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.
When it comes to home improvement projects, fixing things around the house, or just hanging a frame on the wall I’m about as clueless as they come. Seriously. So when my wife comes to me with a “project” she’s found on Pinterest yesterday my anxiety level immediately went to DEFCON 1. She knows me so well too, saying, “I know you don’t like to do this type of stuff, and it makes you unhappy.” Yep. Pretty much, that is the case. It’s not that I don’t want to do it. It’s that I’m extremely insecure about the fact that I can actually do it and then have it turn out to be something even remotely close to what she’s dreaming. Truthfully I have some real “performance” issues when it comes to handyman skills! I don’t know if there’s a “blue pill” for that but if there is I’d order by the pounds.
After a bit of foot-shuffling I finally conceded and started watching film on the project (THANK YOU YOUTUBE). By the way that’s what us guys do who can’t tell the different between a drill bit and a cork screw, we consume youtube film attempting to gain any possible advantage. So after an hour or so of watching film and making a list of supplies I was off to the most anxiety producing place on the planet for people with my issue – HOME DEPOT.
So, now I was armed with a list and the project was actually beginning to take shape in my mind. VISION I’ve learned over the years is absolutely critical to the accomplishment of anything worthy of our time. But that’s a post for another day. Back to the HOME DEPOT trip. This was no time for wondering cluelessly around the vast aisles of products that have something to do with your house. I shook off my natural male tendency to avoid asking for help, honed in on a guy in an orange vest, and walked right up to him naming off the stuff I needed. Didn’t take long to collect everything, still I scanned and re-scanned my list to make certain I had everything. Funny thing is I’ve always wanted to push around one of those nifty lumber carts with actual lumber on it. Now I had my chance! It at least appeared as though I knew what the heck I was doing. To help with my role playing I even wore a large orange tape measurer on my pocket. Smile.
Back at home I started in on the project. I anticipated that something wouldn’t go right, as is typical for me in these situations. But amazingly things went pretty well. There were bumps along the way and the second half of the project didn’t go nearly as well as the first half. Still, though, it wasn’t quite as painful as I anticipated and I BUILT IT! All that is left is sanding, painting, and hanging. What is priceless is the enormous sense of ACCOMPLISHMENT and the BEAUTIFUL smile this “easy project” (to quote her) put on my wife’s face.
Here’s the message, I really owe my wife and Pinterest a lot of props for calling me out. You see, I’m the pastor who is constantly challenging the church, pushing the envelope, and confronting Christians about moving away from what is COMFORTABLE. Heck, I’m the guy who writes and speaks about PORN all the time! I’m the guy who rails on the church for playing it safe, lacking innovation, and being short sighted. I am the one sure of God’s power, His resources, and His will to accomplish great things in and through His church.
But I’m also the ultimate HYPOCRITE when it comes to stepping out into the unfamiliar and the unknown and my wife and Pinterest exposed me.
Let’s not get carried away here. I won’t be searching the gazillion pages of Pinterest with Christina, looking for some new clever craft to do. I’m still no Ty Pennington by any stretch, but perhaps I’m less afraid to wade into a project UNSURE of my skill and even less sure of the potential OUTCOME.
Perhaps God has spoken quite clearly to me letting me know that you can talk a big game up front, but you better be ready to live it at home and elsewhere.
Oh, and by the way, if any wives out there would like to torture their husbands who suffer from the same “issue” I do with a “project” you can find the $10 Picture Ledges here http://ana-white.com/2010/10/plans/ten-dollar-ledges .
Guys, to quote a line from one of my all time favorite movies, Nacho Liebre, “You can do it!”
The WCA Global Leadership Summit is coming to a close. Unfortunately I had to leave the host site I was a part of before the final session. I thought I would share the insights, inspirations, and most significant messages I took away from day 2.
This specific post is about the guy who really blew my mind today. Business professor Vijay Govindarajan. He was amazing and everything he shared had deep implications for the church. Here are some of the things I took away from his interview with departing WCA president Jim Mellado:
- “Ongoing operations are at odds with innovation.”
- “Dominant logic is a double edged sword.”
- “Dominant logic can become our self-imposed boundaries inhibiting innovation”
- “Innovative leaders have to be humble.”
- “Innovation is not about value for money, it’s about value for many.”
- “Conflicts are healthy, providing you know how to handle them for the benefit of your future.”
- “The role of an innovative leader is to be humble and to harness the abilities of their organization.”
