In the course of my dissertation research some years ago, I picked up a book by John R. Mott, leader of the Student Volunteer Movement of the early 20th century. Mott was one of the first heroes of orthodox Christian faith whose passion for spreading the gospel led him to inspire thousands of college and university students to serve in posts of evangelism both stateside and overseas. He also championed the growth and strengthening of the American church at a time when the Protestant liberals and conservatives were warring against one another for the religious heart of the republic.
The book that I began to peruse over Thanksgiving, entitled The Future Leadership of the Church, was published in 1908. On the first page he identifies a problem with which we continue to struggle over 100 years later. The passion and urgency with which he makes his case is both convicting and energizing.
How much urgency do you sense to help raise the next generation of Christ-following leaders?
In this new year, 2016, may God give us the discernment to find the solution to this dearth of true leadership and the courage to follow it through.
In Mott’s own words:
“To secure able men to the Christian ministry is an object of transcendent, urgent, and worldwide concern. It involves the life, the growth, the extension of the Church—the future of Christianity itself. The Church is a divine institution, founded by Christ and the Apostles. It has done more to purify, enrich, and strengthen mankind than have all other movements. It is still the most powerful and beneficent agency for promoting the cause of morality and religion. It has ever been and yet is not only an ameliorating force that makes life tolerable, but an inspiring force that makes life progressive. Take the Christian Church out of society and it collapses. The Church furnishes the springs of life and power for all other beneficent institutions and movements. It is the root; they are the branches. Its work is the most enduring; it deals with the indestructible part of man.
It is evident that no society of men can hold together and can realize great objects without thoroughly qualified leaders. The Church of Christ is no exception. Wherever the Church has proved inadequate it has been due to inadequate leadership. If the Church is to grow, so as to meet the growing needs of the age, it must have able men in its ministry. Without such leadership there is danger that it will ultimately be reduced to a negligible force. The failure to raise up a competent ministry would be a far greater failure than not to win converts to the Christian faith, because the enlarging of the Kingdom ever waits for leaders of power. What problem of the Church is there to-day which cannot be best solved by enlisting for this calling more men of the highest qualifications? What calamity, next to the withdrawal of Christ’s presence, should be more dreaded than to have young men of genius and of large equipment withhold themselves from responding to the call of the Christian ministry? And yet this is the calamity which is impending.” **