Concluding the 2018 Global Youth Leaders Congress, held in Kassel, Germany from July 31 to August 4, 2018, keynote speakers, including world church president Ted Wilson, drove home critical points for approximately 1,600 Seventh-day Adventist youth leaders who came speaking 120 languages from all parts of the globe.
Good Fruit Leaders
Wearing a Pathfinder scarf in support of Adventist club ministries, Wilson began with an introductory statement of affirmation. “Young people will form the greatest power to proclaim God’s word to this world,” he said.
Wilson went on to reference the theme of the event by encouraging youth leaders to “help [young people] assume leadership in their local church.” Along those lines, he challenged attendees not to “just simply entertain young people. Feed them with God’s precious word and then put them to work in service of God and for others,” he said.
Addressing a room full of leaders, Wilson turned to the concept of leadership. Who do we turn to for direction in youth ministry—ourselves, or experts, or social media? he asked. “Or do you as youth leader lean upon the greatest leader of all time, Jesus Christ, his Word, and his Spirit of Prophecy?”
Expounding further, Wilson turned to the Bible and the book of John, chapter 15, for a deeper understanding of what he called “the personal spiritual experience necessary to lead the worldwide youth of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.”
The chapter records a metaphor used by Jesus, Wilson pointed out, in which believers are the branches connected to himself, the vine, and as a result, bear fruit. However, he said, “our professed confession with Christ does not necessarily bear fruit; we must be grounded in him.” Wilson shared that God may test and prune believers “in order that we might truly be good fruit leaders.”
While challenging leaders to share concepts such as the doctrine of the sanctuary, Wilson also sounded a word of caution for leaders. “Let’s not invent or promote new understanding of the foundational biblical truths that were entrusted to us from heaven itself at the formation of this great Advent movement,” he said.
God intends for us as good fruit leaders to spend time helping those who are dying spiritually, those who need an infusion of God’s heavenly power into their lives,” concluded Wilson. “Let’s vow today to be good fruit leaders by abiding in Christ personally on a daily basis.”
“Pass it on,” he challenged youth leaders, “as you instill in our young people identity in Christ, mission as Seventh-day Adventists, and spiritual leadership in the local church.”
An Audacious Inversion
For his last message, Ty Gibson, co-director of Light Bearers Ministry, also reflected on principles of leadership.
Gibson referenced studies demonstrating the existence of a universal and historical narrative of leadership in which the leader uses power over others, and the hero uses force to fight enemies and perpetuates the “myth of redemptive violence.”
Only one narrative runs contrary to that universal narrative, Gibson said, which is modeled in the life and teachings of Jesus. He pointed to a conversation Jesus had with followers in which Jesus said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, but it shall not be so among you.”
“Jesus is founding a new governing system,” Gibson argued. “He is bringing into existence a whole new way to be human.” In this counter-narrative, there is power under others; the hero uses love to fight enemies; and the story of redeeming love is taught and lived out.
Gibson pointed out that a god on a cross was an absurdity to the Romans and Greeks, prompting the apostle Paul to refer to this as the “foolishness of the cross.” And yet, he says, Paul writes that “to those who are being saved it is the power of God.”
Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, Gibson shared, recognized and concluded that in light of the universal narrative, the cross was “a horrible extravagance, an audacious inversion, a trans-valuation of all ancient values.”
“Jesus didn’t merely die on the cross to give you and me a post-mortem ticket to heaven,” suggested Gibson. “He also died on the cross to birth a whole new way to relate to one another. He founded a new system of leadership.” With this in mind, Gibson shared three principles of leadership that he said align with the teachings and the life of Jesus.
First, Gibson said, “the Christian leader leads from the center, not the top; from among people, with them, exerting influence.” Second, he shared, “the Christian leader does not posture for control but for trust.” Third, suggested Gibson, “the Christian leader serves within one body under one head, Jesus Christ—a community of equals under one head,” allowing the leader to value each individual while unleashing their creativity.
“The most effective leader, the only Christian leader,” concluded Gibson, “will empower from the center, build trust, and mobilize individual genius.”
For a summary of David Asscherick’s closing message, see Victor Hulbert’s article on the Trans-European Division website, and get the latest tweets at #GYLC18.