Current wisdom claims that a leadership crisis holds evangelical Christianity in a death grip. The argument goes something like this: The leaders who founded the principal evangelical institutions are retiring, and too few young stars are on the horizon to take their place.

The argument sounds airtight for several reasons: the potential of what, if true, would be a terminal trend for the growth of evangelical Christianity; the disappointing lack of character demonstrated recently by a few prominent leaders; and the experience or testimony of anyone who has had to sit through the endless meetings of a leadership search committee.

Yet recent events belie claims of a crippling leadership dearth. When earnestly seeking institutions need a leader, God keeps calling young, capable men and women to take the reins. Moody Bible Institute recently named Joseph Stowell, a man of vision and powerful communication skills, as its seventh president. North Park College called David Horner to administer its future in urban Chicago. And Philadelphia’s Eastern College named Roberta Hestenes as its president, the first woman to lead an evangelical institute of higher education. All three come to their jobs with fiery Christian commitment and impeccable leadership credentials, and have already, in the first few months of their terms, supplied constituents with good reasons to expect a bright future.

These three recent appointments reflect a process that continues despite occasional cries to the contrary. Whether it be the local church, a denominational office, or any number of ministry-related organizations, God raises up capable men and women to lead.

So where is the crisis? Perhaps it is not so much a shortage of leaders but more a problem of our inability to easily identify them. We have fully and profitably learned to use the business techniques of determining specific skills, matching those skills with needs, and writing doable job descriptions. We have found those techniques to be needed and useful. But they leave out an important step: how to factor in the unprogrammable direction of the Holy Spirit. The voice of God to Samuel, instructing him to travel to Jesse’s family and anoint young David king, is a voice foreign to modern ears. Only with great effort do we keep the element of divine call in our deliberations. Perhaps the crisis is our own increasingly difficult battle to harmonize the secular interviewing process with the ram’s horn full of God’s anointing oil.

Choosing leaders will never be an easy task. And the “crisis” of naming new leaders for each generation should always be one that tears at the guts of our institutional representatives. After all, a small piece of eternity is at stake each time we choose.

But seeing the unique and special gifts of Joe Stowell, David Horner, and Roberta Hestenes harnessed to the wagons of these crucial Christian institutions gives us a warm, hopeful feeling of comfort in the faithfulness of God’s providence and care.

By Terry Muck.

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