Tag Archives: Kingdom of God

Ruts and Horizons: The Demand for Change – Gary Hamel at the Summit

Gary Hamel

Gary Hamel

How fast is your organization changing? And are they willing to change fast enough and dramatically enough to keep up with a world that is changing with exponential speed?

“Are you changing as fast as the world is changing?” – Gary Hamel

This was the essential question Gary Hamel (one of the most influential business minds of our time, according to the Wall Street Journal and Forbes Magazine) put to the leaders at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit last Thursday morning.   It’s a daunting question.  There’s a knee-jerk push-back that says something like, “God is the same now and forever and we should be too,”  but Hamel makes a strong distinction between core principles of doctrine and faith and the organizational systems and strategies employed to support those principles.  He said quite simply and emphatically that if we are not changing as rapidly as the culture around us, nimbly adapting, the church will continue to lose ground in North America, just as it has over the past several decades.

The longer you’re in the trenches the easier it is to mistake the edge of your rut for the horizon.” – Gary Hamel

Inertia is the problem, Hamel told us.  If we’re not moving forward, we’re not standing still, we’re moving backwards.   He challenged us to “change the way we change,” calling us to “cultivate a climate of unflinching truth.”   We can battle entropy by refusing to “take refuge in denial”, dismissing and rationalizing facts and the clear pictures they paint.   “Confront yourself,” he said, and question your beliefs about how things get done around your church.  “Humility is a survival strategy” is one of the best quotes of the conference.   Listen to what others are doing, respect them, and welcome needed change.

He then encouraged us to develop more strategy options, to not take the first idea that comes along, to not come to closure too soon.  Citing Dell’s “Ideastorms”, Hamel said change must be exciting, more exciting than the standing pat, and that brainstorms and ideastorms need to be encouraged as a central part of our “search strategy.”

Finally, Hamel challenged us to “deconstruct” our system “orthodoxies,” reminding us to not mistake the edge of our ruts for the horizon.  Why not put your staff reviews on-line, he wondered.  (Was that a collective gulp I heard all around?)  It’s about decentralization, mobilizing and connecting, creating a community of communities, turning tasks into causes.  He wondered why churches, when they are so spiritually powerful, have to be so “institutionally weak.”

Hamel was a powerhouse.  No wonder he’s one of the most sought after business speakers on the circuit.   The end result of that session was one of opening possibility, as well as a legitimate unease because of the seeming enormity of the challenge.  The people in the pews of American churches weren’t at the Summit, and I wondered how ready they are for the changes that are here.   But that’s the role of leadership, to paint those visions of what’s possible, and Gary Hamel certainly painted the vision for us.   No doubt each leader at the conference will take up the challenge differently, and that’s part of the point.  The great creativity of God continues to call to us, asking us a hard question:

Why do we innovate with such dynamism in order to sell a product and make a buck, but stick with status quo ways and means of reaching out with the gospel?

Hamel finished with this: if Jesus is the hope of the world, the church is Jesus’ hope to reach that world.

That means us.   The Holy Spirit for sure, but it’s our flesh and bones and hearts and minds he’s going to use.

Change-mongers, gear up…

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Filed under Leadership, Spirituality

Bono at the Summit



Friday was fantastic, easily the best day of a Willow Creek Leadership Summit that I’ve experienced.   The morning began with an effervescent Dave Gibbons describing “3rd Culture” leadership, ran through a re-imagining of Africa’s story let by Andrew Rugasira, continued with Compassion International CEO Wess Stafford‘s emotionally powerful plea on behalf of the children of the world, and ended with a heavyweight interview with David Gergen, advisor to 4 U.S. Presidents and author of Eyewitness to Power: The Essence of Leadership, Nixon to Clinton.

The afternoon kicked off with an interview with Dan and Chip Heath, authors of Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard and Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die.  Practical thoughts for days.

Then Bono.

“Whenever I see grace, I’m moved.” – Bono

Several years ago, Bono contacted Bill Hybels and challenged him, as one of the most influential Pastors in North America, to get on board with the international movement to battle the HIV-AIDS pandemic.  At the 2006 Leadership Summit, Hybels’ interview with Bono catalyzed many church leaders to move out and take action, and several months ago, three years later, Hybels interviewed U2′s front man again.   Bono fussed at Hybels for messing up his usual line about the church, for taking away his ability to be as hard on the church as he’s been.   Bono was genuinely impressed with the speed of response that he’d seen.  “I didn’t know the (sleeping) giant could run so fast,” Bono said.   He lauded the work of the church, going so far as to say that the large volume of antiretroviral drugs being dispensed in Africa simply would not have occurred without the work of the churches.

Bono told the story of being down once, wandering through Central Park, wondering whether or not all his effort was worth it.   He came up on a man confronting the people going by, selling old newspapers and the man started talking to him, and offered to sell him a newspaper.   Bono looked at the paper, and it was a 1969 New York Times (if I have this right) announcing that we had put a man on the moon.  This was meaningful for Bono, because he has often seen JFK’s call to put a man on the moon within a decade as evidence that we can do almost anything if we put our imaginative energy to work.   Why can we do the same with “stupid poverty?”  is Bono’s thinking.    He bought all the man’s newspapers and went home encouraged, vaguely musing over the idea the man might have been a sort of angel with a message he needed.

