There is perhaps no more important mission ‘strategy’ today than Christ-like leadership. At the same time, there is perhaps no greater threat to our global mission. In fact, John Stott, in his last published sermon, wrote that ‘the greatest hindrance to the advance of the gospel worldwide is the failure of God’s people to live like God’s people’.
In other words, the greatest threat to your ministry is you! The greatest threat to global mission is not the lies of the prosperity gospel, not Islam, not lack of funds, not lack of missionaries. The greatest threat to global mission is the church. Perhaps we can even say that the greatest threat to the church is her leaders. This is why the Lausanne Movement is, and has always been, passionate about not only the actions of leaders but about their character.
There is a key word that stands out from section II-E-1 of The Cape Town Commitment, and that is the word ‘distinctiveness’: ‘Walk in distinctiveness, as God’s new humanity.’ It goes on to read:
Since there is no biblical mission without biblical living, we urgently re-commit ourselves, and challenge all those who profess the name of Christ, to live in radical distinctiveness from the ways of the world, to “put on the new humanity, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
The gospel call is to a radical distinctiveness of the church from the world—in other words, a gospel-empowered biblical living. And it’s also a radical distinctiveness of the church for the world—a gospel-bearing and gospel-demonstrating biblical mission.
Both character and action are beautifully displayed in the recently unveiled Lausanne-commissioned painting by artist Bryn Gillette on ‘Christ-like leaders for every church’, the third part of Lausanne’s four-fold vision.
The painting, pictured above, is rooted in John 10 and the image of Christ as shepherd. His lead is being followed by men and women of God who are washing feet, protecting against wolves, gathering the lost, and putting Christ’s love on display in a multitude of ways. I’m so thankful to serve a movement where this kind of servant leadership is being so beautifully lived out.
This of course began with the Christ-like leadership of our founders Billy Graham and John Stott. It was on display at the first gathering of Younger Leaders in Singapore in 1987 under the shepherding and care of Leighton Ford. And it is today being modeled and nurtured in our 10-year investment in the next generation of global leaders through our YLGen initiative led by Nana Yaw Offei Awuku.
In what ways will your life and leadership be radically distinct? The opportunities for gospel impact are tremendous, as well as the costs.
All that we do as a movement is ‘that Christ may be known’. I hope and pray that through your own radically distinct life, Christ may be known.
Lord, we know that Christ-likeness is only possible because of the cross. Apart from Christ, we cannot become like him. Would you grant us the grace to fully and deeply abide in him and so be transformed like him? Grant radical distinctiveness to your people for the in-gathering of the lost and the glory of your name, in which we pray. Amen.
Michael Oh serves as the Global Executive Director / CEO of the Lausanne Movement. Michael and his family served as missionaries in Nagoya, Japan, from 2004 to 2016. There he founded a ministry called Christ Bible Institute (CBI), which includes Christ Bible Seminary, the Heart & Soul Cafe, and a church-planting ministry.