Willow Creek’s Leadership Summit is an event where various ministry and business leaders share insights, principles and experiences they’ve learned about leadership. It’s always fascinating for me to attend and listen to the speakers.

Bill Hybels, the founder of Leadership Summit, always kicks off the event. Here are my notes from the first session that just ended. Pardon any bad grammar. I’ll edit better later.

I was in a leadership slump recently, much like baseball players who go into hitter’s slumps. Problems at Willow Creek weren’t getting solved and it was frustrating to me. Got a stack of books on leadership and lost some confidence. Wondered if I was at end of my run because I can’t address challenges anymore.
Friend wanted me to do his wedding. I don’t like doing weddings. (Not “missional” enough.) Having crisis of leadership, but I think this could be a booster. Hard to screw a wedding up. Missed rehearsal though. Gave message at wedding and then gave nod for “Lord’s Prayer” at end of service. The singer then nodded “no” back to me. Look to bride and she looks horrified at me. Look back to singer and give obvious nod to do song. Singer shaking head no at me. Then I recited the Lord’s Prayer. I can’t even do a wedding right!
Got journal out trying to process where at with leadership, church issues and more. Wondered if I knew anything anymore. God told me, “Bill you know some things. You’ve been leading for 3.5 decades.” Good, remind me of one!
Leaders move people from here to there. –You must be able to stand in front of 3, 30, 300, or 3,000 and say we are here but we must get there through unity, sacrifice and perseverance. Preferred future. We will all love life when we get there. Church will be more like Acts 2 churches. Leaders move people from here to there.
In recent years I’ve learned how tough it is to move people here to there. I thought casting vision about there would be attractive to people to move there. Spike my Bible and expect people to carry me off on their shoulders. But then I’d get alarming amount of emails from good people saying “we like it here”. There schmere. “We’re not going to budge. We’re staying here”. What do you do when people say that? I crank up the vision and talk more about there. “bliss on a stick” Nope, no affect. “We’re staying here”.
Don’t make there sound wonderful. Make here sound awful.
Willow Creek has a food pantry and cars ministry and do great things. Had been housed in offsite places. Been processing about relocating them to Willow Creek campus. Average attender would wonder why they should be moved? Addressed it by saying why staying there was a bad idea. Those places can’t expand. People needing food are standing in cold during the winter. Not serving the poor with dignity. Needs to be an environment that helps poor. Cars ministry can’t expand and we can’t serve more necessary people during this economy. Also, recipients can’t grasp how these blessings are from a church since they are offsite. If moves to Willow Creek campus, people would see that a church is behind the ministry of food pantry and cars ministry.
We cannot stay here. But, if we relocate then a really cool thing can happen. Imagine if at the end of services we could offer services to necessary people on the spot. Like single moms. Several times during presentation, audience broke out into applause.
Before Martin Luther King Jr gave “I Have A Dream” speech, he gave tons of “We Can’t Stay Here” speeches. There’s too much injustice, prejudice. Think of Letters from Birmingham Jail. “We’re still called boy or n*****”. But then he turned the corner and gave “I Have A Dream” speech. People had heard the “We can’t stay here” speech and we’re ready for “I have a dream speech”.
Bob Pierce would take donors to food lines in developing countries where kids stood there waiting for food. Food would run out and kids wouldn’t get food. Donors would see firsthand how giving would get kids from here to there.
Staying here breaks the heart of God.
We’re not merely to preside over something. We’re not to preserve something from its gradual demise. We need to move someone/something from here to there. It breaks the heart of God to stay here. We are moving there.
It takes Fantastic People. We can’t do it alone.
I have looked for 3 c’s in leaders. Character, competency, chemistry. Teams are not for character reclaimation. Recently, been playing with another c. Culture. What kind of person flourishes on our unique team?
What do we value on our staff team? When we hire they must meet 3 c’s, but also ponder if they will fit Willow Creek culture. Willow Creek culture is high challenge, fast changing, results oriented and sacrificial to the core. We offer them a mission to lay their lives down for. Will you wash the feet of the people you will serve?
If you want slow and predictable, go work at a turtle farm.
Retain fantastic people who will flourish in your unique culture.
What’s the reaction when someone resigns? Relieved? Frustrated? Or, do you vomit because the person is a fantastic fit in your culture and they are “irreplaceable”?
Willow Creek evaluated all the staff to see what our reaction would be if they left. Sat down with people that made us “vomit” because they are fantastic. Wanted to work more with those fantastic people and get their input more.
Holy challenge of assembling, developing and challenging a team of people that will help in getting from here to there. Do you view the assembling of fantastic people as a priviliege? As necessary? Is it part of your culture? Do we need hard talks with people who don’t fit the culture?
Mile markers and Celebrations – How do you inspire people to stay on the journey? Where on the journey are people vulnerable in going from here to there? It’s not at the outset of journey, or near the end, but in the middle when the journey is in peril. You can lose the whole thing. In a marathon it’s not the first few miles that are tough, or the end, but in the middle when you hit the wall.
Recently started a new vision, and then an economic downturn happened that changed things. Momentum was broken. When in the middle you forget how bad it was “here” and how good it will be when you get “there”. Need to refill the vision bucket. Every person’s vision bucket leaks! We have jobs, families, responsibilities, so the vision leaks out. More regularly than you think it does. Then, you have to celebrate every mile marker you can along the way. Even if they are created arbitrarily. What keeps people on the journey is some sense of hope that they’ll get there someday.
40% differential from inspired person and one who is uninspired in their productivity. It matters from work to your family. When was the last time you set some mile markers? It keeps people on the journey to the destination.
Whispers from God – I don’t think you ever get from here to there in a straight line. You don’t amass fantastic people without hearing from God en route. Hard to talk about this. Even axe murders hear say they hear from God. “Why did you do a terrible thing with the axe?”

