Initial Reflections on Leadership Summit 2009

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.

For instance:

– 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.

For example:

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.

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12 responses to “Initial Reflections on Leadership Summit 2009

  1. Thanks for posting this! I must have missed the partof the videocast where Bill was throwing up…. 😉

  2. Hello and thanks for your post!
    As a long-time Willow Creek church member (well, I’m 22 but i’ve been there for 20 years) I want to say thanks for the vote of confidence for what the church is doing. I had the amazing opportunity to actually attend some of the Summit this year at South Barrington (previously I’ve traveled as a volunteer to one of the satellite sites) and work with the International Council (all of the international host sites which will take place Oct-Jan this year). Even being so closely connected with the Summit for the past 6 years it hit me this year what impact this can have. I think the presentations from Rugasira, Jackley, Heath(s) and Carey will have world-changing implications for my generation especially. I had the chance to talk in a small group of 18-30 year olds with Jessica Jackley and one take-away I got was that there is no lack of compassion when it comes to funding, the money is out there, the problem is getting it where it needs to be and using it effectively. As a matter of fact Kiva has had times in the past where there were too many people GIVING and not enough who were connectd to Kiva to receive it. Same thing came from Rugasira in that there is the ability in Africa to create and market final products, but the markets are not being opened up. I am praying that the Summit this year did more than just encourage people to open their pocket books but to put a real mind to creating systems which connect these developing areas so they can thrive and be a part of this new global economy. As a side note from the international side, we were wary of how some of our African guests would receive Rugasira’s presentation, but it brought me to tears when a woman named Stella from Malawi walked right up to Rugasira and asks “so when does Malawi get to connect with you?” So cool! I also am excited to see what the church-to-church partnership through Compassion Int’l starts to look like, I see great things coming from that. Please keep the Global Leadership Summit in your prayers, the staff of WCA international will be working tirelessly for the next 8 weeks to choose speakers (done mostly today) transcribe, translate, and subtitle all the videos, create discussion and facilitation materials, train the international facilitators, ensure technical support for the sites (specials prayers to the Congo please!) advertise (by word of mouth only in some places) and fundraise, fundraise, fundraise! God works in amazing ways. During the offering for the GLS someone dropped in a check for $250,000 which will be such a substatial contribution for places where we can only charge about $5 US for the Summit per attendee (to give you an idea, the cost for the Summit in Uganda last year was $98,000). Thank God for people responding to his promptings! Many blessings to you and your ministry. I highly reccomend the Team Edition for your team if you can’t wait until next year for them to experience it 🙂 God bless!
    Susan

  3. Kiva was there too? Wow! I’m a big fan of that org. That’s an incredible amount of information you seem to have absorbed. I may have been overwhelmed! How are you going to process all of that? Was there a particular theme?

  4. Thanks for the post. I, too, was reluctant to go to the conference — especially at a satellite campus. But, as you were, I was totally blown away. Amazing. Thank God for that conference. I’ve been a youth pastor for years and am finishing up my Doctorate and Fuller and took the seminar as a class assignment. Unbelievable. I also got suckered in to buying all the books.

  5. haha, thanks for the comment, stacey.

    susan, thanks so much for the insight for what’s happening behind the scenes. i must say, as someone who’s had a critical bent toward willow, i was so humbled by you guys. i had never heard hybels nor read any of his books, and i had never attended any of the conferences you put on before.

    in fact, most of the reading i did in seminary was critical of hybels and the “seeker-church” movement. now, i know that wc has evolved from that in many ways, but i was shocked at how often i heard of loving the poor, and valuing smaller communities, and generous orthodoxy while still using the Bible as the authoritative source.

    Cate, there was no theme, as far as I can tell. It was basically about leadership, change, and a preferred future, as far as I can gather. each session was top-notch.

    Jason, we seem to have been in the same boat! Very cool to hear. Actually our youth/college-age director went to fuller too. he’s a big chap clark fan. Thanks for serving our young people, man.

  6. Where is God in all this ? What are we leading and why ? Where are we telling people that Jesus is coming very soon ! Are we teachinf people to be the bride of Christ ready for his return, or is it all about getting people to come to church?

  7. Hey Jill-

    Thanks for your comment. I think our senior pastor echoes similar thoughts on his blog at http://www.emotionally healthy.org/blog. You’re right in saying that God’s will, not my will. And you’re right in that it’s not all about having people come to church!

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  9. A lot of of people blog about this issue but you said really true words!!

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