This past Thursday and Friday, I reluctantly went to the Leadership Summit that Willow Creek puts on every year. As of late, I haven’t been a big conference fan (for reasons I might have to post about later), so I really didn’t expect much from the Summit, especially since I was attending a satellite conference and not the live experience.
But I must say, I was BLOWN AWAY. In fact, I couldn’t stop telling people about it, including fellow staffers at New Life and other friends. I felt so fortunate to have attended this year, and I’m going to make a serious push to get other NLF staff to go.
Instead of highlighting particular thoughts, I thought I’d highlight general reflections now that a day has passed. There are many blogs that already do an outstanding job covering each session.
So for what it’s worth, here are some general reflections.
1. We need Willow to be Willow in order to Serve Us.
This might sound a bit cryptic, and I was tempted to write it out in Greek, but truly, I’m thankful for Willow Creek for leveraging its massive influence and wealth to mobilize churches and leaders.
I think a fair amount of criticism that Willow receives relates to its size, wealth, location, and ministry methods.
At the end of the day, if Willow didn’t have the following things-size, wealth, location, and ministry methods- thousands wouldn’t have been able to participate in the Summit from around the world. That might seem like an awful presupposition on my end, but I’m fairly certain that without a Willow Creek, thousands would not be as inspired and equipped as we were the past couple of days.
– Where would the conference have been held had we not had Willow Creek? I can’t answer that confidently, but what i know is the stuff that Willow produced-the satellite feed, the expert camera work, video editing, music, state-of-the-art media stuff, resources, etc – was so dang good, that it takes capital, venue, and a whole lot of leverage to make all that happen. They use their “power” to mobilize and equip so many.
– Who else has the massive church network to pull in so many churches from so many countries to this one venue? Crazy. 120,000 people viewing from over 50 countries? Insane. I might be wrong about the numbers, but whatever the final tally was, it was insane. Meanwhile, these churches come from many different walks of life.
– Willow scored interviews with Tony Blair, Bono, Gergen, etc. Who else can do that? And make it attractive and worthwhile, that is. Thank you Willow for seeking out the best to equip us church-folk.
– Willow is constantly thinking of new ways/methods. Part of their methods might be business driven or corporate, but say what you want, there’s a whole lot of people getting fed through Willow’s influence. By this, I mean that the methods will always have some sort of sinfulness in it… but if the gospel is being preached and demonstrated in every walk of life, then I want to learn how business can help facilitate that work in my context too.
– All in all, thank you Willow Creek and Bill Hybels and the gang. You guys keep doing what you do.
2. Battling Poverty has become a Major Non-essential in the Evangelical World
From Hybels to Bono to Rugasira to Kiva (Jess Jackley) to Wess Stafford (My fav presentation, btw) to Harvey Carey, radiclly loving the poor is no longer just a special calling for people who live in da hood or want to be missionaries. It’s cool to see how our generation is all over this. And can I just say, Bono preaches more hope, grace, and generosity than most Christians I know. Wow.
3. NYC has some Interesting Dynamics
When Bill was throwing up figures about how much financial resources are allocated to certain areas of the church, I couldn’t help but wonder if it’s a fair assessment of a place like NYC where the cost of property and living expenses are so dang high.
Also, there’s such a strong international vibe in nyc, which creates an interesting issue of loving the world by loving our city. Scott Sunquist mentioned the cross-cultural opportunities right here on our doorstep, and I couldn’t agree more. Just the other day, a new couple from Iran walked into New Life Fellowship and started asking about what we believe about God. Crazy.
Lastly, I hope NYC continues to grow better networking/partnering strategies for our churches and ministries. We can do so much more if we’re together in this.
4. Multi-culturalism is Another Value that is Not Going Away
Gibbons, Harvey Carey, and Keller talked about this at one point or another. Are people really reaching the “other”? I think it’s a beautiful vision, and I’m curious to hear Gibbons speak more about it because his book and topic seemed to focus on this issue.
I think New Life Fellowship is a remarkable community in this regard. It really does reflect the world.
At the end of the day, loving people and being community with them is really, really hard. I’m not sure if people recognize the enormous cost of going this route.
Nonetheless, I believe the summit showed that people really want this as a preferred future for their churches and ministries.
5. Other Buzzwords seem to be Organic and Collaboration
Business folks like Hamel talked about new organic structures which create easier collaborative efforts. Gergen talked about teamwork too. Kiva seems to be an organization that reflects this new wave of organic and collaborative leadership.
6. It Doesn’t Take a Miracle to do a Miracle
Sometimes, we just need to do things that we say that we’re about.
1) Kiva started with an email to a few friends trying to provide capital for entrepeneuers in Africa.
2) People with a mic (leaders) simply need to lead people to be generous. In other words, leaders just need to say, “let’s do this.” (from the bono video)
3) Carey just tells his church to go to the streets on random Sundays to pray for people.
4) Heath bros talked about small solutions to big problems.
5) Gibbons is a relationary.
6) Tim Keller just preaches the gospel – nothing else is too fancy about the church.
7) Bill Hybels concluded with this idea…
I know I’m often not brave enough to take simple steps. And, I’m too lazy.
The LS was a good kick in the pants.
All in all, a ridiculously good conference. I might post other reflections later, but I think these will suffice for now.