Friday, August 7, 2009

The Leadership Summit, Day 2

We've just finished the second day of the Willow Creek Leadership Summit, attending a satellite session at the Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas. We arrived early this morning, in time to get a good parking spot and get our seats before most of the attendees had arrived.

We had ended yesterday with a fiery speech by Harvey Carey, the pastor of a church in Detroit, Michigan. That preaching, powerful and convicting, had set the tone for the Summit as we ended the first day. The beginning of today's sessions continued that powerful vibe without missing a beat. We heard from Dave Gibbons, Andrew Rugasira, and Wess Stafford, all addressing different ways in which we need to "Think Forward," being willing to adapt our attitudes to new realities and new expectations. Old stereotypes, old paradigms, old conversations won't do in this world. As Gary Hamel said yesterday, if you're not in the vanguard, you're in the rear guard, and you are being made more irrelevant each day.

A powerful message of the need for forgiveness, both for those who have wronged us and for ourselves for having screwed up, came out of the combination of those three presentations. Does anyone reading this believe in the healing power of God's spirit? Thousands of people all across the continent, both in Willow Creek in Chicago and in all the satellite campuses, were given an opportunity to subject themselves to this power. Were any of them relieved of a burden of anger at others, or bitterness about their own shortcomings? Are we now able to be more gracious with others, and with ourselves? Time will tell.

David Gergen, commentator and professor at Harvard, followed this powerful opener for the day, being interviewed by Bill Hybels on his book, "Eyewitness to Power." This guy has been in the inner circles of power for both Republican and Democratic Presidents. He looked at their strengths and their flaws, their light sides and their dark sides. It was fascinating hearing from someone who had first-hand experience working in this pressure cooker called the White House.

Chip and Dan Heath, two brothers who have written a book on how ideas become "sticky," followed. They talked about a new book they've written, "Switch," which addresses how to change when change is hard. They had some interesting ideas on this subject. Their book comes out early next year. What kind of change will we have seen between now and then?

The afternoon wound down with first an appearance by Bono, singer with U2, being interviewed by Bill Hybels. This was a follow-up to an appearance he had made several years ago, where he took the church to task for failing to address global poverty and the curse of HIV/AIDS, particularly in Africa. He was frankly surprised that the church had responded so powerfully since his last appearance. He castigated governments for failing to raise $25 billion as they have pledged to address these twin evils, and yet in the economic downturn, $700 or $800 billion can be had almost at once. There's an aspect of Old Testament prophet about Bono. He certainly didn't get in the church's face to make himself more popular, but then that's what prophets mainly do.

An interview with Tony Blair, former PM of the United Kingdom, ended the day's sessions. He talked about the irreducible core, sacred values in the heart of every leader, which he or she will not compromis. He said a leader has to be prepared to step away from a leadership role if the price for that leadership role is to violate that irreducible core. Finally, he said that being a leader is a blessing and a privilege, and that it's not supposed to be easy, in so many words.

Even as I work to assimilate all that I've been exposed to over these last two days, I know that I've been challenged, confronted, and convicted by the speakers I heard. You're a leader if others follow you. What do you bring to the table in that situation? What fires your passion? What gets you angry? What are you willing to sacrifice? I've got to find answers to some of these questions for myself in the days and weeks to come.


I plan on resuming my series on conservatism and Christianity with my next post. That's the plan, unless something more fascinating comes up, and I feel the need to write about it first. Stay tuned.

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