I attended the Willow Creek Leadership Summit for the fourth time this year. This is one of the few firm commitments on my calendar every year. I just won’t miss it. Fortunately I wasn’t scheduled to have my IV last Friday. That could have been unstoppable force meets immovable object 🙂
My good friend Kevin LeMay, who worked with me and even for me at Sun, came up from Austin to attend with me. We had such a great time.
Here are some of the highlights for me:
Gary Haugen, International Justice Mission (IJM). What a fantastic organization. I won’t forget Gary saying, “Leadership really matters and is needed when it’s hard, scary and hopeless.” IJM is sure taking on all three. He also said, “If God is passionate about it, he is and will be responsible.”
Wendy Kopp, Teach for America. I was looking forward to her the most after reading about her in Jim Collins “Good To Great for the Social Sectors“. I wasn’t disappointed. The way they challenge kids to teach for two years after college is inspiring. She said, “If you want to live a life of meaning and significance, this is a guarantee.” I wanted to do it myself, but will definitely share it with my daughters.
Craig Groeschel, pastor of LifeChurch.tv, talked about the fact that Leaders have IT (not information technology) and was hilarious. I really liked his points about a leader: 1) has laser focus, 2) see opportunities where others see obstacles, and 3) is willing to fail. The last speaker the day before was Effraim Smith, an African American pastor of The Sanctuary Covenant Church. He had said, “If you are watching me on black and white, I’m black,” which was pretty funny. It was even funnier when Groeschel said, “If you’re watching me on black and white, I’m white”. He and Effraim should be a comedy team.
Charles Colson was impressive. He talked about the 14 truths he covers in his book, “Contending for the Faith.” He said, “I’m 76 years old and I get up every day as excited about following Jesus as I did when I made the commitment 35 years ago.”
It was small, but I won’t forget one of the nominees for an award they give every year. He said, “We want to be the hands and feet of Jesus – on the cross.” The slight pause communicated everything. If you really want to serve like Jesus did, don’t forget the nail.
I think Catherine Rohr, Prison Entrepreneurship Program, may have been the most impressive of all. She gave up a six figure income on Wallstreet to start a prison program in Texas that is changing lives dramatically. This is one tough woman. She tells inmates, “Don’t you even take a lingering look at me or you’ll be out of this program right now!” 🙂 Her teasing of Hybels was quite humorous. You’ll have to watch the DVD to get all the humor, but I loved when she said, “I was backstage and they thought I was somebody’s admin. I guess I don’t look important enough to speak at this conference.” Later Hybels poked right back and said Catherine was a good admin and did a great job picking up his laundry and getting his coffee. I just wish she had been given a chance to respond. She was asked what it was like being a “woman leader” and she quickly responded, “Well, I am a woman and I am a leader, but I don’t get what you mean by being a ‘woman leader’? Does anyone ever ask Bill Hybels what it’s like to be a ‘man leader’?” Don’t mess with her. 🙂
It wasn’t in my top three, but I did enjoy the interview with Best Buy’s CEO Brad Anderson. He is a very humble leader who genuinely cares about his employees and it is making a difference. Bill asked him, “When did you know you were the right guy for this job?” to which he responded, “I don’t know that I’ve ever felt that way, but I do feel called.” Honest. His best answer was when Bill asked him where the line was between wanting to share with employees about his faith and being a top executive. He immediately said, “Permission.” Smart too 🙂
Oh, of course Bill Hybels opened and closed the conference. Both talks were excellent, but his sharing about his deep study of Mother Theresa’s life was incredibly challenging. Her commitment to Christ was complete. 1) Refuse Him nothing, 2) Do his bidding without delay, and 3) Back of the line, doing clean-up. I didn’t realize she had to plead with her management for a long time for the privilege to serve the poorest and most destitute in Calcutta’s slums. How bad do I want to serve Him?
Like I said, attending this conference each year is a non-negotiable.
“For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him…” (2 Chronicles 16:9)