- “Box 3 is a bet on the future.”
- “The central leadership challenge is preserving dominant logic while overcoming it.”
He covered a ton of great material with obvious implications for every organization but in particular churches and denominational systems.
He spoke of the “3 box strategy” which involves:
- Box 1 = Manage the Present
- Box 2 = Selectively Abandon the Past
- Box 3 = Create the Future
In order to initiate “innovation” or create a “box 3” it requires:
- Performance Engine (“mother ship”)/Shared Staff + Partnering w/ “Dedicated Team”.
- Project Team = Dedicated Team + Shared Staff
- The dedicated team is custom built for the initiative.
- The shared staff retains in its existing responsibilities and supports the initiative.
Other key thoughts:
The way to hold the “box 3” accountable is to evaluate their ability to learn. They will have the opportunity to conduct low cost experiments to determine their effectiveness.
Again this was an absolutely riveting interview. I’m certain I haven’t even scratched the surface of the material he covered but this is what stuck!
I had an honest church leader tell me once that I’m, “not a leader”. Since that time I’ve been haunted by that comment. Now understand, I am the guy who has always been upfront or behind the scenes leading something. From my time in grade school as a Pathfinder (Boy Scout/Girl Scout Club type of organization) through my High School years serving as class pastor, and religious vice president. Not to mention summer camp, leading an English language institute in South Korea, and serving as Student Association president on my University campus. I also founded and operated a successful non-profit organization (Dream Kids Inc.), and I’ve led multiple churches, and teams on various projects successfully.
Still, to this day, that comment, “you’re not a leader” echoes in my mind. Honestly I think there’s some truth to it. Leadership doesn’t come easy for me. What I think I’ve learned over the years though, is that while leadership may not be my primary gift, leadership is still demanded of me. More importantly, while leadership may not come easy that doesn’t give me an excuse to avoid legitimate leadership development even as a “non-leader”.
In observing those who are effective leaders I’ve learned that they don’t rest on their success. They are constantly being challenged. They read about leadership, attend workshops on leadership, and are consistently seeking ways to hone their skills as leaders. Further, the best and most humble leaders aren’t afraid to have their world’s rocked by a speaker that may challenge their own thinking or practices.
That’s why I can’t urge you enough to attend The Global Leadership Summit (August 8-9). The Global Leadership Summit is an annual leadership development conference hosted by the Willow Creek Association and Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, IL near Chicago. In my mind it is the premier leadership event in the country designed to both inspire and equip any leader of any generation. Willow has been doing the Summit since 1992 and it now serves 170,000 leaders representing more than 14,000 churches.
Over the past ten years I’ve attended the event off and on. The last couple of years the church I led in Salt Lake City, UT was a Premier Host Site affording me the opportunity to not only attend the Summit locally, but also get up-close access to the team at Willow Creek that makes the Summit happen.
Here are 7 reasons I’m attending and why I believe you should attend:
1. Everyone Leads Something. Your family, team, church group, you name it, and it requires a leader. Something I learned from a previous summit is that YOU may very well be the most challenging person you’ll ever lead. Everyone leads something, including YOU, and ME. Whatever WE lead will have a better chance of reaching its fullest potential as we become better leaders.
2. Personal Renewal. Leadership takes its toll. The summit is for renewal and restoration. You’ll come away with new energy ready to take your organization, family, or team to the next level. You can’t help but get the sense that every faculty member (speaker) at the Summit is invested in your renewal. You’ll know that from the moment they speak.
3. Recapture Vision. Again, from a past Summit I learned that “vision leaks” which means as leaders we have to recapture and recast vision constantly. The summit always stirs up vision, allowing leaders to have renewed conviction about what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.
4. Networking. Connecting with other leaders is powerful. You’ll meet other leaders who could become allies or partners. It’s an opportunity for more conversation that may stretch you or affirm you. Can’t say enough how much I personally enjoy meeting other leaders and finding out what their teams are doing and how they are fulfilling their God-given mission.
5. It Will Disturb You. There’s a good chance you’ll hear something you don’t like. Get over it. The summit is designed to challenge leaders to think about leadership and not just in the way they’ve always thought about leadership. The “disequilibrium” of the summit keeps it provocative and compelling for leaders ready to become more effective at leading.
6. See Excellence on Display. The summit is done extremely well. It’s not perfect, but it is intentional, well thought out, and executed to the glory of God. As a leader I appreciate churches that don’t hold back in hosting an event that will leave a lasting impression on hundreds of thousands of people. You’ll hear world class speakers, and the music, interviews, and videos are exceptional.
