Church in the City: Global Transformation from a Local Connection
In his classic devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers says that our spiritual destiny is summed up this way.
My brothers, I plead with you that you give your bodies to God, Let them be a living sacrifice, the kind that God will accept. . . Don’t copy the behavior and customs of the world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is. (Romans 12:1-2)
For two days, Aug 8-9, Willow Creek Community Church beamed this message to church, political and business leaders around the world. The Global Leadership Summit originates from Pastor Bill Hybel’s church just outside of Chicago, and the 2013 event was broadcast via HD satellite feed, relayed to 269 sites across America. Attendees represented over 14,000 churches, and they heard the message that is closest to Pastor Bill’s heart.
The Local Church is the Hope of the World . . . When it’s working well, and well-trained leaders are one of the best steps toward getting the local church working well.
Bill Hybels grew up in South Haven, MI. He was expected to take over his father’s business, and was following a college path to succeed in business when he felt the call to lead a church community rather than a family business. The sprawling campus in Barrington Ill, with a main auditorium that seats just over 7000 people, began in 1975 in a rented Willow Creek Theater in Palatine, IL. Today, over 24,000 people attend weekend services. On church holidays, attendees need tickets to get a seat in one of the seven or eight services. However, none of Willow Creek’s programs reach as many people, churches, nations or leaders as the Global Leadership Summit (GLS) or the Willow Creek Association (WCA). Both the two-day event and the supporting organization are focused on a single goal – raising up church, business and political leaders with a biblical worldview, and equipping them to live the life that Jesus taught the early church.
World Class Speakers at the GLS
General Colin Powell, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs for Pres G.W. Bush, told the story of sitting in his upper middle-class church, in a comfortable neighborhood outside of Washington DC. He became convicted that a comfortable church in a comfortable neighborhood didn’t fit Jesus’ call to “go make disciples of the whole world.” Because of his conversation with his pastor, the church adopted an inner city school and church. They are busy pouring their life experience, resources and love into the lives of those who may never leave their urban homes or come to know the love of Christ any other way than th missional outreach of a local congregation.
Patrick Lencioni, an evangelical Catholic and business consultant, anchored his talk to this idea.
“We are called to love the people that work for us.” He went on to put flesh and blood on this leadership skeleton by insisting that servant leadership was the focus of Jesus lifestyle. Lencioni passionately persuaded 14,000 attendees and viewers that leading like Christ means loving like Christ. He believes that people working in an organization should feel relevant, important, known, and be given a means to measure their work performance. The point of his message is that it’s the leaders’ responsibility to provide these intangible, cultural values if they want the organization to attract, keep and grow valuable employees and team members.
Another world-class author and business consultant, Liz Wiseman, echoed the intentionality of Lencioni’s and Powell’s comments. Quoting Pastor Hybels, Wiseman said:
“We don’t drift into better behavior.”
In West Michigan, Kentwood Community Church has hosted the event for 15 years. In Holland, Christ Memorial Reformed Church was also a premier host site. Between the two locations, over 1000 church and business leaders listened to nine presenters from all sectors of a global business, education and political sectors. Each presenter talked about living their faith, and becoming men and women through whom God could work. This year, each of the talks returned to a single idea. God transforms our lives through his love, and we are called to lead by taking the risk that love requires, and loving those within our own sphere of influence.
Kristina Carpenter, a member of Kentwood Community Church, described her chief take-away in the evangelical terms of work and worship. She said that the GLS isn’t billed as a uniquely Christian event. Yet it’s centered on affecting our relationship with God because He intended that we live out a connection between our work and our worship. Because we are created for a purpose with unique gifts and talents, how we apply those talents in the workplace is an extension of our worship, our divine purpose, and our relationship to God. When asked about the effect of the GLS on her life, she replied that the event . . . “does something for the soul, rubbing shoulders with the presenters and the community leaders.” The event is intent on improving leadership skills in the shadow of Jesus, and this environment raised her own skills and attentiveness to leading and serving like Christ.
 Chambers, O. (1935) My Utmost for His Highest, Barbour and Company, p. 106