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Leadership '88: It's Time for a New Generation to Join Together

From 1986 to 1988, I served as the program chairman of Leadership ’88, a national conference of the Lausanne movement to call younger leaders to join together to fulfill the Great Commission. Here is a feature I wrote on the event. 

On the heels of World War II, at meeting grounds like Forest Home and Mount Hermon, at Wheaton College and at hundreds of Youth for Christ rallies nationwide, God raised up a generation of leaders who joined hands to evangelize the world.

In the fall of 1947, for instance, Richard Halverson, now Chaplain of the United States Senate, was a struggling young pastor in central California. He went to the first of a series of annual “College Briefing Conferences” at the Forest Home Conference grounds in the San Bernardino mountains.

On the second evening of the conference, on his way back to his cabin after a full day of meetings, Halverson was arrested by the sound of people praying inside the cabin of Henrietta Mears, famed Bible teacher from Hollywood Presbyterian Church.

Feeling strangely constrained yet reluctant to join the group, Halverson stood outside Mears’ cabin door for almost 15 minutes. But finally, since those who were praying were some of his closest friends, he slipped in, crossed the room, and took a seat.

Among those present in the cabin were Bill Bright, later to become founder of Campus Crusade for Christ; Bob Gray, future founder of Christian Literature Crusade, and Louis Evans, Jr., today a renowned preacher and Bible commentator.

God visited this group of relatively young leaders in a special way that night. They prayed, wept, laughed, talked, planned. “On the hearts of all of us who were in that prayer meeting, God laid a burden for the world that persists to this day,” says Halverson. “The vision remains as fresh and vivid as ever.” Further, “through the years, the world vision we saw that evening has been fulfilled in many respects.”

Together, these leaders have helped set the pace for world evangelization over the last 40 years. They are the ones who have formed new mission agencies, launched publishing houses, organized evangelistic crusades, and convened international conferences.

A Decisive Moment in Missions History

One biblical generation—40 years—has passed since those days. The ’70s and ’80s have witnessed a new generation of Christian leaders coming to the fore. They have felt the hand of God through the awakening of the Jesus Movement in the late ’60s and early ’70s, and the “born again” movement of the late ’70’s.

Over the past decade, new signs of a mission renewal movement have sprung up within this emerging generation of leaders across North America:

—Participation in short-term missions is up five-fold.

—The number of students of missions has more than quadrupled.

—National and regional conferences on missions have multiplied.

—New data bases are being formed to help coordinate such tasks as missions to urban and unreached peoples.

—Young leaders have formed a host of new ministries, like the Caleb Project, AIMS (Association of International Mission Services), Frontiers, DAWN (Disciple A Whole Nation), Concerts of Prayer, and Frontier Fellowship.

—Groups like Youth With a Mission have grown by leaps and bounds.

The key question as we approach the 21st century is, “Will these younger leaders go their separate ways or will they join hands to fulfill the Great Commission?”

Leadership ’88, to be held June 27 to July 1 at the Washington (DC) Hilton, should give us some clues concerning the answer. Up to 2,000 emerging North American Christian leaders will gather to consider their unique role in reaching the world for Christ.

Leadership ’88 has its roots in the Lausanne movement. In 1974, at the invitation of Billy Graham, more than 2,700 Christian leaders from around the world gathered in Lausanne, Switzerland. Time magazine called it “possibly the widest ranging meeting of Christians ever held.”

From that historic convocation, a new spirit of evangelism emerged within the church worldwide, especially in reference to unreached peoples.

Now, many of the post-World War II Christian leaders who were present at that meeting are approaching retirement age. The time has come to rekindle the spirit of Lausanne in the hearts of a new generation.

Enter—The Leaders of Tomorrow

Unlike the previous generation of American Christian leaders, this “baby- boom” generation in the U.S. is much more diverse in ethnicity, experience and outlook. In view of this diversity, and in view of the limited access to decision-making opportunities afforded minority groups in the past, Leadership ’88 organizers are seeking to bring together a broad spectrum of younger leaders—the people who will be responsible to call the church to world evangelization as we approach the 21st century.

Based on the conviction that such special times of unity and prayer may be repeated and provide impetus for new generations, the Lausanne Committee sponsored Singapore ’87 last summer to bring together 350 emerging leaders from more than 65 countries. For 10 days, participants wrestled with issues of leadership development and world concerns.

A Call to Cooperation

In a slightly different vein, the primary objective of Leadership ’88 is to allow participants to build the friendships and networks needed to undergird cooperative action in world evangelization. Consequently, large blocks of small group and networking time have been built into each day’s activities. To maximize opportunities for individuals to find others of common focus, organizers are producing a special “Networking Directory” which will index participant’s interests.

A special exhibition hall is planned to highlight various organizations that bring leaders together for world evangelization. Exhibitors include the U.S. Center for World Mission, Change the World Ministries, the Destiny Movement, Campus Crusade’s NEW LIFE 2000 program and others.

During the afternoons, special workshops will cover topics as fundamental as “Leadership Formation in World Evangelization” and “Thinking Biblically About World Evangelization” and as contemporary as “Networking as Younger Leaders,” “Launching New Ministries,” “Our Character in Cooperation for World Evangelization,” and “Partnership with Third World Missions.”

More than 100 speakers have been scheduled to speak at workshops and general sessions. Among them: Leighton Ford, Patrick Johnstone, Ray Bakke, Jack Hayford, Becky Pippert, Earl Palmer, Ken Medema, Thomas Wang, David Bryant, Dick Halverson, Luis Palau, and Ralph Winter.

Major sessions will focus on three themes. On a day devoted to “Our Future,” participants will ask, “As leaders committed to the gospel, what global challenges and opportunities will we face as we approach the 21st century?” On another day participants will ask themselves, “What kind of character must leaders have if they are to join together to fulfill the Great Commission?” A third day’s focus is “Our Mission”: “How can our generation begin to pray, plan and work together to complete the task of world evangelization?”

The opportunity is yours. If you are between 25 and 45, if others look at you as a Christian leader, or if you consider yourself to be such a leader, apply now to participate in Leadership ’88 in Washington, D.C. this June 27th through July 1st.

Dr. Jay Gary is president of, a foresight consulting group. Over the past twenty years he has helped non-profits, foundations, civic leaders, and strategic alliances to create more promise filled futures. He also teaches strategic foresight, innovation and leadership at the graduate level and through professional development courses.

This essay was published in Mission Frontiers, Apr 01, 1988. Used by permission.
NOTE: April 1, 2008. If you are interested in the program directory of Leadership ’88, please contact me. Here is a copy of the initial brochure in 1987. 

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