5 Reasons The Summit is “No Shoes Required”
For two days every August Bill Hybels and the Willow Creek Association host The Global Leadership Summit. When most of us are tempted to squeeze in one final summer vacation escape the Summit is it’s own escape for leaders of every stripe albeit for a divine purpose. This year I’ll miss the Summit. Not because I’m taking a break or planned something over the Summit (it’s been on my calendar since the last Summit). I’ll be taking care of my wife (an excellent leader BTW) who (unexpectedly) is having surgery the day before the Summit.
But I have to write about the Summit hoping that someone who has never attended will read and be encouraged to go (there’s still time to register here). Besides it gives me a little sense that I’m actually connected in some way (“there in spirit”). I don’t fall into that category of Summit veteran, but I’ve attended five Summits and I’ve been the lead pastor of a church that hosted back-to-back Summits as a premier host site. I’ve also witnessed up-close the impact of the Summit on the lives of leaders, not to mention my own. So here’s my list of why the Summit IMO is always a gathering where God is present and shoes are optional:
#1 Holy Ground: When God met with Moses on Mount Horeb He commanded him to “take off” his sandals because the place where Moses stood had become Holy ground because of God’s divine presence. There’s no denying that The Summit is God’s annual visitation with those who have been divinely called to lead. It is a sacred, holy, set-apart space, and anyone who has ever attended knows that. I attended the Summit at the Willow campus several years ago and feverishly attempted to take notes from every presentation. I soon learned that there was a disruption to my soul in this. It felt as if I was trying to “get my money’s worth” in a way. As if I had to extract value in a tangible way in order to justify the expense. That thinking is flawed for sure. The Summit is divine encounter. Notes are important and you’ll take some for sure but reserve your pen and paper for those personally profound truths that rattle you to the core. Don’t attempt to get it all it’s the equivalent of trying to get a drink from a fire hydrant and you’ll only find yourself frustrated. Trust me there are the note takers and God bless them for it and for posting it for the rest of us to consume later! (smile)
#2 Transformational: In George Barna’s book Maximum Faith he lists “brokenness” as the pivot point for real and lasting transformation to occur. I completely agree and the Summit is a place where you will find yourself in pieces. Bill’s opening message usually “rocks your world” from there, who knows. Most memorable from recent Summits is “mama Maggie” who gave a riveting, awkward, and profound, message about sacrifice and serving. Draped in a white, seemingly angelic robe, she wept as she spoke in a trembling hushed tone. Then there’s Pranitha Timothy again, a soft spoken woman, but a bold voice as an abolitionist that is changing history on behalf of those enslaved around the world. She is Director of Aftercare for International Justice Mission who spoke on caring for the soul in the midst of extreme challenges. Wow. Just wow. I’ve seen business men, pastors, and other leaders return from the Summit determined to take whatever they lead, to a whole new level. Bill refers to it as Holy Discontent. It isn’t contention, pretentiousness, or arrogance it’s singly a divine determination to truly be an effective leader wherever we are. So be forewarned wherever you take in the Summit whether on Willow’s campus, or at one of the 300+ premier host sites God may reveal himself in such a way that will mess you up!
#3 Focused: Every leader knows there’s always more we can do. In fact at some point in our leadership we’ve fallen into the trap of believing that our never-ending activity, full slate of meetings, and being constantly in demand somehow equates to effective leadership. Then we realize we’ve become ineffective at pretty much everything due to our lack of focus. Not so with WCA and The Summit. It’s about leadership. Plain and simple. There’s a very clear focus to The Summit that I love. Bill usually says something along these lines, “For the church to reach it’s redemptive potential it must be well led.” I love that and I love the local church. The Summit is focused on helping leaders of all organizations get better at leading. There’s no other agenda.
#4 Energizes: I thought about using the word “inspiring” here. The Summit is inspiring for sure but in a Summit talk in 2012 Bill Hybels talked about how the most important leadership asset a leader has isn’t “TIME” but “ENERGY” and the ability to “ENERGIZE” other people. I said it in my Summit post last year and I’ll say it again. I struggle as a leader. Leadership does not come naturally for me! I often cringe at the thought of being a leader and someone who God is going to “use” to carry out His mission. In fact I’m certain I’ve delayed, if not been a barrier to progress at times due to my lack of leadership acumen. But I find hope in this notion of ENERGY as a leadership asset! By God’s grace I do have that. In fact we all do and who among us can’t find the 3-5 or even 6 things in our organizations that we lead that need our energy and get behind them. The Summit is a power-packed, high energy, energizing 2 days that will energize even the most squeamish of leaders.
#5 Awakens: Like you, as a leader I lay awake sometimes in the early morning hours with visions dancing around in my head. Visions of what I believe God wants me to do and what He wants me to become. But after breathing out a quick prayer and rolling out those visions often get sucked into the vortex of the daily grind. Don’t get me wrong, that isn’t to say that I just go about willy nilly with no sense of purpose, guided only by the tyranny of immediate tasks or mere whim! Okay, well, soooo maybe that happens some days! But I’d like to think there is some sense of vision that guides my life and ministry.
But when we’re in the trenches sometimes the original vision that inspired my devotion in the first place falls asleep somewhere in the soul. The Summit is everything I’ve said above but more than anything it is an AWAKENING (sometimes rude), a RESURRECTION if you will, of the vision that God placed in your heart and mind years ago! Think about it. If you had one event from the life of Jesus that you could go back in time to witness wouldn’t it be the empty tomb? Or maybe you would want to be there when Lazarus is awakened from his death slumber by Jesus? Both evidence the power of God to bring life out of death. This is a danger of The Summit too. You will come away different, re-animated, energized, alive, awake. People won’t know what to do with you! Oh, but wait, perhaps they will indeed “follow” you as their leader who is alive with renewed vision and hope.
If you can get to The Summit do it! Even if only for one of the days. It will be worth it. By the way feel free to go barefooted, it’s okay, it’s sacred, holy ground, and God commanded it.
Lead where you are.