Draper: Young leaders must preach the Word
Beloved LifeWay exec, pastor challenges the next generation
ARNOLD – “You can’t stop change,” James Draper, Jr. says, “you can only hope to manage it.”
As the world changes at the click of a mouse button, the face of ministry will change right along with it. Draper, former president of LifeWay Christian Resources and two-time president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), said he believes Southern Baptists are going to manage that change, but they’re going to need the help of a fresh new generation of leaders.
“Without a doubt, younger leaders are the way we’re going to engage the future,” he said.
Draper said he sees some signs of progress nationwide. Draper cited Kentucky as an example, where all three officers of the convention are under age 40, and one is under age 30.
“All across the country we’re seeing an infusion of young people into denomination responsibility and that thrills me. I think it’s the future of the convention. We need these young leaders. We need their vision and their creativity. [Older leaders] can give stability and sound theology and things that we know are important, but the younger generation is what is going to give us energy and creativity that my generation may not have. Young leaders are impulsive and may not have the experience they need, but that’s where [older leaders] come in.”
Draper felt a deep burden for the next generation while he was the head of LifeWay.
“I think the most important thing I did the last two years there was to focus in on young leaders,” he said. “I kept looking at the denomination and the way we were doing things and basically we were old. As we get older, it’s not that we’re resistant to change, it’s just that we don’t envision change. I could see the day coming when the convention would be so out of touch that it would unravel.”
Draper spoke with The Pathway recently during the Missouri Baptist Convention’s Preaching Workshop at First Baptist Church, Arnold. Draper was one of three speakers hoping to give advice on expository preaching and leadership, specifically to younger church leaders.
“If I see a weakness in these younger guys, it’s that they’re not determined to preach expositionally and exegetically,” he said. “They tend to go to topics that are good, but God has promised to honor His Word and if you have a regular study and reading of the Bible, you will find the solutions to the problems you’re trying to solve with topical preaching right there in Scripture. Start with Scripture. Don’t come to it after you get your sermon. That’s why I came here to Missouri: I want to say that it’s OK to be creative and relevant, but you need to start with Scripture.”