According to an old couplet, “It takes more grace than I can tell / to play the second fiddle well.” With those words, Ajith Fernando whimsically illustrated the dilemma faced by young Christian leaders in the Third World.
Fernando, director of Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka, was a speaker at Singapore 87, a nine-day meeting for young leaders. The conference was sponsored by the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, which is determined to identify and encourage the next generation of Christian leaders.
The event—designed for those aged 45 and younger—drew 283 “younger/emerging leaders” from more than 60 countries. Participants explored leadership methods and discussed issues relating to their various regions of the world.
Conference chairman Brian Stiller, executive director of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, said leaders in the post-World War II generation had too often been “cut from a Western pattern.” As a result, he said, younger leaders had suffered from the “long shadow syndrome,” perhaps feeling “trapped managing the ideas and visions of those who were older.”
Participants agreed that younger leadership is needed to evangelize a younger world. At the same time, they expressed gratitude to those who had led the way over the past decades.
Conference participants were selected after nine regional committees identified leading young people involved in full-time ministry, according to conference director Stephen Hoke. To qualify, participants had to be recognized as influential in their own countries and able to establish a national or regional effort for the cause of world evangelization when they returned home.
By J. D. Douglas, in Singapore.
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