The crisis of leadership in American Evangelicalism

Roberto Machado Noa/Getty Images
Roberto Machado Noa/Getty Images

This is part 1 of The Christian Post's article series on the crisis of leadership in American Evangelicalism. Read part 2 here, part 3 here and part 4 here

Regular readers of The Christian Post are well aware of the moral failures at the highest levels of Evangelical leadership in the recent past. Formerly revered figures such as Ravi Zacharias, Bill Hybels and Mark Driscoll and earlier harbingers like Jim Bakker are the reminders that all is not well within the multifaceted movement that is American Evangelicalism.

When an Evangelical icon such as Zacharias can fall so drastically from the Evangelical firmament, clearly there are cultural and spiritual dynamics at work that require investigation.

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CP has tasked three of our reporters, Michael Gryboski, Leah Marie Klett and Brandon Showalter to investigate the problem and possible causes and solutions with a broad cross-section of the Evangelical community. There are obvious factors that must be taken into consideration.  

The rise of the “megachurch” and the consequent vitiation of formal denominational influence and the structures and oversight it provided is certainly one factor.  

Another factor is the hypersexualization of American society, a cultural phenomenon that is one of the first things foreign visitors to the United States notice. Pastors and other Evangelical leaders are impacted by this virulent phenomenon. It should also be noted that American pastors of this generation have a dramatically increased and unprecedented number of women in their churches who are not married and not living with their parents or other relatives. The rising tide of pornography that has increasingly saturated society is another powerful potential snare that Evangelical leaders contend with on a daily basis. In reality, pornography is the Madison Avenue ad campaign for sexual immorality.  

The so-called “cult” of celebrity and the rising corporate model of leadership are other troubling factors surfaced in this series.

Another factor that is also surfaced and that commands attention is that an increasing number of Evangelicals and their leaders are adult converts to Evangelical Christianity, and thus do not have a family background and “grounding in the faith.” As our series suggests, there needs to be more attention given to personal spiritual formation and grounding in the faith in seminary for those Evangelical leaders who did not have the advantage of being reared in such spiritual circumstances.

All of these factors and doubtless more will surface in the days ahead. As people from various Evangelical traditions identify causes and propose answers to the leadership crisis roiling Evangelicalism in America.

CP presents this series as a contribution to that discussion in the hope and prayer they will ignite an ever more inclusive discussion of this critical problem and how it can be addressed successfully for the betterment and flourishing of His church.

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