From the General Secretary: Daring to Lead

Date Posted: 
Monday, September 21, 2015

Ryan Bajema, pastor of First Reformed Church in Lynden, Washington, is one of the RCA's next-generation leaders.

By Tom De Vries

When I graduated from seminary, I knew nothing about leadership. I could read the Old Testament in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek. I knew the difference between infralapsarianism and supralapsarianism.

I could not lead a church.

It was a particularly difficult predicament because my wife, Laura, and I were called to start an RCA church in Moreno Valley, California. Within five months we had moved to a new city, gotten married, started a Bible study, and launched the first worship gathering of a new church, led by a 25-year-old pastor and his 21-year-old bride.

A year later, more than 100 people gathered for worship each Sunday, but I still did not know how to lead.

The following month I took a group of key leaders to a conference on church leadership. The speaker challenged us to lead our churches as servant leaders, called by God and empowered by the Holy Spirit. At the end of the evening, the pastors gathered with their church members, shared from their hearts regarding their leadership, and allowed others to respond.

It was a defining moment in my life—as a pastor and as a leader.

I struggled with the level of authenticity I was willing to reveal, then dove in. I told these co-laborers of my insecurities as their pastor. I described how I felt ill-prepared to lead our church. I confessed my inability to be the leader our new church needed.

Forever I will remember their response: Tom, we believe God has called you to be the pastor of our church. We believe you have the gifts to be the leader God has called you to be. If you will step out and lead, we promise we will follow.

It was a breakthrough experience for a young pastor. It was the foundation for our journey together built on authenticity, growth, and trust, as well as missteps and failures.

As the RCA develops leaders, especially through the Transformed & Transforming priority of equipping emerging leaders of today and tomorrow, I am aware of defining moments in the lives of young leaders in the RCA—next generation leaders, young pastors, new deacons and elders, courageous volunteers engaging in ministry for the first time.

As we equip leaders for the next generation church, these qualities are key: trust, authenticity, courage, competency, self-leadership, vision, and passion.

How might God use you to bring a word of comfort and courage to a young leader that could be a defining moment in her call to lead?

How might you offer your pastor the confidence and conviction to trust God in serving the church as a new leader?

How can we as a denomination foster learning and growth that equips future leaders to offer transformation in the lives of individuals and to help communities experience hope and change?

God invites us to step up to the challenge and step out in faith, and to dare to lead in our lost and broken world that he so dearly loves.

To find leadership resources available through the RCA, check out

Tom De Vries is general secretary of the Reformed Church in America.

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