What will evangelicalism look like in the next century? No one can paint the future, of course, but one good indicator is the quality and vitality of a movement's younger leaders—those who will shape and reshape the founders' original vision.
In September, CT's fortieth anniversary celebrated those who had molded modern American evangelicalism in the years following World War II. In this issue we look to those 40 and under who are now taking the reins of leadership. To find them, we asked nearly 1,000 respected Christian leaders for their nominations, then undertook the daunting task of selecting 50. At the end of the job, we realized more than ever that those pictured here represent merely a sampling of the many faithful disciples God has raised up to lead the church into the new millennium. All are bright, talented visionaries and doers, and each seeks the Spirit's leading.
What is evangelicalism's future? Read on. We think you will be encouraged.
Danny and Luis Cort, 35, 39
Danny - Program officer, Pew Charitable Trusts
Luis - Executive Director, Hispanic Century Fund and Hispanic Clergy
These two Newyorican (New York Puerto Ricans) brothers, now based in Philadelphia, share a vision: to fund evangelical Latino organizations and leaders. As a Pew program officer, Danny has helped steer $10.5 million in grants since 1990 to Latino evangelical organizations, including the newly founded and influential Alianza de Ministerios Evang?cos Nacionales and the Asociación para la Educación Teológica Hispana. And through the Hispanic Theological Initiative, Danny aims to churn out in the next four years 75 Latinos with master's degrees and 50 with Ph.D.'s in religion and related fields. "Half of evangelical Latinos who have come through Ph.D. programs so far have done so because of Danny," says church historian Justo González.
Luis, through his Nueva Esperanza, Inc., and the Hispanic Clergy of Philadelphia, has sponsored health clinics, job-training programs, house rehabilitation, and leadership development. By 2000 he wants to raise $5 million for the Hispanic Century Fund, which would help finance the creation of a Latino evangelical publishing house and a community college that would prep Latinos for elite universities. "Institutions are the vehicles through which wealth, knowledge, power, and culture are transferred," explains Luis. "We Hispanic Christians need to own and control the institutions serving our community. And that means creating our own."
L. Gregory Jones, 35
Theology professor, Loyola College
Greg Jones claims ministry is his family's business: there are Methodist pastors for several generations on his mother's side, his brother is a Methodist pastor, his father was one, and Jones himself is a part-time minister of discipleship in the parish where his wife, Susan, is the head pastor. Jones's "day job," however, is teaching theology at Loyola College in Maryland. He also writes: his latest book, Embodying Forgiveness: A Theological Analysis (Eerdmans, 1995), won a CT Book Award last April, and reviewers for New Theology Review and The Expository Times have already labeled this book a contemporary classic. What excites Jones, a Wesleyan teaching at a Catholic school, is helping laypeople to think theologically. In Embodying, he did this by making readers wrestle personally with Jesus' counsel to "forgive those who trespass against us." Two new books in the works reflect his interest in having Christians see the triune God at the center of life: The Desire to Know God: Theology as a Way of Life and Mending Lives. The latter, coauthored with his wife, popularizes Embodying Forgiveness and incorporates hope-inspiring stories about people being healed through Christian forgiveness.
J. C. Watts, Jr., 38
Member of Congress, Oklahoma
During the 1994 congressional campaign, J. C. Watts, businessman, former Sooners star quarterback, and Southern Baptist youth pastor, was asked if he would accept help from the Christian Right. "Yes, sir," he answered proudly, "I am the Christian Right." Though Watts was an African American campaigning in an 88 percent white district and a Republican running in a 70 percent Democratic district, he soon became the first black Republican since Reconstruction elected to Congress from south of the Mason-Dixon Line. While a Republican, Watts has begged the gop to "go slow" on affirmative action, while promoting the philosophy behind his Community Renewal Project: "The answer for the poor community is to use the tax code to encourage investment in poor communities, to encourage home ownership in those communities, and—the most important thing—to remove the red tape from the government resources available for the task," he says. "Let's allow the neighborhood and faith-based organizations, the people who have the same zip code as those who need the help, to help solve some of the problems. The faith-based organizations are the ones really getting results." Watts made a vow during the campaign to commute home every weekend to be with his wife and their five children. "And when I'm not scheduled to preach somewhere else," he says, "I'm in my church being fed with the gospel."
That's a campaign promise this politician has kept faithfully.
