of the Mohawk nation, and chief of the North American Native Christian Council.
Gray said participants at the meeting are now beginning to tip-toe toward cooperation with one another. Cooperation, however, is built on trust and relationships. Trust and relationships, in turn, are built on a foundation of communication. And communicationtalking and listeningis what Leadership 88 is all about.
Clark and Maracle provide two testimonies: maybe the Leadership 88 themejoining together to fulfill the Great Commissionis a feasible goal. Maybe Leadership 88 will lead to cooperation. If the people whove been invited show up. And if theyre willing to listen.