Last week I had the privilege of attending the Willow Creek Association‘s Global Leadership Summit simulcast @ Forest City Community Church in London, On (great job hosting guys!).  I’ve been a back-and-forth cheerleader of Bill Hybels over the years, and one thing you cannot deny is that he is a very effective, compelling and creative leader.  I also appreciate his passion to invest in the leadership of the global church which he always refers to as “the hope of the world” as Christ lives in us and accomplishes His mission through us (His church).

There is nothing like the local church when it’s working right. Its beauty is indescribable. Its power is breathtaking. Its potential is unlimited. It comforts the grieving and heals the broken in the context of community. It builds bridges to seekers and opens its arms to the forgotten, the downtrodden, and the disillusioned. It breaks the chains of addictions, frees the oppressed, and offers belonging to the marginalized of this world. The potential of the local church is almost more than I can grasp!”  (taken from Courageous Leadership Bill Hybels, 2002)

Hybels and the WCA also have a passion to invest and impart Kingdom principles in all areas of leadership: church-related, social, business and government.  If you have godly, healthy leaders in key areas of social influence…it’s a win-win situation for all culture! 

Although there were several session speakers I was intrigued with (you can check out the speaker profiles here…FYI…Erwin McManus is always a treat to listen to, as is the raw energy from Steven Furtick and the extreme humility of Mama Maggie Gobran!), it was the Friday morning focusing on the unique Canadian cultural context of leadership, particularly with regards to the church.  Willow Creek Canada had put together a discussion session with Tim Schroeder and Dr. Reginald Bibby called Our Canada, Our Time.  Here’s a ‘Cliffs Notes’ overview of what they had to share with us as Canadian leaders within the Christian church culture; (Coles Notes for Canada…but they didn’t have a clear description of what it is!)

*Bibby identified 3 key areas that Canadians (both ‘churched’ and ‘unchurched’) are looking for;

  1. meeting spiritual needs– helping people connect the dots in their understanding of God, and innate longing for a deeper spiritual connection, which ultimately is the craving to know and be known by God!  What kind of avenues are we pursuing that allow people in our community to discover who God really is?
  2. loving people–  People are waiting for the church to connect within their community at a deeper level, as opposed to the church often waiting for people to come and connect with them in their building/programs.  It reinforces the old adage; people don’t care what you know until they know you care!  How well do we love people enough to accept them as-is…but to commit to coming alongside those folks who Jesus loves too much to leave as-is?  We were challenged and encouraged to pursue ways at living out our Christian faith, and to love unconditionally…no strings attached.  How well do we love the ‘un-lovable’?
  3. meeting personal needs- Bibby stated that people are not looking for churches, but rather they’re looking for ministry I heard someone say that the church spends a lot of time asking questions people aren’t asking…which means we offer programs and initiatives that we might think are meeting needs (based on our perception), but in reality we’re missing the mark all-to-often.  There was a strong challenge for Canadian leaders to understand their culture, and to look @ old things in new ways (the art of sociologists). 

*Bibby also made a bold (and some would say) radical call for the evangelical and Catholic Christ followers to spend some more focused time on Kingdom collaboration, rather than focusing on our doctrinal/theological divides.  This opened the door for some response and opportunity, but also for risk and uncertainty.

*Tim and Reg made some assertions that (contrary to some popular belief) the denominational walls are still fairly wide, high and reinforced.  We may be more open to dialogue outside denominational walls, but when push-comes-to-shove, those walls still divide and exclude.  How active are we in pursuing cross-denominational relationships…even if we never really plan on doing much together…are we open to just being with each other?

*They also shed some light on the fact that, although the church is a ways off from being on life support, it still has much work to do, especially in the area of how we treat leaders.  Tim used the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty as an illustration of a heresy we often enforce…that once someone has a fall…it’s all over and there’s no way back.  This goes against the message of the gospel in that we were not written off by Christ…and in fact there’s a King who can put things back together again…for good!  It’s also a message of grace and sovereignty we need to share with our culture.

*Tim suggested that in order for positive change to occur in our cultural contexts, then it’s incumbent on leaders to be willing to engage within their cultural place to change what needs changing.  In other words…we’re called to be change agents for the Kingdom…displacing the kingdom of darkness, in exchange for the Kingdom of Light.  God has called us to be true transformers of culture, but it starts with us being truly transformed, then being willing to live out and apply that change in society.  God provided the solution in Christ…we’re the messengers of that solution.

*4 Vital Signs were identified for a fresh movement of God in Canada;

      1. leaders with a fresh call from God…those with a ‘holy discontent’ for what is wrong and broken in this world…and are calling out to God to be used to bring change
      2. leaders who learn to embrace and engage in God’s redemptive plan to be used as cultural change agents in Canada
      3. leaders who can accurately gauge the pulse of the culture around them, and address what they’re hearing
      4. leaders who are willing to accept & own personal accountability (such a key area of willingness amongst leaders…not just within the church, but in the broad arena of leadership)

It was truly an awesome, informative and reflective 2 days of discussion and processing.  I’ll end with the words of Michelle Rhee, who fought hard to reform the Washington, DC district school board when she saw the plight of the situation she was faced with, and said “not on my watch!”  There’s much debate as to the overall approach she took…that’s not for this poster…but the fact is that she did something about the bad situation she saw.  Hopefully Canadian Christian leaders will rise up together as we’re confronted with the state of spirituality and moral values in our cultural landscape and vow, with the power of the Holy Spirit, NOT ON MY WATCH!

Rise and Shine Canada…it’s a new day!

**If you want to check out Dr. Bibby’s research work on Canadian ‘religious’ culture, you can read his most recent book Beyond the Gods and Back, as well as the The Emerging Millennials**


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