J. Kila Reimer, 30
Food Resource Programme officer, World Vision Canada
Kila Reimer responded to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda the same way many did-by asking, "Why, God?" But for Reimer, Rwanda was more than just a disturbing image on the evening news; it was outside her front door. Then directing Food for the Hungry's relief efforts in Rwanda, she says she often felt paralyzed. But she kept moving, trying to reunite "unaccompanied children" with their families. Raised by missionary parents in Southeast Asia during and after the Vietnam War, young Kila spent her summers helping her parents at refugee camps. "Being exposed to human suffering at an early age helped me develop compassion," says Reimer, who has worked—mostly in Africa—with World Relief Canada, Society of International Ministries, Food for the Hungry, and now serves with World Vision Canada. Reimer says she is motivated by the command in Micah 6:8 "to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly before your God"—especially that first part. Says Reimer, "To act justly means to recognize that all people are God's image-bearers, and we should treat them accordingly—caring for those who, in the world's terms, are considered to be the little, the lost, the last, and the least."
Ted Haggard, 40
Pastor, New Life Church
When Ted Haggard arrived in Colorado Springs 11 years ago, he wanted to build three things: a church dedicated to spiritual growth, a remote cabin retreat dedicated to prayer and fasting, and a strategic nerve center for worldwide evangelistic prayer. By next summer, he hopes he will have accomplished all three: Each week, 6,000 members worship at his charismatic New Life Church; Praise Mountain, a prayer and fasting center, sits on a mountainous 110-acre spread; and an ambitious $7 million World Prayer Center is scheduled to open next summer. A graduate of Oral Roberts University, Haggard sees himself as "fully a local church pastor," conducting weddings and funerals and preaching weekly. His influence, however, reaches far beyond the shadow of nearby Pike's Peak. He sits on the boards of the National Association of Evangelicals, Global Harvest Ministries, Every Home for Christ, and the Center for Christian-Jewish Dialogue. He also began Christian Information Network, an organization sponsoring Pray Through the Window projects, and he is a leader of AD 2000.
R. Albert Mohler, Jr., Daniel L. Akin, 37, 39
Mohler - President, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Akin - Theology dean, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
On August 1, 1993, 33-year-old Al Mohler stepped to the helm of his denomination's flagship seminary, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville, Ky.), took the wheel, and made a strong turn to the right. The speed and velocity of that turn threw some faculty, staff, and students off-balance—a few were thrown overboard. Mohler, foot on the gas, never looked back. His goal, he says, is "nothing less than a recovery of the tradition and conviction upon which the institution was established."
Mohler recently asked Daniel Akin to become his right-hand man. Akin is the prot? of Paige Patterson, one of the original architects of the sbc conservative resurgence. "Al's so serious, he sleeps in three-piece pajamas," says James Merritt, a Baptist pastor and friend of both Mohler's and Akin's. "Danny is the perfect foil to Al. He's got the people skills and warmth to administer the president's marching orders." Akin interprets those marching orders as "the development of apostle Pauls, men with keen minds and warm evangelistic hearts. Theological education without evangelistic zeal ushers in pride. Zeal without theology will give way to fanaticism. Both are essential at Southern."
Amy Sherman, 31
Urban ministry director, Trinity Presbyterian Church
Too often, Amy Sherman says, a huge gulf separates the world of think tanks and policy pundits from the day-to-day lives of the poor. As a writer-activist, she bridges that gap. One day she may be doing an article for Policy Review or The American Enterprise; the next day she will be overseeing a summer camp for Abundant Life Ministries, a church-based, cross-cultural, "whole-family" outreach among the residents of Blue Ridge Commons, a low-income neighborhood in Charlottesville, Virginia. While earning a doctoral degree in foreign affairs at the University of Virginia, Sherman served as a visiting fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. In addition to many articles, she is the author of three books: Preferential Option: A Christian and Neoliberal Strategy for Latin America's Poor (Eerdmans), The Soul of Development: Biblical Christianity and Economic Development in Guatemala (Oxford), and Restorers of Streets to Dwell In: Effective Church-based Ministry Among the Poor (forthcoming from Crossway). In her writing as in her community work, Sherman is a tough-minded optimist: deeply aware of the obstacles that face the poor, and confident in the power of the gospel to overcome them.
Pedro Moreno, 35
International Coordinator, Rutherford Institute
Bolivian attorney Pedro Moreno helps change history. As a religious-freedom advocate, he has talked to the government leaders of over 30 countries and has written to nearly a dozen intergovernmental bodies—such as the Organization of American States and the United Nations-forcefully presenting the case for religious freedom. As a result, laws have been changed, overturned, or reconsidered. In Lithuania, his letter to the European Commission on Human Rights regarding a law that discriminated against the establishment of new churches moved the government to redraft the law. He also has published nearly 100 editorials in magazines and newspapers in ten countries. From the Rutherford headquarters in Charlottesville, Virginia, Moreno fights for the religious liberties of any religious group, because "if we don't fight for their freedoms, Christians will lose theirs." His ability to understand people from other faiths grows from his 20-year spiritual journey from Catholicism through Mormonism, Marxism, Krishna consciousness, and Rosicrucianism. While studying international law at Tufts University and negotiation and conflict resolution at Harvard, he became an evangelical Christian. Moreno has one more perch from which he wants to influence policy: early in the next millennium he plans to run for president of Bolivia.
