I am a Global Leader, in Coventry
This blog is mostly about ideas, comments and books, and not about my general life, which is no more interesting than anyone else’s, and possibly less. However I thought I might make an exception, to describe the Global Leaders’ Summit on 16th – 17th October 2015.
The title may give you the impression of me sitting around a table with Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin, discussing how to defeat IS, but fortunately for the world this is not what happened. Nonetheless the title Global Leaders is not a mistake.
There is a church, or family of churches, called Willow Creek, led by one Bill Hybels, with 25,000 members. One of the things they do is hold a massive conference every year in Chicago for those in leadership in churches (or other organisations). And the conference speeches are beamed to hundreds of locations “not only in this country, but around the world”, as Nicholas Parsons would say on “Just a Minute”. Our vicar Alan is a big fan of Bill Hybels, and so this year he bundled his leadership team, eight of us, into two cars, and took us to Coventry.
We spent two days sitting in a pleasant modern Elim Pentecostal church, listening to a variety of American speakers. There were also videos of exciting things Christians in leadership had done around the world, some inspired directly by previous years of the GLS; there was worship; there were times to discuss with your team; and there were lots of pastries.
I don’t really do Christian conferences – I haven’t even been to New Wine or Spring Harvest. My preferred time with God is just Him and me. So I was a bit prejudiced about expecting to be spiritually zapped by smart people in suits. However, I must admit that, although intense and exhausting, the conference was indeed dynamic, motivating and helpful. Like several of us on the team, I went grappling with a few issues in my life – after all, I was about to launch this website and blog, which for me was a major and perhaps unwise step.
The speakers included Bill Hybels himself, Brian Houston (whose Australian-based church network, Hillsong, not only has 100,000 members in several countries, but is also one of the leading sources of modern Christian music), Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar Animation, and other men and women whom I doubtless would have heard of if I read more Christian books, and listened to more podcasts. They were all slick and glamorous, as you would expect, but also all powerful, thought-provoking and lively. They exhibited the qualities of self-awareness (this was a major theme) and love, as well as those of challenge. There was a particularly good session on receiving feedback, even bad feedback!
Of course, being me, I found a few things to niggle about. Why is it better to found a church of many thousand members than to join one that already exists, and help it to grow? I noticed that we were being told to make changes in our church, business or organisation, but not (I think) in our department, and the only mention of the public sector was a video of the change brought about in a violent Louisiana prison. Similarly, while there was a commendable enthusiasm for the challenge of alleviating poverty and ending violence around the world, there was no talk of government action, or tackling unjust trade or other structures. (This lack of politics was presumably deliberate and understandable, given the sometimes problematic connections between church and party in America. In general, the atmosphere was non-partisan.)
And just now and again, there was a tiny sense that leaders are the top Christians. It is only fair to say that other speakers emphatically rejected this approach. But let’s celebrate followers sometime!
On the whole, however, I thoroughly recommend this conference, provided that you do consider yourself a leader of some sort. Our team all I think benefited individually, and were strengthened as a group.
And what did all this do to me? Well… I left intending to
- Work out what is in my “top box”, ie main priority, mission statement (MORE SHORTLY)
- Find out more about Uganda, and its church, about which we sometimes hear very negative things
- Improve my character… Well, which would you choose of the following: Competence, Confidence, Connexions, Character and Commitment? Doubtless I could do with making progress on all of them, but we were only allowed to select one!
And I left strangely reassured that I could continue with the mad project that is Ragaris and this blog.
Partial, Prejudiced and Ignorant Blogger