Eddie Gibbs is the Donald McGavran professor of church growth at Fuller Seminary. In 2000 he wrote Church Next: Quantum Changes in How We Do Ministry (InterVarsity Press), which won a CT Book Award. Since then there have been many developments in youth churches, postmodern ministries, and other edgy ecclesiologies. A few weeks ago, radio host Dick Staub asked Gibbs about this changing world and how it affects his work.
If you could now add another chapter to Church Next, what would it be?
It would address more closely the issue of leadership. I've learned a lot more by talking to young leaders. That's been a growing point in my own understanding.
What's happening within church leadership?
When you look at Baby Boomers and the generations before them, they all represent a culture of control. Generation X and Generation Y possess a strong reaction against the culture of control. This is another one of the reasons for [those generations] to walk away from the church.
I represent the older generation, and we used to think in terms of delegating ministry. That's the language of control. You can't delegate to somebody what God has already called and gifted them to do in the first place. Instead, we need to use the language of empowerment. We've got to learn the skills of doing that.
I go back to the Bible and its understanding of authority: the authority must be intrinsic. Having been with Jesus for three years, the disciples would say that he was full of grace and truth. That was the authority. Grace is generosity. Truth is authenticity. Your authority doesn't arise out of your position—your authority arises out of who you are. Gen Xers are very sensitive about that.
Is this why they may reject the authority of older generations?