God wants to raise up transformational leaders who will challenge injustice and fight for the oppressed, the founding president of the 21Wilberforce human rights organization said.
Randel Everett of 21Wilberforce, former executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, addressed the Speak Freedom Conference at Dallas Baptist University, April 12-13.
Everett challenged Christians to live with passion, lead with excellence and leave a legacy of advocacy that results in systemic change.
Young adults globally are on the front lines of advocating for justice, Everett said. Pointing to protests against the military coup in Myanmar, he noted the average age of a martyr in that nation the last two months is 17 years old.
Personal transformation precedes the passion that inspires leaders in the fight to secure justice for the marginalized, he said.
“Spiritual reformation is foundational for systemic change,” said Everett, author of Speak Freedom: Developing Emergent Leaders in the Struggle for Justice, published by BaptistWay Press.
He cited the example of William Wilberforce, whose spiritual awakening led him to recognize his “kingdom assignment” was working to abolish slavery in England. A God-given burden precedes meaningful societal change.
“What is the burden that God has given you?” Everett asked.
Taking a stand for truth and righteousness demands courage, he emphasized, pointing to the sacrifices of leaders in the civil rights movements such as Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis.
Sign up for our weekly email newsletter.
“Preachers whose desire is to please hearers or members of Congress who spend their energies on party politics will never challenge injustice,” he said.
Citing The Leadership Challenge by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, Everett pointed out exemplary leaders model the way, inspire a shared vision, challenge the process, enable others to act and encourage the heart.
Change comes with a cost, and leaders should recognize innovative interventions attract resistance, Everett said.
“Vision can emerge from suffering,” he noted.
Credibility is foundational for leadership, Everett said.
He suggested emergent leaders clarify their values by asking:
- What keeps you awake at night?
- What are your nonnegotiable beliefs?
- What brings you sorrow?
- What offers you joy?
- What are you passionate about?
Leaders who model the way for their team “look out the window” to attribute success to others and “look in the mirror” when it’s time to take responsibility for failures, he said.
“Enable others to act,” Everett said, emphasizing the importance of cooperation and collaboration. “It takes a team.”
Christian leaders should recognize they have a “kingdom assignment” from God, he stressed.
“Be Micah 6:8 people,” he urged, pointing to the Hebrew prophet’s admonition to “do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God.”