Unity in the Midst of Diversity

The first year in Dubai, UAE and the GLS sold out! More than 30 churches were represented at the event, creating unity in a city that is otherwise very di­vided—this alone is a miracle. Church leaders say this kind of gather­ing would not have been impossible five years ago. Credit is given to a city-wide prayer movement among 27 churches that have been praying for this kind of unity for the Kingdom in the Mid­dle East. Attendees arrived from neighboring nations that are currently closed to the GLS. Many of these traveling leaders have never been to a conference like this before, and they wept with joy as the conference started. The GLS in Du­bai was like looking through a window of heaven and seeing Asians, Africans, Westerners and Middle Easterners all learning and growing to­gether.

A Full House in Panama City. For the past three years, the GLS has seen a full house. This year more than 950 leaders from different cities, churches, denomi­nations, and businesses gathered in unity to be inspired and trained. Eager to discuss how to implement ideas from the GLS sessions into their organizations and churches, they share a common goal: impact and transform their commu­nities. This year especially, people asked about expanding the GLS even further to other locations. There will be an addi­­tional GLS in Santiago de Veraguas this week, and some leaders have already pre-registered for a new Marketplace GLS being held in June. Please pray for the impact of the GLS in Panama.

“Our committee is looking forward to ex­­panding the GLS with different initiatives because we believe that leader­ship  transformation is key to being a relevant church in our society impacting social, economical and cultural levels.”—Carlos, GLS Committee member, Pa­nama

The churches in Kolkata, India enjoy a unique unity among different denomi­­nations, churches, and ministries that attend the GLS. The GLS stands outamong other events when it comes to diversity in Kolkata. This year’s event was led by a great steering com­mittee working hard behind the scenes to make the GLS the best it could be. As a result, more than 350 leaders attended, and left encouraged and inspired. 

“This will be a trigger for action and growth of the Church in Kolkata.”

“Everything I have heard has encour­­aged me by reinforcing and validating a major life change I made recently to serve God more.”

A First at Korean Community Church of Seattle. It was not only the first GLS at this church, it was also the first multi-generational event ever hosted at this church. With more than 800 attendees, the auditorium was full to capacity and Korean leaders in this community were blessed by the leadership training and resources available in their own lan­guage.

View more pictures and stories at www.willowcreek.com/followthegls

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen. -Ephesians 3:20-21

Please continue to pray for our friends in Brazil, India, Panama, Philippines, Puerto Rico, United States (Chinese site), and Germany as they hold their GLS events this week.

The Values of a New Media Culture

Post by Justin Wise

Even if you think you aren’t familiar with the New Media Culture, you are. You’re living in it. The under-34 contingent, a.k.a. the New Media Generation, is fundamentally changing our society.

Like any culture, they have a clear and defined value system. These values are important to church leaders because they determine how a new generation of church attendees think, act, behave, and worship.

These values dictate everything (yes, everything) the under-34 generation does. This is a new perspective and it’s important because churches have to face this new era of faith.

If church leaders don’t understand this, or if they choose to ignore it, they’re essentially ignoring an entire generation. Whenever we minister to people, we have to take into context how they think, how they make decisions, how they behave, and then plan accordingly.

What Are the Values?

1. Looking for a Mouse. The New Media Culture demands interactivity. When my son, Finn, is watching television, he wants to interact with it. He’s looking for a way to participate with the media. He’s grown up with an iPad that responds to his touch and allows him to interact with what’s on the screen. Media, in his mind, is interactive.

The New Media Generation values this interactivity. They are drawn to participatory media. It influences the way that we have to think through our church services; sitting back and watching someone speak for 45, 60, 90 minutes at a time isn’t going to cut it. Why? They’ll pull out their smart phone, start texting, look up a Bible verse, maybe even live-tweet the service. It’s the second-screen experience they desire (and will create) if we don’t do it for them.

Churches need to be aware of this and plan accordingly.

2. Blurring Lines Between Online and Offline. The reality is that a New Media Culture sees very little difference between their online and offline lives. To say to them, “online church isn’t ‘real’ church” or “online community isn’t a ‘real’ community” does not resonate with them.

Every day they interact with people they may never meet in-person, yet they are developing real friendships with those same people.

Part of this value stems from the fact that adults with smart phones have them within a 3-foot radius for 97 percent of their day. We are constantly connected and new media is a huge part of that. In short, it’s a blurred line. “Online” and “offline,” as separate categories, has nearly vanished—even for people over 34 (and it is certainly vanishing for those under 34, if it was even there in the first place!).

The New Media Generation will not know a time when our devices, phones, TVs, weren’t “smart”, weren’t connected to the web. For them, to be in a church service and hear something like, “please put your phones away” makes no sense. It is literally speaking a different language, from a different set of cultural values.

3. It’s Mine, and It’s About Me. This value is rooted in the reality that we can customize everything as a new media generation. When I was growing up, the very first CD I bought was Jock Rock Volume 1. I bought it for one song only, “Blitzkrieg Bop” by The Ramones.