“We do our best work when we don’t know what we’re doing.” – Bono

Hybels was Hybels, as always, and at one point in the interview, went after Bono about his involvement in a local church.  Bono described his love of various churches, but Hybels kept after him, and at one point, Bono cited a fear of denominationalism, at which point Hybels upbraided for invoking “fear”, as if Bono was afraid of anything.  Bono grinned, noticeably squirmed a bit, saying, “You’re right, you’re right.”    It was a great moment, Hybels challenging one of the great humanitarian spokesmen of the day to get involved in the local church.

There was lots more, and when it was over, it was hard to not believe we can make major inroads in the fight against stupid poverty, with these kind of men challenging us to get serious and move out on behalf of the kingdom of God.

Bono said, “People want magic, they want a moment…”


Filed under Faith and Art, Spirituality

Margins, Fringes, and Outsiders

Yesterday was overload.

Failure is the resonance that allows connection. – Dave Gibbons

My heart is so full today, so challenged, so humbled.  Leadership is profound.  To answer the call of God, to step out into an unknown reality, to accept the uncertainty because of faith in Him.  Yesterday was a parade of men who have all taken on that challenge and answered it as fully as they could understand.   “Love the Lord Your God with all…”  The word “all” is huge, and at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit yesterday, my spirit resonated with the challenge coming from men and women who love God and His Kingdom in just this way.

Newsong's Website - Check it out

Newsong's Website - Check it out

Dave Gibbons, Pastor of Newsong (a multi-site, “3rd Culture” church) started the day, and talked of leadership in a new culture.  “3rd Culture Leadership” he called it.   He flatly asserted that Jesus, in calling us to love our neighbor, specifically meant those unlike us.   Citing church movements that are built on homogeneous models that create consumerist churches, Gibbons called us to reach out to the edges, to the people on the margins, and that many creatives live out there, and they’re the ones who are starting the important movements in our world.   Go to the outsider, he said, to the misfit, the fringe.    Success may not be chart-friendly, as in “up and to the right.”  (Imagine the usual line drawn on a grid that moves up and to the right as profits or numbers grow over time.)  Failure, Gibbons said, is success to God.  Failure is the resonance that allows connection.

We don’t need more visionaries, we need more relationaries.

Gibbons closed by challenging us with 4 acts of obedience, obedience being more important that passion.

  1. Deeper Collaboration – We must take the challenge to co-create with others more seriously.
  2. Communal Living – Proximity is important in creating the Kingdom Community.
  3. Pray – We don’t pray because we don’t believe in the power of the Holy Spirit.
  4. Radically sacrifice for the outsider.

And finally, Gibbons hit me between the eyes, landed right on the bulls-eye that God knew would get me going.

Gibbons challenged us to see “the beauty of this kind of living.”

Being Third-Culture means having the mindset and the will to love, learn, and serve in any culture, even in the midst of pain and discomfort. - Dave Gibbons

And so it went all day long.

At the end of the day, as I sat with friends around a table of bounty where conversation was rich, food plentiful, and the beauty of youth on full display, I kept thinking of God calling us, calling me.  And the question that keeps rolling around inside is how do I answer this call fully?  Transition is coming–our new preacher arrives this week–and I feel the path diverging, God moving me toward a place I’ve never been before.  I don’t mean geographically.   I sense He wants to plunge into a world I don’t yet see, one clearly in alignment with what He’s been talking to me about for most of my life.

The beauty of it…

What does it mean?  I don’t know.   But over the past two days, my listening got sharper, more intense.

Intuition and intellect both buzzing…


Filed under Beauty, Daily Life, Faith and Art, Spirituality


Hard to say where it comes from.  The Greeks thought it came from the gods, from the muses.  I suppose I still think it does, from God, from sources of creation and spirit that He oversees and delivers in mystery, in conversation, in idea and image.  My son is no doubt being inspired even as we speak, roaming the streets of Paris.  My daughter sits on a plane headed for New York, where she will work as an intern in a casting agency, no doubt finding inspiration in the Broadway plays she will see over the next six weeks, not to mention the energy of the city itself.  Yesterday, it came for me through a brief conversation with the pastor of a small inner city church in Portland.

I spoke with Ike about A Cappella music.  But what he told me about was the kingdom of God, and worship, and what it means to “bring it all.”  He told me the story of the young people at his church that worship with such impact and energy (makes me think of the word “furiously”) that they couldn’t keep the projector throwing the lyrics on the wall steady.

To inspire.  To breathe into.  To borrow breath from.   For some reason, I took some breath out of that conversation, and almost imperceptibly, began to move with a quicker step, with a lighter heart, with a more purposeful and hopeful energy.  I guess after talking about “taking Kingdom ground” on Sunday, it was great and inspiring to hear from someone so obviously doing just that.

Give breath.  Inspire.  Take ground.   Who knows what life will change…

Read that last sentence however you want…

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Filed under Daily Life, Spirituality