The One Big Takeaway from the Global Leadership Summit
Working for InterVarsity, I’m very interested in leadership development, cultural engagement, and the Church. So when I had a chance to be one of the bloggers for the Global Leadership Summit of the Willow Creek Association, I pounced.
The Summit brings together over 165,000 participants in at the main site in Chicago, satellite sites, and international audiences. I was there on Thursday and Friday. In two days, a variety of Christian and secular speakers and authors addressed issues of leadership and faith.
I was shocked by the one big lesson woven throughout the Summit .
Bill Hybels opened with a call for more and better leadership. It’s surprising to hear it said starkly, but at our best, we Christians do offer those around us some real gifts—vision, compassion, ethics, joy, peace, generosity, and more. It saddens me that we’re sometimes hamstrung by fear, petty theological divisions, and our own hypocrisy. Speaking generally about relationships, Cory Booker proclaimed, “Your actions speak so loudly, I can’t hear what you are saying.”
Len Schlesinger invited us to name the things around us that are “unacceptable,” then asked, “What are you going to do about it? If you can’t predict the future, create it.” And Seth Godin challenged, “If it’s worth doing, why aren’t you doing it now? The world is crying out for you to lead.”
Former InterVarsity staff member Rev. Dr. Brenda Salter-McNeil invited us to see and name our “catalytic events,” those places and issues that are uncomfortable that need to be addressed. She pressed us to mobilize people and to head into these spaces. And Mama Maggie Gobran, a modern-day Mother Teresa in Cairo, took the stage to a standing ovation before saying a word and quietly held thousands focused on her small frame and contemplative strength. “To love is to give…to give until it hurts. You choose to be a hero or a nobody.”
Steven Furtick said, “If your vision isn’t intimidating, it’s probably insulting to God.” He also got a laugh for saying he’s dumb enough to believe God can do anything…until we realized that’s a profound and humble faith.
John Dickson pointed out the need for humility in leaders, defining the virtue as “the noble choice to forgo your status and use your influence for the good of others before yourself,” which he described as “beautiful, generative, persuasive, and inspiring.” And “people are hungry for those who will tell them the kind truth,” we heard from Patrick Lencioni.
Then Erwin McManus closed the final session with a strong call to us as leaders: “Evil men don’t ask permission to create the future.”
So my big takeaway?
The world wants leadership, particularly around hard issues. The Church is uniquely gifted and poised to give it, by our actions and in humility. And the time to act is now.