LifeWay to Hold Younger Leaders' Summit

LifeWay president James T. Draper Jr. will host

LifeWay president James T. Draper Jr. will host "Young Leaders’ Summit 2005" on June 19, two days prior to the annual Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville, Tenn.

During last year's Convention, Draper addressed the need for greater numbers of younger leaders to participate in the denomination. Since then, Draper held a series of dialogue sessions with "under 40" leaders to greater understand their viewpoint and role in the church.

At the Young Leaders' Summit, the fruits of that labor will be revealed, according to a recently released statement by LifeWay.

"One of our goals as a ministry partner is to provide individuals and churches with the resources they need to spiritually impact the culture around them," he said. "We have already begun to implement some of what we heard and we are making a commitment to younger leaders that we will continue listening to them and find ways to involve them. One of those commitments is that we will continue to encourage all SBC entities to build bridges, as well. Many are doing that - and were actually doing that before I brought it up."

The summit is to begin 2 p.m. at the Global Café in Nashville, and will last one and a half hour.

Singer/songwriter Russ Lee, former lead vocalist for Newsong, will lead worship, and according to the LifeWay statement, speakers include four pastors, a mission expert, and a research director in addition to Draper. The speakers are Chris Seay, pastor of Ecclesia in Houston, Texas; Jeff Harris, pastor of Grace Point Church in San Antonio, Texas; Kevin Shrum, pastor of Inglewood Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn.; Adam Greenway, new LifeWay trustee and pastor of Church at Andover in Lexington, Ky.; Robby Partain, director of missions at Southern Baptists of Texas Convention; and Ed Stetzer, NAMB director of research.

"I’m very excited about the way the program has come together," Draper said. "We’ve invested a lot of effort over the past 12 months raising the awareness of our convention to make a place at the denominational table for younger leaders. I’ve encouraged younger leaders to get involved and bring to bear their energy and creativity."

"Being with them was a great experience," Draper said about the sessions he had with many younger leaders. "I went with no agenda other than to listen. Too often I think we older folks do too much talking at them, but my intention was to find out what was on their hearts and minds."

"I learned a lot. One thing I knew - and had reinforced - is that these younger people have a willingness to engage the culture regardless of how challenging that might be."

According to Chris Turner, some new culturally relevant ideas that the younger generations may relate to are initiatives like coffee house evangelism where you would sit in a nonthreatening space to share the gospel.

"Paul went out and debated with the wise intellectuals, or he went into the synagogue and proved Scriptures to people. He didn't just stand up and say, here's three points and an invitational call, and have people come down."

"If church were a business, I don't think church is serving it's customers," said Turner. "People aren't necessarily finding significance in the churches as they once used to."

He declared that the church has become "egocentric," becoming a place for Christians to "congregate" when the "true purpose" of the church is to go out into the people, and that the younger leaders really have a thirst to see the church do that more.

However, it is "a two-way street," meaning the younger leaders must also rise up to the challenge to be involved with the church, Draper said.

"What we desperately need in our country is a revival in the church where we as believers see our mission as an outward mission and not an inward mission," said Turner.

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