9 Cautions for Young Church Leaders (and Older Leaders, Too, Actually)

I love the young church leaders God is raising up around the world. Whether they’re laypersons or professional church leaders, they have a height of desire for the work of God that’s fun to watch. It’s because I love them that I, as an older leader, offer these cautions. In fact, perhaps these cautions apply to all of us as we move toward a new year:

  1. Don’t let your passion wane. Seldom does today’s present-tense passion automatically become tomorrow’s driving force. It really is possible to let ministry, life, problems, etc., rob us of our passion. Any time you recognize your passion is draining, run back to God.
  2. Don’t lose your Great Commission worldview. Your generation has grown up with the Internet and cable TV; thus, you’ve been raised watching the world with the tap of a key. You’re committed to taking gospel risks to take the Good News to the nations. Cling to this commitment – it’s easy to lose, too, when your own life gets complicated.
  3. Don’t forget that you don’t know everything. None of us does – but most of us can remember a time when we thought we did. I often wonder why God didn’t strike me down when I was a young leader who was sure God put me here to correct everyone else!
  4. Don’t be a loner. Most of you understand this problem, as evidenced in your commitment to a plurality of leaders and teams of church planters. However, that commitment sometimes disappears when we find ourselves with hidden sin or a broken spirit. Lock arms with others in such a way it’s almost impossible to become a loner.
  5. Don’t do God’s work in your own power. This one’s a real challenge. Because most of us can go through the motions of Christian leadership, we have a tendency to operate in our own ability. We lead first and pray second – and then only when we must pray. Don’t do that.
  6. Don’t forget that you’re always a witness. Here, my concern is that you might exercise your Christian liberty in such a way that you harm your witness or hurt a weaker brother. I’m not asking you to live in legalism, though; I’m simply encouraging you to think wisely about choices that might hinder others.
  7. Don’t weaken your commitment to the Word. In my own denomination (the Southern Baptist Convention), you’ve grown up under leaders who made a historic commitment to the Word of God beginning in the 1970s. That’s no guarantee, however, that you’ll keep that commitment. As I begin to hear compromises on the inerrancy of the Word, I caution you against that move.
  8. Don’t neglect evangelism for the sake of discipleship. You rightly recognize that my generation has done a terrible job of discipling believers, and you’re working to correct that omission. On the other hand, be careful not to spend so much time discipling believers that you spend no time telling the gospel to non-believers.
  9. Don’t assume you can’t fall. You can. I promise you. I’ve been with too many of your peers who are out of ministry, who’ve lost their marriages, or who’ve walked away from the church to think otherwise. I’ve never met any of them, though, who thought they’d fall.

What general cautions might you add – for all of us?

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