I had to buy the whole CD in order to get that one song. Of course now, the New Media Culture knows that they can just go to iTunes and only buy the one song they like. They don’t have to buy the whole album.

This type of customization typifies the  ”It’s Mine, It’s About Me” value. It is less about self-centeredness and egotism more of creating a world in which one wants to live in.

Thomas L. Friedman, in his book “The World is Flat,” calls this concept Informing. Informing says we don’t have to go to the library, or the civic center, or the newspaper, or television to get our information. We go to one place—the web. We can curate the information streams coming into our lives with little to no effort. In other words, it’s never been easier to filter out the “stuff” we don’t want to consume.

The industries I mentioned above are having to reorganize and repurpose themselves to have relevancy in people’s lives. The Church, dear friends, is the same way. “It’s Mine, It’s About Me” says we can essentially hand-tailor our spiritual experience. This means “going to church” (i.e. the physical church building) is being replaced as the dispenser of religious material.

This shouldn’t be a surprise. It’s all been done before. We saw this with Martin Luther and the printing press. Luther leveraged cutting edge technology to get the Bible into the hands of the people who needed and wanted it. At that time, the only people who could read Scripture were the clergy because the Scriptures were in Latin. Not to mention many people couldn’t read at all!

Luther wanted people to have the option of either reading or hearing the Bible in their own language. So he translated it, put it through the printing press, and gave it to people in their homes.

Not only did he change the way people related to God, he actually flattened the power structure of the early Church. He took the power from the “haves” (clergy) and gave it to the “have-nots” (normal, everyday Christians like you and me). This was an early version of “It’s Mine” values!

Fast forward to now, and the church is no longer a “hey, lets come here and receive religious instruction” destination. We can get it online now–anywhere, any time, any place. Just go to iTunes and search Christianity and you’ll find any flavor of Christian podcast you could possibly want.

This value says we can hand-pick the spiritual experience we want. The Church has to find a different way to add value to have relevancy in the culture.

4. Life Amplification. This last value says we are constantly sharing our life experiences all the time, in every place, on every platform.

We’re sharing tweets, Facebook updates, images, videos. We’re constantly sharing our content and interacting with the content of others. Why? It’s for no other reason than connecting with other human beings through our sharing. We share content to connect with others. That’s it.

Life Amplification speaks to the basic human need to connect to others. So we’re doing this through micro-content, connecting with the people who are passionate about the same things we are. The Church has a responsibility to tap into this passion and engage in the means of delivery. The Church needs to know how to be and essential part of the Like Amplification value.

The purpose of looking at these new media values is not to assign a value judgement: right, wrong, good, bad, etc. It is simply to step back and go on a fact-finding mission.

For instance, if you and I were going to do missions work overseas, we would take time to study and understand the culture we were going into. Only a foolish missionary would plan to go to another place without knowing anything about the people they would be ministering to and living with.

The difference between going overseas and the New Media generation is this: the culture is coming to us instead of us going to them. The message of the Church has changed very little over the years. However, we must understand the culture we’re in and adapts the method of delivery accordingly.

Justin Wise speaks nationally on the topic of church social media strategy. His first book, “The Social Church”, clarifies why (and how) churches need to take social media seriously. Find out more and download the first chapter at socialchurchbook.com.

Follow the Thread

Post from Pete Scazzero

Take a few minutes to meditate on this lovely poem by William Stafford (1914–1993). It lays out the indispensable foundation for both the Christian life and great leadership.

The Way It Is

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.

Pete is the Founder and Teaching Pastor/Pastor at Large at New Life Fellowship Church, a large, multiracial, international church with seventy-three countries represented. Pete is the author of two best-selling books: Emotionally Healthy Spirituality (Nelson, 2006) and The Emotionally Healthy Church (Zondervan, 2010).

Prime Minister of Faroe Islands Supports GLS

Leaders came to the GLS in the Faroe Islands open and expectant; they left  inspired and ready to impact their nation. Nearly 400 leaders gathered from all sectors of society—government, church, and business. Even non-Christian leaders, who came skeptical of the Christian foundation of the GLS, were blown away by the level of excellence in the training. Included in the list of attendees were politicians, Prime Ministers, the President of Parliament, the Minister of Health Affairs, and the Min­ister of Social Affairs. The GLS is impacting and inspiring these leaders who, in turn, influence thousands of people in their nation.

“Thanks to the organizers of the GLS for a very inspiring conference. Livar Nysted was superb when he talked about rowing the world oceans, he is a fantastic personality. My conclusion is clear: The Bible is the greatest book on leadership.”

-Kaj Leo Holm Johannesen, Prime Minister of the Faroe Islands

A glimpse at the first time GLS site in Tainan, Taiwan.

View more pictures and stories at www.willowcreek.com/followthegls

But I am like an olive tree, thriving in the house of God. I will always trust in God’s unfailing love. Psalms 52:8

What Side of the Problem are You Working?

Post by J David Schmidt

It takes all of about ten minutes in a leadership role to realize Colin Powell (GLS presenter last August) was accurate when he stated, “Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them.”

