Public leadership can shape and transform society. In a time of social disunity and chaos we’re exploring the power of public leadership to influence change, taking a look back at evangelical change-makers throughout history, how the kingdom of God influences public leadership and how our Christian identity shapes the way we lead.

The great commission – Jesus’ instruction to go and make disciples of all the nations” – has propelled many Christians worldwide to spread the good news of salvation in Jesus. For the Evangelical Alliance, a unity movement formed 173 year ago, the most effective way to do so has always been by working closely with fellow believers.

This should go some way towards explaining why in 2014 the Evangelical Alliance launched the Public Leadership initiative. Recognising the influence that Christians around the UK have in their workplaces and communities, the initiative seeks to support and equip on-fire-for-Jesus believers as they use their roles in politics, the media, the creative arts, science and elsewhere to make Jesus known in word and deed. 

Both the Public Leader course, a national training course for Christians in their 20s and 30s, and the SENT course, which has been designed for small groups of all ages to use in their local churches, encourage leaders to come together across sector and church divides to learn and grow as communities of leaders. 


By the end of 2019, just shy of 150 young adults will have completed or enrolled onto the Public Leader course across England, Scotland and Northern Ireland (a Wales course launches soon), and 70 established Christian leaders will have supported them on this leg of their journey. 

Meanwhile, SENT groups have been formed around the UK since the launch in February this year, and the public leadership team has also spoken at churches and conferences around the country.

For the Evangelical Alliance’s director of advocacy, Dr David Landrum, who heads up the public leadership team, an initiative of this sort could not have come at a more crucial time. Thinking about the current cultural and political climates in the UK, David says, It’s a confusing time and the UK is experiencing two great crises: a crisis of identity’ and a crisis of leadership’.”

David explains that, because our society lives as though God does not exist, people don’t know who they are and subscribe to all sorts of ideologies to develop a sense of identity, which results in fragmentation, tribalism/​polarisation and identity politics – and, thus, a crisis of identity. Then, with many political leaders simply keeping the wheels in motion and/​or fire-fighting, and not really leading as great statespersons have done in the past, people lack vision, direction and hope.”

It’s amid this climate of confusion, disorientation and hunger for stability and meaning that the public leadership team wants to help emerging generations of Christian leaders to rise up and offer an alternative way, a different vision – one that, if people cast their minds back to the work of the Clapham Sect, William Wilberforce, Catherine Booth, Charles Wesley and many others, promises a future and a hope – for all.

The shaking and the instability are providing Christians with the opportunity to witness to Jesus and practise and demonstrate solidity and authenticity,” says David. The shifting and changing that we’re seeing doesn’t mean that people abandon their desire for something solid. We can provide what is lacking with consistency and integrity in our leadership – our servant-leadership.”

Catherine Booth co-founded The Salvation Army with her husband William to see the life-changing, culture-changing type of leadership that David describes; and in recent decades and up until now, teams across innumerable Christian organisations and churches have been bringing about change. 

Since the Evangelical Alliance launched its year-long public leadership course in 2017, Christians working in healthcare, law, filmmaking, the charity sector and other places in public life, have been responding to the call to make Jesus known where God has placed them, even if it means being counter-cultural. 

David wants much more of the same, lest sections of society move further from the will of God. Our faith has never been private and never will be, because the Bible is public truth,” he says. We’ve been through the secular century’, in which the church was subjected to and brought into the sacred-secular divide, with the important decisions about life being left to the secularists while the religious just meet to pray.

This was one of the challenges in the early years of the last century, and we lost our fire for proclaiming the gospel. I think we’re through that now, and we’re heeding the integrated theology of works and word which James spoke about (James 2:14 – 26). The consequence? As our history tells us, the building of hospitals and schools, the abolition of slavery, rights for workers and children. And more recently, foodbanks, housing and shelters, debt relief, sustainable fashion, and ethical business.”

David urges more Christians to step out, in faith, into the leadership positions that God has placed before them, in order to continue the good works that were done by Christians of old and make Jesus known. In the book of Hebrews, we have a list of the heroes of the faith, who gradually became strong in battle and great leaders,” says David. 

We cannot effect any change without first taking a step. And when we step forward – when we take responsibility to lead – the landscape (macro and micro) changes for God’s glory. In my experience talking to leaders, I’ve found that they all started with something small and the project grew organically. As they stepped out for God, God pushed them in the back, enabling them to achieve more.

It’s a very basic biblical formula that we’re trying to draw people’s attention to: take responsibility for wherever God has put you by doing something that honours Him and brings more of His kingdom. This is not contrary to the gospel; public leadership and the gospel go hand in hand.”

For those who feel they may have public leadership potential but are not quite sure where to start, David encourages you to do four things: Ask yourself what issues make you bang the table (what animates you). Ask God why you have this passion and how you can channel it (you have to start a God conversation’). Assess the opportunities and skills that God has given you, and ask Him to develop you in these areas. And lastly, find out more about the Evangelical Alliance’s public leadership courses and how they can help you work with God and other Christians to make disciples of all the nations.

Dr David Landrum is head of advocacy at the Evangelical Alliance, overseeing our public policy and public leadership work. David wants Christianity to have a continuous impact on society by being at the centre of political, cultural and economic life. He spoke to the Evangelical Alliance’s editorial content manager, Naomi Osinnowo.

Photo by Ravi Roshan