7. Because of Bill. From what I can tell Bill Hybels (sr. pastor/chairman of WCA) was put on this planet to help other leaders. He’s helped me and countless millions of pastors. I love his saying, “the local church is the hope of the world! But in order for it to reach it’s redemptive potential it must be well led.” I think he’s right on, and I don’t think you’ll find anyone more qualified to lead you through 2 days of leadership development. I’ve met and interacted with Bill on several occasions. I’ve joked with him that I’m the one Seventh-day Adventist pastor who was able to convince his church to be a Premiere Host Site for the summit and that he should be thankful because most Adventists believe he’s the anti-Christ! He laughs but is always encouraging and grateful for the support.
The Summit starts tomorrow and runs through Friday August 9. There’s still time to register and attend a Premier Host Site near you!
Relationship. This is what causes us to be in the kingdom of heaven. Paul said it best in Philippians 3:10, “I want to know Christ…”. God’s laws or commandments set forth the perimeters to receive the greatest blessings from the relationship (“knowing”) that He originally designed. Everything that is done within the context of our relationship with Jesus Christ reflects our gift of faith (trust) in Jesus. Our “works” reflect the same character that Christ exhibited while here on earth because the more intimate we are with Him the more like Him we become. Thus good deeds, love for others, and sacrifice, are all evidence of a relationship with Jesus.
We receive the greatest blessings as we operate within God’s designed plan for this sacred relationship. Disobedience does not disqualify us from eternity, rather our consistent disobedience and disrespect for the relationship will bring hardship, pain, and suffering. The believer that continues down this path ultimately may find the love of another and determine to step outside the sacred relationship thus choosing to be lost or separated from the God forever.
This is the believer’s prerogative. At any given point in the relationship he or she can choose to leave. It is not God’s desire for anyone to leave (2 Peter 3:9), he desires a deeper, life-altering, relationship with every believer. But in His love he always gives us the freedom to choose.
Sabbath is about relationship. It is the believer’s opportunity to honeymoon with God. It is a time for a Holy consummation of the union between God and man. It can be the height of spiritual celebration. As with the human marriage relationship there is to be time to enjoy the company of God and concentrate fully on Him. It is not only physical rest from our manual labor. It is spiritual rest in the finished, complete, atoning work of Jesus.
Our activity should be characterized by a favoritism toward the things of God. As Christ followers we are given freedom to live out Sabbath as our Spirit-influenced conscience dictates (Gal. 5:1). In other words, it isn’t up to the church or any institution to tell us what we can and cannot do when it comes to Sabbath living. The issue isn’t to force the relationship, the issue is flourishing in the relationship and experiencing the best God has to offer.
To see the catastrophic impact of the F5 tornado that leveled Moore, Oklahoma is to ask the questions that can’t be ignored in times like these. Why all the disasters? Why all the devastation? Why all the pain and suffering? If you are a believer then you have to ask an even tougher question, and that is, if God is all-powerful and hasn’t left us alone why has He allowed such tragedy?
Why is there a “death toll” that counts among it’s numbers the most innocent and vulnerable such as the children at Plaza Towers Elementary School? As Christ followers we have to reconcile the notion of a loving and gracious God who, “protects, and cares for us”, with a God who may come off as aloof and distant in times of great loss.
In my context as a pastor many look at these disasters as fulfillment of Bible prophecy pointing to the eminent return of Jesus. Are these natural disasters an indication of God’s soon return, “the footsteps of an approaching God”, as we have said for years? Or is it evidence of His looming judgment upon the wicked and unrepentant?
Maybe it’s all just simply a matter of Mother Nature being left to wreak havoc in her own natural way. What ever the question put fourth we have to acknowledge that something indeed is going on and some answers would sure be nice.
Henry Wadsworth Longellow penned these words:
Be still, sad heart! And cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.
Insightful observations by Longfellow, but his words are insufficient. While it is true the sun is still shinning and yes we know this life is not without its cloudy, or rainy days (especially in Florida!). While we may acknowledge that perhaps there is a “silver lining” behind every dark cloud it does not release us from the pain and frustration we know at this very moment. It doesn’t still our anxious, or anxiety ridden souls. It would help to know that we’re not just left to the whim of nature, but that indeed there is a destination that we’re moving toward and that our story has a good ending.
