I’ve gone back to school. Sort of. It’s perfect, actually; an online course from the Willow Creek Association. The LIFT Project offers Online Courses for Soul and Leadership Development, with several different topics available. The WCA has built up a huge amount of trust in their brand, thanks to their ongoing commitment to leadership development through the Summit and other events. Folks like Henry Cloud, Bill Hybels, Nancy Beach and Patrick Lencioni have made their mark on my educational development thanks to the efforts of the WCA.
I’ve been considering what might come next for me, as my kids grow older (and out of the house, in some cases); as our church grows; as our personal family business becomes more grounded in the community; and as I feel some tugging towards Something New in my heart.
I’m not sure what that new thing might be, but the thought of intentionally digging into learning something new, beyond yearly conference opportunities, is quite appealing. LIFT Online Courses looked like a great way to stick my toe in the water of some serious continuing education.
Thus far, it’s been informative, challenging and surprisingly relevant to my current needs. Week One required some serious reading – Dallas Willard, who I’ve always admired but never really studied. His paper on “Spiritual Formation as a Natural Part of Salvation” was challenging and informative. Subsequent online discussion with people from all over North America, the UK, Sweden, Uruguay, Australia and New Zealand was fascinating.
This week’s assignments have been convicting; all delivered in video or audio format, the short teaching segments center on who a leader is, rather than what she does. “Truth be told, the average Christian leader spends more time in business and management and strategy meetings than we ever do talking to God.” – Harvey Carey Ow. That stung; and yet I found it quite freeing. Since the summer, I have found that more and more I am focused on doing, at the expense of being. It seems appropriate, required, and necessary; but in this particular line of work, it’s dangerous. Carey’s words hit home with me, though I’m not proud to admit it. However, the truth sets you free. I am working towards transformation.
My favorite part of this week’s teaching was seeing Nancy Beach, who has long represented all I thought God was calling me towards as an artist and someone who loved the local church. A decade ago, I began to see and hear Nancy in her role at Willow Creek Community Church. In my heart, it was as if her presence confirmed a whisper I heard in my heart: “Yes. I can use you.” Her short video segment this week told the sad tale of a church leader with a marked lack of love, humility and gentleness; the closer people got to this senior church leader, the less they saw of Jesus.
“Above all else”, she said, “guard your heart”. She reminded us of the value of spiritual practices, safe relationships and stretching experiences.
This course is a unique opportunity for me, at an opportune time. In some ways, I am seeing myself through different eyes – as one of a large group of people who are pursuing the best way to engage in their calling. I’m one of many who are convinced that the local church is the hope of the world. It’s a level playing field, with women and men equally represented, with welcome dialogue and affirmation.
In an audio clip today, Harvey Carey said, “I got into this because I wanted to see lives change. That can only happen in His presence.”
That’s a good reminder. I’m grateful.
Beth Stoddard is a guest blogger in our LIFT online courses. You can read more on her blog Grace Everyday http://www.graceeveryday.blogspot.com/