Nick Hengevelde, Mark Kellner, 28, 39
Hengevelde - Manager, Gospel Communications Network Services
Kellner - Columnist, Washington Times
At 28, Nick Hengevelde is a veteran on the Internet. As a manager of Gospel Communications Network Services, an online service of Gospel Films in Muskegon, Michigan, he has helped 50 leading Christian ministries gain access to the global Internet audience. Quentin Schultze, a professor at Calvin College (where Hengevelde earlier had worked as a computer support specialist) and author of Internet for Christians, says Hengevelde was one of the very few Christians early on to understand the potential of the World Wide Web. "He has been indefatigable in his desire to get the Christian community online. You find Christians in cyberspace everywhere who know Nick; he's an incredibly servant-minded cyberworker."
If Hengevelde is laying the foundation for a Christian presence on the "information superhighway," Mark Kellner is busy erecting the road signs. "It's important for Christians to realize that the Internet itself is morally neutral," says Kellner, the author of God on the Internet (IDG Books) and a weekly computer columnist for the Washington Times. "If we as Christians are not in the forefront of electronic evangelism, who will be? What will those individuals and movements be spreading?"
Rebecca St. James, 19
Contemporary Christian singer Rebecca St. James has been described as part Amy Grant, part Mother Teresa, and part Billy Graham—with some smoke and lasers thrown in. After cutting her first album at age 16, she became a Dove Awards nominee for Best New Artist. More recently her second album, GOD, along with her advocacy for Compassion International and her mission to summon teenagers to "be sold out for God," has established her as a rising force in Christian music and ministry. Born in Australia, she moved with her family to America in 1991. When her father's business venture fell through, the family members found themselves cleaning homes for grocery money and stuffing their clothes into bed sheets to sleep on. The experience of seeing God provide during that time energized Rebecca to reach her generation for Christ. "Can you picture this?" she asks at her concerts. Then she relays a vision reminiscent of Daniel 3 where Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego face the furnace unless they bow before idols: "Our generation has its faces in the dirt bowing down to the idols of materialism and selfishness. But you and I are like this"—she clenches her eyes, throws her head back, and reaches heavenward with outstretched arms and open palms. "We will not bow."
Lisa C. Barnes, 40
Founder, Neighbors Who Care
When Lisa Barnes heard about a woman whose husband was murdered, she assembled volunteers from area churches to provide material and spiritual support for the young widow and her three-year-old daughter. It was the kind of response Barnes has orchestrated many times through Neighbors Who Care, an outreach she founded in 1993 as a subsidiary of Prison Fellowship, where she was a vice president. Based in Bethesda, Maryland, nwc became the nation's first nonprofit victim-assistance program. "The church has not recognized the needs of crime victims (43 million a year) as a real opportunity for ministry," says Barnes, who has implemented church-based nwc programs in eight cities and has plans for six more by next June. Her inspiration is the Good Samaritan, who cared for the man who had been robbed and left for dead ("a crime victim"). In 12-hour sessions, she trains volunteers to assist victims through property repair, transportation, help with claim forms, referral to church-based support groups, and follow-up calls. "We can't leave it up to government anymore," she says. "We must, as a church, love our neighbor as ourselves."
Hanne and Scott Larson, 39, 37
Founders, Straight Ahead Ministries
In the mideighties, Hanne Larson approached corrections officials at a juvenile detention center in Massachusetts and asked if she could hold a voluntary Bible study in the facility. The officials, doubting that the teens would come during free time when they could be lifting weights or watching tv instead, reluctantly agreed. All but three of the teens showed up. Today, Hanne and her husband, Scott, are executive directors of Straight Ahead Ministries in Westboro, Massachusetts, which conducts Bible studies with 900 kids a week in 76 of the 90 juvenile detention facilities in New England and Georgia. It also operates three "aftercare" halfway homes. With a 7 percent recidivism rate among their students (compared to the national average of 70 percent), Straight Ahead has more than impressed corrections officials, who are giving the ministry increasing freedom to exercise its explicitly Christian program. Their goal, says Scott, is simple: "To see that every kid locked up in New England has the opportunity to hear the gospel in a way that he or she can understand it."
