For the past few days, my wife and I have been attending the Leadership Summit at Willow Creek Community Church, one of the largest churches in North America.
I’ve been to four of these conferences now, and each time I go, I end up getting motivated to be a better leader, to try harder, to rely on God more, and all that good stuff.
This time has been no different in that respect. So, for my own benefit, and hopefully for yours, I thought I would record my notes from each of the sessions here.
The Leader’s State of Mind — Bill Hybels
Each year, Bill Hybels starts the summit off by talking about how much he loves the summit. The one phrase I have heard him say more than once is that he loves the summit because it’s filled with leaders and “Leaders get it”—leaders understand each other.
He took us all the way back to the first conference message he ever gave on the issue of leadership, long before the Leadership Summit was even thought of, and his points from that message are still just as relevant today. It was a message on the five things he believed about leadership.
- The church is the most leadership intensive organization in the world.
- There is a spiritual gift of leadership.
- Most churches undermine the expression of leadership by creating systems to restrict the freedom of leaders.
- Most people love to be led
- The church is the hope of the world and its future rests largely in the hands of its leaders.
Bill said that he still believed all those things.
Bill moved on to the next point of his message when he talked very briefly about the tings leaders do. He simply listed and described that leaders cast vision, build teams, and build other leaders.
However, the key question for the morning was, “What gives birth to vision?”
Where does vision come from?
When Bill said that, my ears opened a little wider because that is one of the questions that I have been thinking about quite a bit recently. I myself have been wrestling with the issue of how to determine when a vision is from God and when it is simply a result of one’s own desires.
Of course, when we think about great visionaries, we often expect to hear that their vision was birthed out of some kind of firestorm spiritual experience. Should we assume that is always the case?
Bill drew our attention to the story of Moses to consider how his vision was born.
The Source of Moses’s Vision
We first went to Exodus chapter 2. Once, when Moses was younger and still living in the land of Egypt, he came across an Egyptian soldier who was beating a Hebrew slave. Moses was outraged at the sight of the fight and the injustice of how his fellow Hebrew was being treated, and he stepped in to intervene. In the resulting struggle, Moses ended up killing the Egyptian.
A few days later, Moses saw two Hebrews engaged in a fight, and once again, he was outraged. This time, though, the fight was between two Hebrews—brothers
Finally, Bill Hybels took us to Exodus 3 which is really where we all were expecting him to go in the first place. In fact, I was wondering why he took us on the little detour through chapter 2. It’s obvious that Moses’ defining moment and the moment when he really got the vision happened with bare feet in front of a bush that flamed but did not burn.
But Bill asked the question that made us all stop and think, “Was Exodus 3 really the defining moment for Moses’s vision?”
Exodus 3:7 says this:
The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.”
The motivation for God’s redemptive work in the book of Exodus is found in that little phrase, “I have seen the oppression of my people.”
Amazingly enough, that is exactly what Moses had experienced himself back in chapter 2!
In Bill’s words, Moses had been “wrecked” by something that also “wrecked” the heart of God!
Moses’s God-given vision was essentially God saying, “What you can’t stand, I can’t stand, and I’m ready to use you to do something about it.”
In the old cartoon Popeye the Sailor Man, there would come a point in time during each episode when Popeye, a normally mild-mannered fellow, would get pushed to the limit and would declare, “That’s all I can stands; I can’t stands no more.” Then, he would eat his spinach, receive amazing physical strength, and put right whatever was wrong in the situation.
Bill asked us, “What is it that you can’t stand?” That is what propels us into leadership!
Bill claimed that God gives each leader a “holy discontent” that will not stand for a situation to continue.
* David had it with Goliath
* Nehemiah had it with the wall of Jerusalem
* Martin Luther King, Jr. had it with civil injustice.
In each case, the thing that wrecked the heart of the individual was also something that wrecked the heart of God.
Here’s the point, vision is essential, but discerning the vision can be difficult. That’s why every leader needs to find his or her “holy discontent”—the passion that something must be changed.
To conclude the message, Bill gave a few quick practical observations that I simply list here:
- Not everything that bugs you is to be your mission.
- Don’t give up too soon if you don’t know it yet.
- When you find it, feed it. It’s often easy to be discouraged by reality and choose to escape or avoid rather than attack. A leader must feed the discontent to feed the vision.
- Quinn says that when a person gets gripped by a passion, that person enters a new state of mind he calls The Fundamental State of Leadership.
- Discontent can wreck you with pessimism if you let it. Instead, the leader must not let hope die.
This was one of the most profound, challenging, and encouraging messages on vision that I have heard in a long time. So many times, I have heard Christian leaders talk about how a leader needs to basically become a hermit for a period of time until God reveals the vision for his or her leadership. They often look to Moses’ 40 years in the wilderness between Exodus 2 and Exodus 3 and claim that we all need to go through something similar.
However, I am by nature a person who is very aware of the rapid passing of time. In my weaker moments, that leads to impatience, but in my stronger moments, it is a fire that makes me say, “Something must be done!”
I can totally relate to what Bill was teaching, and I also find more examples of it in Scripture than of many other teachings on the same topic.
I have allowed my discontent to die out of disillusionment. I have allowed my idealism to fade to a great degree. But I have been renewed. There are things I hate, and I know from the pages of the Bible that they are things God hates as well. What wrecks my heart also wrecks his, and I have just been given the freedom to claim that as my God-given vision!
As one of my life verses says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” Psalm 37:4. If my heart is in the pursuit of God above all other things, then I am free to likewise pursue the other desires he will give me!
Want to know my passion? I have two right off the top of my head:
- I can’t stand the disunity and divisions plaguing North American Churches. Denominations, parachurch ministries, publishing companies, church associations, independent congregations, warring congregations—It’s time we all started working together for the same goals.
- I can’t stand the false teachings that have caused people (myself included) to be weak in the exercise of their faith. Gender issues, church politics, spiritual gifts, moral standards, and God’s grace—It’s time we return to the truth of God’s Word and allow the truth to set us free.