“My sheep here my voice and they heed it” as Jesus said.

God speaks to us through the Bible. Wisdom will soak into us when we read it consistently. He also speaks to us directly from His spirit. Things come to us in our minds. People to pray for. We get nudges to ask people about situations. We ask, and then stuff comes out.
The script of my life was to follow father’s footsteps, until college when I heard from God about church. “Start one.” 35 years into Willow Creek now. I look back and wonder what I would’ve missed if I would’ve followed someone else’s script instead of God’s. God’s whisper was enough. 15 years into Willow Creek I got another whisper. “Serve pastors.”
We’re at Leadership Summit because of a whisper. “Serve Pastors”. Could’ve missed all of that.
I think God tries to speak to us every single day. If you felt God was trying to transmit to us throughout the day, how concerned would we be about our antenna? We don’t clean our antennas, we don’t lower ambient noise, the whispers don’t take root in our lives. It’s not like whispers must be profound.
Do you think God speaks and will you do everything in your power to heed it?
If leaders worldwide were gaining additional wisdom and support that a whisper would give them, we’d see incredible changes in leadership all over the world. Smartest moves I made were from God’s promptings and not from human wisdom.

Here are potential whispers. What do you need to do today?

  • Don’t Quit
  • Step Up
  • Take The Risk
  • Apologize Now
  • Make The Tough Decision
  • Get Help
  • Stop Running From God
  • Slow Down
  • Show Your Heart
  • Let Others Lead
  • Feed Your Soul
  • Bless The Team
  • Make The Ask
  • Do Something More Impactful
  • Come Clean
  • Embody The Vision
  • Celebrate The Victories
  • Speak The Truth
  • Pay The Price
  • Count The Blessings
  • End The Secret
  • Check Your Motives
  • Set The Pace
  • Give God Your Best
  • Get Physically Fit
  • Serve Your Spouse
  • Pray
  • Humble Yourself
Experiment in heeding God’s promptings and you’ll get from here to there.

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