The Harambee Group
Kafi and Rudy Carrasco, 23, 29
Kafi - Elementary school teacher
Rudy - Associate director, Harambee Christian Family Center
Karyn Farrar-Perkins and Derek Perkins,36, 38
Karyn - Elementary school teacher
Derek - Executive director, Harambee Christian Family Center
Residing under one roof and sharing one bank account, these two couples in Pasadena, California, are living out the three Rs preached by Derek's father, John Perkins: reconciliation, redistribution, and relocation. In doing so, the four model a team approach to serving urban neighborhoods under siege. Derek, as executive director of the Harambee Christian Family Center, focuses on mentoring black boys into college, then back into their communities as leaders. Rudy writes on issues of immigration, justice, and religion for national publications. He also edits Harambee's Web page (http://home.earthlink.net/hcfc) and serves as an Internet consultant to national evangelical organizations. Kafi teaches at the neighborhood Cleveland Elementary School, and Karyn at the group's local private school, Harambee Prep. All four, however, share the work of creating a household community. "We need to be a successful minicommunity so we can serve our neighborhood community," they explain. Not only do they serve as extended family to many children from single-parent homes, but because of the Carrascos' interracial marriage, the team is able to model interracial love in an area where Latino- African American tensions run high. "When people see middle-class, college-educated families setting roots in the neighborhood," says Karyn, "it has an incredibly positive effect in how they view their neighborhood. It offers them hope that they have not been forgotten, and that together we can roll back evil."
Sy Rogers, 39
Sy Rogers believes people caught in a homosexual pattern of life can be genuinely transformed. A former president of Exodus, a network of over 100 Christian organizations ministering to homosexuals seeking change, Sy Rogers now lives in Singapore, where he heads a similar program named Choices. In his work, he offers himself as an example of transformation. Sexually molested as a young boy by a family friend, he experienced abandonment at the age of five when his mother died and his father sent him to live temporarily with relatives. He began to fantasize about winning the love of a man, and by age ten began having homosexual encounters. In high school he immersed himself in the gay lifestyle. Later, he entered a Johns Hopkins sex- change program and began living as a woman while taking female hormones. But he never had the sex-change surgery-instead, he was dramatically converted to Christ. Soon he began to work in a Christian ministry, where he met Karen, the woman he would marry. (They have been married for 14 years and have a daughter.) After years of leading an Exodus ministry in Florida, he and Karen moved to Singapore to help found Choices. "God has a heritage of helping sexually broken people," Rogers says, mentioning Rahab, David, and the woman at the well. "Our generation needs to know it."
Dieter Zander, John Ortberg, 36, 39
Teaching pastors, Willow Creek Community Church
Call them "Willow Creek: The Sequel." From the seeds of a high-school ministry, Bill Hybels birthed a megachurch and the seeker-sensitive movement. Eschewing a personality-cult ministry that cannot survive its founder, Hybels has culled proven talent to help lead the premier seeker church into the next century. Lately, he has looked to California. To deepen the faith of Willow Creek's baby boomers, Hybels brought in the multitalented John Ortberg, church planter, psychologist, writer, Fuller Theological Seminary board member, and disciple of contemplative spirituality. Ortberg's goal in the pulpit (heard on Wednesday and Thursday nights) is to subvert suburban mores and replace them with kingdom values.
While Ortberg matures the already captive, Dieter Zander has been given a fishing license. His mission is to do for Willow Creek in Barrington, Illinois, what he did at New Song Church in Covina, California: bring the baby busters to church. But can the antiprogramming, just-be-real generation be made to feel at home in the 14,000-plus Willow Creek congregation? Zander has bypassed the 5,000-seat auditorium, using the gym for his Saturday-night meetings, complete with rock hymns. And the busters—500 an evening—are coming. It looks like Willow Creek will have a sequel.
Lee Grady, Joe Maxwell, 38, 34
Grady - Executive editor, Charisma magazine
Maxwell - National correspondent, World magazine
Both sons of the South with a charismatic flavor, Lee Grady and Joe Maxwell have differing philosophies of what makes journalism Christian. Grady, executive editor of Charisma since 1993, highlights the unitive function of reporting, focusing on good-news stories of how the Holy Spirit is overcoming barriers among people groups and denominations around the world. An example of his ideal for Christian journalism is the June 1996 story he did on the Pensacola revival, since the article itself was the vehicle for other churches to hear about and then duplicate the phenomenon in their churches.
Maxwell, on the other hand, is a convert to World editor Marvin Olasky's philosophy of "directed reporting," or opinion journalism. Maxwell, a national correspondent for World and a former CT news editor, explains, "God has given Christians an inside track on truth and what is right and wrong," and so he writes with that "bias." This has borne fruit in several eyebrow-raising cover stories in World in which Maxwell questioned several prominent leaders on their alleged silence on abortion; exposed the almost-divorce of tv pastor Charles Stanley; and demonstrated the lack of accountability in member organizations of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. Maxwell says his motivation is not sensationalism but a commitment to truth and making sure his "fear of God is greater than the fear of men."
Copyright © 1996 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
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