Last week I attended Willow Creek’s Global Leadership Summit at Wieuca Road Baptist Church, a satellite host site for the Summit in Atlanta. The unofficial motto of the Summit is Bill Hybel’s repeated reminder that “everyone wins when a leader gets better.” That’s the goal of the Summit, to make leaders—and particularly Christian leaders—better at what they do.
This year, the theme of the Global Leadership Summit was “A Grander Vision.” As the challenges leaders face get bigger and as the rate of cultural change continues to accelerate, it takes BIG vision and BIG courage to keep up.
As a pastor, I constantly wrestle with how the church can adapt to rapidly changing cultural and social contexts. What I sometimes forget, though, is that it’s not just the church that’s having to adapt.
Everyone—every institution and every individual from every walk of life—is having to adapt to the pace of change, too. That means that all who attend our churches are struggling every day to survive in new and shifting environments that bear increasingly little resemblance to our collective pasts.
For the most part, the church has been reluctant to embrace new vision at the speed necessary to keep up with the shifting culture, and we’re seeing rapid church decline as the inevitable result. But that doesn't have to be the case.
The church's very purpose is to be a radical, leading-edge change agent. We are an institution whose specialty is transformation and new life. Our job is to produce change on a grand scale. So we should remember that we serve a God whose vision for what this world can become couldn’t be grander and whose power to turn that vision into reality is unrivaled.
At the Summit last week, Bill Hybels identified 5 qualities that will help our churches lead toward God-given grander visions. Here they are.
Grander vision churches are churches with grit. They are willing to face challenges head on and stick with it until they've overcome them. Big dreams don’t get accomplished if they are abandoned at the first sign of conflict or after the first attempt fails.
Churches need to be self-aware. Churches need to recognize how their communities perceive them and then work to overcome both perceived and actual shortcomings. But even more importantly, self-awareness means recognizing that God has uniquely gifted the local church with the capacity to change the world. We need to recognize and work to fix our shortcomings, but the larger part of self-awareness is embracing and living into our strengths.
Churches need resourcefulness. We need to able to work beyond the limitations that have become hallmark characteristics of the church today. Resourceful churches are strategic in their use of people power and financial resources and improvise when those resources fall short. When things look tough or even impossible, resourceful churches remember that they have the power and promise of God on their side, and they rely on it.
Churches that successfully embrace grander visions are characterized by self-sacrificing love—love for each other, love for the community and love for the mission. These churches are made up of people who put the preferences of others ahead of their own and who put the needs of their communities ahead of their own comfort. They understand that the church exists in service to a mission—a grander vision—and they make personal sacrifices to support that vision.
And, finally, churches that embrace grander visions do so out of a well-developed sense of meaning. Churches with a clear sense of purpose and identity are free to live fully into the vision God has given them. Clarity of meaning and purpose are energizing forces, and when that energy is combined with the energy of a God-sized vision for what the future looks like, then churches begin to approach the potential that Christ envisioned when he established the church as God’s kingdom-building institution more than 2000 years ago.
The good news? God's grand vision has been fully revealed in Jesus Christ, and it includes you.
See you Sunday.