There’s a collection of verses in the book of Romans in the Bible that provide both insight and hope. Romans 8:18-23:
“18I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”
This groaning the Bible speaks of is “travail”, “sorrow”, “pain”. It is a longing for release, deliverance, and freedom. It’s not just any kind of groaning, but a groaning as in childbirth. While us guys can’t really grasp the pangs of physical birth we do know the pain of spiritual longing. It’s what the Israelites experienced during their time of bondage in Egypt at the hands of Pharaoh. Exodus 2:23 says: “During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God.”
In essence then all of creation both human beings as well as the nature that surrounds us operates with a deep dissatisfaction and frustration, or a “groaning”, if you will. Nature’s harsh lashing out reveals the same deep longing that all of fallen humanity feels. The storms, tornados, earthquakes, and hurricanes are a revelation of something more to come that doesn’t devastate, mame, or kill. Nature, like you and me anticipates a day of reconciliation and restoration through the divine creator God.
Paul is saying that the pain of these present moments (and it is very real) is only subdued when we compare it to the “glory” of our future hope. That glory is first revealed in us through new bodies unriddled by disease or age (I Corinthians 15:51). Then it is revealed through a cleansing of the earth, and the earth made new (Revelation 21:1-2). It is the destiny that every human heart hungers for. Though occasionally veiled as we fall victim to nature’s own longing, hope is soon renewed when the sun rises on a new day. Hope returns when first responders recover someone trapped in rubble. Hope returns when families are united, bruises heal, and children return to a new school.
But for right now, in these moments of great despair let us draw close to those who now suffer the most. Let us offer relief, condolence, and resources. Let us put our muscle and money behind rebuilding with them what has been taken away. You can donate with confidence through these organizations:
Hang on to this HOPE, there is a relationship with a creator God, that once restored in full, will dry every tear, and cure the problem of death and destruction forever. No more frustration. Amen. (Revelation 21:4)
There’s a book that was released just a few months ago that I would encourage you to read. It is a compilation of blog posts written by a young man who fought a battle with cancer and in the end you could say cancer won, but not really. His name is Daniel Harper and on August 9, 2011 he died in Georgia from brain cancer. My wife and I were there along with Daniel’s wife, his parents, and a number of family and friends. When it appeared that this would indeed be Daniel’s last day we all gathered around his bed and prayed. We prayed for a miracle. The miracle we wanted didn’t come that day. But be assured of this, the miracle will come.
Daniel gave us just a taste of that miracle in his blogs. He wrote voraciously in the final months of his life. He wrote about his faith, his doubts, his deep love and affection for his wife and family. But most of all he wrote about a deep passion to see his church, the church he loved, set on fire by the Holy Spirit. I met Daniel and his wife Logan at the back of my church as I shook hands with members making their way out of the sanctuary. I was absolutely thrilled! Any pastor is thrilled to see a couple in their 20’s in attendance at church! Daniel expressed a great deal of excitement about the church, and the potential for ministry in Salt Lake City. Eventually Daniel would lead out in a ministry called “Ignite”. It was a worship gathering on Saturday afternoon meant to attract a crowd that wouldn’t venture into our more “traditional” service which met in the morning.
The service never really caught on. But you couldn’t help but be inspired by Daniel’s heart, vision, and passion to reach people far from God. He was kind enough to let me preach at the service, but the best message ever shared was when he talked about his battle with cancer. Total strangers showed up that week, but they weren’t strangers to Daniel. He had met them around town, on the mountain when snowboarding, or at a restaurant. They came because Daniel had reached out to them at some point. With his background in marketing and sales he was hard to resist. But it wasn’t charm or fast talk. It was a genuine love for God and a desire to see people be overwhelmed by God’s love for them.
I think of Daniel often. I miss talking to him about the latest book he’s read or inspiration he’s had about how to reach people. I miss being pushed to think differently about the church, and the power God has to do something special in this day and age. I miss watching Nacho Libre, and Napoleon Dynamite with he and Logan during our wacky movie night marathons. Knowing Daniel though, he would rather I focus on making a difference in this world. He would want me to pull out all the stops to reach people with the message of Jesus. That’s what this life is really all about after all. Once you’ve experienced the love of Christ the only way to live is with a constant awareness that what you have is so good, it would be wrong, even sinful, not to share it!
As Daniel would say, “You are the light of the world, DO NOT be hid.”
Get the book. You can by it and some extra copies for your friends by following the link below: