Thursday, August 06, 2009

Off to the Leadership Summit

For the next two days I'll be attending the Leadership Summit sponsored by Willow Creek. The speakers include:

  • Bill Hybels, senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, South Barrington, IL
  • Tony Blair, Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
  • David Gergen, Political analyst for CNN and PBS and White House adviser to four presidents
  • Dr. Tim Keller, senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Manhattan, NY
  • Harvey Carey, senior pastor of Citadel of Faith Covenant Church, Detroit, MI
  • Gary Hamel, Visiting Professor, London Business School and Director, Management Lab
  • Carly Fiorina, former chairman and CEO of HP
  • Dr. Henry Cloud, Clinical psychologist, author, and business consultant
  • Dr. David Ireland, senior pastor of Christ Church, Montclair, NJ
  • Patrick Lencioni, president of The Table Group, Inc.
  • Dan Heath, co-founder of Thinkwell
  • Chip Heath, professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business
  • Dave Gibbons, lead pastor of Newsong Church, Irvine, CA
  • Bono, lead singer of U2 and activist in the fight against AIDS and poverty in Africa
  • Andrew Rugasira, CEO of Good African Coffee and African trade advocate
  • Dr. Wess Stafford, President and CEO of Compassion International
  • Jessica Jackley, Co-founder of, a micro-lending website
Stay tuned for updates!

LIVE - THURS. AM - Watching Bill Hybels via satellite from Willow Creek. The Leadership Summit is broadcast via satellite and I am attending at the Northern Virginia location. In his opening remarks he is talking about the economic storm we are in, the "rouge wave," he calls it, especially over the last eight months. He will cover philosophical, spiritual, emotional, and personal issues.

Philosophical - Living out the Acts 2 Dream: Let's be that kind of church, Hybels say, to one another and to the community. The economic rouge wave forced him to ask the tough questions about how the church can serve in the downturn. Challenged the church that those who were suffering would humble themselves and receive the ministry of the church to them - some had never been on the receiving end at Willow Creek, let the church be the church to you during this time of need.

To those who have not been so severely affected, they needed to step up in their serving and praying and in their generosity. Let the church be the church, in calm seas and big storms, meeting the needs of the power, advocate for the powerless, and hold the powerful accountable.


There is nothing like the local church when the local church is working right, there's nothing like it on planet earth.

Hybels is now talking about how they are "blurring the end of the services" at Willow Creek. They have extended time of worship and prayer until everyone leaves. No one is coming to church looking for a mild-dose of God, people are hungry for God. The result has been enthusiastically received.

What I wonder is how they are not burning out the staff? They must have multiple teams working together, though perhaps the Holy Spirit is reviving people big-time.

How do you lead through a crisis: Jack Welch said "cash is king." Hybels said to himself, I do know that Christ is king. But when an organization is hit by a rouge wave an organization needs healthy cash reserves. Cash reserves gives an organization time. It's not about money, it's about time. Seminaries never teach this.

People need six months of salary in your savings - but faith-based organizations often don't have the same view, but should. Cash gives organizations time to plan for the worse-case scenario. He is writing on a flip chart of three buckets - A, B, and C and prioritizing what ministries could be done with out if 25% of budget is cut goes into Bucket C, if 50% would be Bucket B, and ministries that can not be cut and must be done goes into Bucket A. And give people time to plan - be generous, be Christian about it.

During an economic downturn and stormy seas there is a lot more humility. And people will still be incredibly generous.

Habakkuk 3:2

LORD, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD.
Renew them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.

God does great work through people and through people totally yielded to Him.

Personal Lesson: What if this is the New Reality? This life is unsustainable. Twenty years ago he almost left ministry all together because he didn't have reserves, writing, "the pace in which I am doing the work of God is destroying God's work in me," and he learned some very painful lessons, lessons that have been with him up to this Rouge Wave, and he realized he was falling back into a depleted condition.

And so he draws another bucket - the Replenishment Bucket. "The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace," says Romans 8:6.

Because of the Rouge Waves of the last few months, many are finding themselves getting depleted.

We need to reinvent replenishment strategies. Some opportunities and events that he has to say no to, reorder relational contacts - including spending more time with his grandson who replenish his bucket (except when the diaper needs to be changed). Spending time being serious about days off and vacation days, spending time with God and preparing sermons. In Rouge Wave times the temptation is to work 24-7 and try to solve every problem, ignore friendships and families and health and being spiritually renewed.

Now, instead of coming into the office at 6:00 a.m. he now has made a place at home to start the day, reading scripture and listening to God's voice slowly in this place apart in his home, surrendering more fully not being surrounded by his leadership temptations, rather replenishing his soul.

Hybels reminds the audience, that when we are on Rogue Wave situations when things are uncertain and treacherous, the best thing to bring is a filled up a bucket and a heart that is right with God, optimism that comes from being filled with grace, people benefit around you when they see you've been been with God and you are not on shaky ground but solid ground, when your colleagues see it they too will be encouraged that we will see this through. Let go of the trapeze of old routines as we go into this New Reality.

God is still capable of doing great things today. God is doing great things in our day, transforming marriages and families, "God wants to do great things in our day through your leadership," says Hybels.

NOON-TIME SESSION: This session includes Carly Fiorina who about a year ago became a Christian believer. She is battling cancer, but growing in her faith. Carly is one of my heroes.

We're seeing a short film about an interview with a potential youth minister with a church pastor, which now according to the roundtable is a setup for failure.

Henry Cloud, Clarly Fiorina, Bill Hybels, Patrick Lencioni and one other are now discussing what went wrong in this film and how important knowing the church culture before selecting people for leadership positions, asking questions, put them in places to see how they will respond, ask candidates what others would say about them. Talk less and ask more questions and ask specific questions to their answers. Know your church culture when looking for a fit. "Endure the pain of not having a person in a position than having the wrong person in the position," say Bill Hybels.

Now the focus is turning to church boards of elders or trustees (what we call the Vestry in the Episcopal/Anglican tradition). This should be very interesting!

They are showing another short film, followed by the roundtable.

The meeting was a church leader's worst nightmare. It was a great film - parts of it were really funny and also very true. Now the roundtable now turns to unraveling what went wrong in the short film.

The vestry needs to decide what are its own vision and values and be clear about when they are having family discussions and when they are interviewing outside guests. In the film there was a building project that had gone over budget and all hell broke loose.

The vestry needs to build trust so that people can be vulnerable with one another, so they can admit what they don't know and focus on the issues. Take ten minutes at the end of a meeting and say, how did we do? Demystify the vestry. It takes work to get the team to know how to work together, to agree on how they will work together. Need to have the right people on the board, including people who have influence, affluence, and skill set. Can they help move the ship forward and if they can't, why are they on the board or vestry? Term limits are a must.

How big should boards/vestries to be.

NOTE: I'm working off my old Powerbook and the battery does not quite have the lifespan as the MacBook. Alas. The following speaker was quite good, challenging us to think in unorthodox ways - not about our theology - but how we do church.


3:00 p.m. - I'm charging up the old laptop, this one is easier to use when there is no flat surface, but the battery life is just not as stellar as the MacBook. I do love the PowerBook 12 inch G4, though - it's just a great little laptop, resilient.

Very cool - I can recharge the battery in the church cafe and still track what's happening in the conference on the big screen at the coffee bar. Dorothy, we're not in Episcopal-land anymore.

Is the church irrelevant? "Are we more committed to redemption and renewal than we are to the programs of our church?" Gary Hamel asked.

Here's another quote:

"Churches have been trying to turn themselves into businesses while a lot of businesses are trying to turn themselves into causes." - Gary Hamel

Now we're talking about engagement in social issues, that gains the church respect. But I think it's more than that - it's not just about what we get from doing the stuff, but how it changes us from the inside out. We could get all the cool stuff, but if we don't have a serious-heart change, is it not just clanging gongs? I think that may be why one of the most important parts of Bill Hybel's talk this morning was when he got personal at the end. We're like the disciples coming to Jesus as he withdrew from the feeding of the 5,000+ and Jesus pointed out to them - in a rather pointed manner - that they were in danger of missing the point. I hear a lot in the conference about "kingdom building" - but I haven't heard too much about Jesus.

Just asking.

AFTERNOON SESSION: Tim Keller is the amazing pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City, "the" church to go to in the city. He says he's going to give his best shot at a a diagnosis and prescription for the spiritual deadness - somewhere between vagueness and programing.

He starts with the parable of the prodigal son - prodigal means recklessly extravagant. The parable is not mainly about the prodigal types, but the older brother. What is Jesus doing hanging out with sinner-types, the pharisees asked. The parable was aiming at the pharisees, the religious people.

Great to hear some teaching on Jesus - great timing! I like Tim Keller very much - he's teaching from the scripture on this great parable. Two ways to be your own savior and lord, some by being very irreligious and some by being very religious - in the end there's no difference. At the end, the Father asks both sons to come in to the feast, the younger son does, but the older brother doesn't. This means the "bad boy" is saved, but the "good boy" is lost - why? Because he had been so good he did not get his own.

The Gospel is neither religious or irreligious. Elder brothers obey God to get things. But that's not the Gospel. It's not our record of being good that gets us things, it's what God won for us. A Gospel believers obey God to get more of God.

That is such a great point. This is such a great talk, no one can escape this one - being "elder-brotherish" - that is spiritual deadness. Elder brothers get incredibly angry when things don't go well in their lives, showing that they believe God owes them.

How do you know you're church is being renewed, Tim Keller asks. You have gracious disagreements, not fighting and not leaving, but experience gracious disagreements.

That was the best talk I've heard so far - no one got off the hook after that one, no one.

AFTERWARD: Some of the thoughts I am having this evening before returning for Day Two tomorrow (and we get to hear and see Bono). I am so glad to have heard Tim Keller. This talk on the Prodigal Son and Older Brother was extraordinary. I had a talk with a good friend about how a church has gracious disagreements. Conflict seems to be something that is the anathema of the church, to be avoided at what sometimes seems all costs. But we know what happens when that goes - either people flee or people explode.

Gracious disagreements imply trust and honor. Trust and honor is made, earned. Mere position will not earn trust and honor - though we are often polite until our interior moral code is violated, whatever it might be. Conflict is how we learn - if there was no conflict we'd all be robots. Even God invites conflict - conflict can mean we're thinking, growing, asking questions - it's just how we do it that needs the graciousness.

At the time, listening and watching the speakers today I question just how far do we dive into the culture until we have indeed become the culture? When are counter-cultural? Is it counter-cultural now for a church to have jumbotrons and blue jeans? Is it counter-cultural for the church to become wantonly capitalistic? That's a Republican asking those questions. Bill Hybels started off the day touting how much like a business seminar these two days would be, with a faith-based twist.

One of the concern I had was how much we had Talking Heads and so little time to debate and discuss what was being taught. We sit in this big black auditorium with the jumbo screens but when do we talk back?

The highlight for me was Tim Keller who spent the majority of his time teaching out of the scripture and not the latest business fad. Maybe it's because he really is hanging out with the twenty somethings, in church no less. Frankly, the "downturn" - or what Bill Hybels aptly described as the Rogue Wave, has thrown most of these mega-church types for a loop d'loop. You can see it on their faces - it's a shock and it's not going away. Money is not the king after all.

Another point that made throughout the day was the movement toward a lack of hierarchy in church and staff structures. The example that was given was the world of the internet - and I would add the birth of the Facebook Generation.

Facebook is all about relationship - it's not about top/down, but side to side. Oh, there are some "fan pages" in Facebook, but again, they are more about pulling together people who all have a common interest. I just became a "fan" of Tom Wright on Facebook. Fun to see all the other fans.

Facebook is also about reunion - one of the fastest growing demographics on Facebook is women in the their forties - women in their forties have huge networks, forty years in the making and Facebook is a place that can bring those networks together and link up with other networks.

The word "network" was used today - that the old denominations are fading, while networks are blossoming, as they are on the internet. The same sort of thing is happening in the structures of the church. This is extraordinarily true when it comes to the Anglican Communion.

The networks in the Anglican Communion have linked together literally millions of orthodox Anglicans. But it has also linked those Anglicans with other Christians all around the world. Gary Hamel talked about how leaders rise up in the blogsphere - they are not made from the top down (which is why the Episcopal Church's attempt to tout particular "blogging bishops" didn't work because those bishops didn't have street cred, they didn't for the most part generate followers because the folks at 815 did not grasp how followers are made. You don't set up a man or woman in purple, hand them a laptop and expect a start to be born. The posters and readers of the blog get to decide. There are lots of marketing strategies underway to promote blogs and products through blogs, but at the end of the day it's an elective system. And what is especially cool is that when a blog starts to work, it networks other people together - it's not just about blogger but about the readers and posters themselves. A great blog creates a kind of community.

How can that be applied to the church? It's not top-down thinking. I think we can create environments where bottom-up creativity can happen, but at the end the day it's still a mystery. In fact, it is the mystery that makes it so much fun.

In the American church movement, even as millions walk away from organized religion, America is still a very religious, yes, even Christian country. The networking together of Christians across denominational lines (crossing borders!) opens up a strengthening of ties between Christians and a strengthening of the Church, in the most classic sense. But it's not something that can directed in central location. In fact, the kind of control is the anthesis of how the networks work.

Case in point. I finally - after years - met fellow blogger Mark Harris at General Convention. I was sitting the newsroom writing and he walks in and walks right up to my table and introduces himself. I felt like I was meeting an old friend - even though we have sparred online on occasion, there was still a sense of some kind of kindred community (he supports Five Talents, for example). I shook his hand, delighted to finally meet him.

Were we on some reconciliation committee, joining some listening process, no. We met up perhaps inadvertently, perhaps not. We both have blogs where some fascinating people will post, a sense of community and in between barbs and rockets, little glints of hope.

My current senaor, Jim Webb wrote a fascinating book a few years ago called Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America. It's a must-read, an insightful look on how this people group, which is even missing a native country when you get down to it, has had such a major impact on the American culture.

One of the points of book I remember is how leaders are made amongst the Scots-Irish. One is not made a leader by position or wealth. Leaders are either leaders or they are not. The way you find out if people are leaders is if they have people following them. Gary Hamel talked about this today, about how you figure out who the leaders are in your parish? They call a meeting and people come! Seems pretty simple, but that's what happens on the web, either people read what others write or they don't. Jim Webb called these folks the Captains, as I recall. For the Scots-Irish, either you were a captain or you weren't. If you weren't, pity the fool. But if you were, the Scots-Irish would follow you over the cliff. You discovered who the leaders are because they had followers.

It seems pretty simple - if you want to grow something, you need to find the leaders and they will grow it, they can't help it. That's what they do. They call a meeting and people show up. They say something and people listen. But just in the web, if one turns around and the people are gone then it's a good time to re-evaluate. Authenticity cannot be bought, we're either real, or trying to be real or we're not. One of the things that challenged me to day is how important it is for leaders to be transparent, to share their own struggles while not shutting down the conversation, to open it all up by being open, to be transparent and filled with grace.

One of my favorite worship songs right now is by contemporary artist and songwriter, Matt Maher. He was at Truro earlier this year and just brougth the house down. He wasn't showy or jumping around or full of it. He just simply came and was himself and his compositions denote that same kind of humility. He is Roman Catholic and yet he his the author of His Grace is Enough.

One of the big reconcilation projects underway is not happening inside board rooms or cathedral halls, but in line at the supermarket, hanging at the hair salon, poised at the bar with beers in hand, or taking long walks across dusty summer parks - Roman Catholics and Protestants are crossing lines that were drawn so many centuries go because this generation seems to be grasping that grace is enough, grace saves us and grace makes us leaders. His grace is enough - not money, or fame, or fancy suits bought from Sacs, but grace - and gracious disagreement is not something we should fear, but should welcome for it means we are thinking and by speaking our thoughts to one another, we engage closely with one another and discover that grace is indeed enough.

What struck me this morning when Bill Hybels speaking was what said at the end of his talk, when he got personal. He opened himself up and shared that if he's going to make it, he's going to have to take some significant time to be with the Lord, to listen to Him, to speak to Him, to grow in Him, to go deeper. This isn't about successful and spectacular programs, it's about relationship - people do matter, in the end - that's who Jesus died for, not the programs, but the people.

All of them - even the Episcopalians.


Andy said...

Wow, Looks like you've got some great days ahead BB. Enjoy.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a FABULOUS retreat! Envy abounds.

Doug L said...

Key to the Willow Creek Leadership Seminar are the discussions on, well, leadership. Usually the speakers are Christian but not always. The point is to bring together an incredible variety of leaders, scholars, and writers who will stretch our understanding of leadership. So some speakers will address gospel issues, others will not. Good leadership is good leadership regardless of whether it's in a Christian arena or not. It's one of the reasons so many non-Christians attend the conference as well. The good news is just that - in the process of improving their leadership skill, they get to hear the Good News to boot.
I though Gary Hamel's talk was excellent. He was dead on in his view - we need to reexamine our practices carefully - because, we aren't being very successful with our current ones. Lots of lessons here hit pretty close to home.
The home run today though was Harvey Carey. You could not listen to him without being inspired (convicted?) to get out immediately and start spreading the Gospel!

Jill C. said...

My sister is taking part in this from the Grand Rapids, MI location.