Well, the “soldiers” across the country are bringing church leaders a common problem, and what side of the problem they focus on really matters.  First a quick story.

Back in the late 50’s, a dad, reading his King James Bible to a growing family of young children, would watch their attention frequently drift off.  Working for a Christian publisher, he had scores of Bibles in his home.  So he didn’t have a supply problem.  This dad faced a demand problem.  The on-ramps to the stories of a big God and His ways, found in the Bible, were just too steep.   Supplying more Scripture the same way wasn’t going to fix the problem.  He had to get on the solution side of the problem—and that was to address the weak demand.  The dad said “Our family devotions were tough going…they would shrug their shoulders—they didn’t know what the passage was talking about.” He faced a leadership decision:  get defensive and dig in, or shift his energies to the solution side of the challenge.  So on his daily train commute to and from Chicago, this dad created a thought for thought translation that would eventually prove to make the Bible more compelling to young and old ears alike.  Today, over 41 million copies later, Ken Taylor’s thought for thought translation* continues to make God’s Word accessible to people around the world.

Here at the start of 2014, your challenge is no different than Ken Taylor’s.  The research says this past week, in your church family:

  • About 19%  read their Bible four or more times
  • Another 40%  opened their Bible once or twice, and
  • 41% didn’t open or access a Bible even once in the past week; not a paper Bible, not YouVersion on their phone.  Not once. Nunca. **

Unless your situation is unique, this pattern is likely yours also. Those 41% who didn’t open their Bible once in the past week (and a solid chunk of those who only opened it once or twice), lack a strong bond with the primary path God uses to give us the truths that ground us and transforms the way we think and live.

If everything in you says this can’t stand, then Ken Taylor’s leadership example is instructive and begs a question: What side of the problem are you working? Are you ready to get on the solution side? To shift some leadership energies away from insuring “supply” to also rethinking how to cultivate a hunger for Scripture and the God it presents?

Leaders working the solution side are willing to rethink the last 20 years of how their church connects people to Scripture.  They’ll put in place new and culturally relevant on-ramps to the Bible. They’ll lift the core value of being a self-feeder, and the critical importance of reflecting on Scripture–and then living it out. And they won’t defend how much Scripture is on their side screens or in their messages or liturgy.

Their hands will be open—and turned upward. (Click here to see which side of the problem you are working.)  

(Editor’s note: The Willow Creek Association and American Bible Society are partnering to help church leaders like you rethink and reset the way you help your attendees engage Scripture. This is a tough, complex problem with no easy answers. If you want to learn more what it means to shift to the solution side of this problem, click here.)

*The Living Bible

**Based on the results of 3 independent studies reviewed and confirmed by American Bible Society.

J. David Schmidt is a strategy consultant serving American Bible Society and other non-profit organizations and churches.

Top Leadership Quotes from 2013

Two days of world-class leadership talks and inspiration, here are some of the Top Leadership Quotes from The Global Leadership Summit in 2013:

“Every significant vision that God births in you is going to put your courage to the test.” @BillHybels

“There is no such thing as an unimportant person in an organization.” Colin Powell

“Love God, love your neighbors, and do stuff!” @BobGoff

“N.O. means Next opportunity.” @MarkBurnetttv

“Lead like a multiplier and the people around you get smarter and do better work.” @LizWiseman

“Are you building God’s Kingdom or your reputation?” @_chris_brown

“You want to change the world? Learn how to change your behavior.” @JosephGrenny

“Innovation = idea + leader + team + plan” @VijayGovindarajan

“You can choose courage or you can choose comfort, but you cannot choose both.” @BreneBrown

“To be alone in ministry is to waste an opportunity to mentor a young leader.” @OscarMuriu

“The hardest thing a leader has to be in charge of is him or herself.” @DrHenryCloud

“You will never do anything more significant in your life than serve the local church.” @AndyStanley

“I didn’t know what I was going to do until my feet got to where I was supposed to be” @Michaeljrcomedy

What are your top leadership quotes from 2013? 

22 More…God’s Not Done

Although the Calendar year 2013 is in the past, the 2013 GLS is still going strong. 22 more Global Leadership Summit events are still ahead of us. God is still moving. Lives continue to be changed. Please continue to pray expectantly as the GLS continues to be experienced around the world.

Stories of the GLS in Brazil, Mexico, and Taiwan!

God is moving and transforming com­­munities in Fortaleza, Brazil. The GLS has been inspiring and giving leaders the encouragement and skills they need to start initiatives in their communities. Sto­ries were shared about a team that started a recycling program at the GLS host church where the members are able to take money received from the program and invest it into helping the homeless, sup­porting a prison ministry, and investing in an after-school program to keep children off the street. The GLS was an encourage­ment to leaders as they expand their minis­tries across the city.

7,800+ Christian leaders have been trained and inspired through the GLS in Taiwan over the last 5 years. Thisyear, they have been challenged by the words of Bill Hybels, “Churches have to bravely ex­tend a hand of friendship. Where there is need, we must bravely seize the moment”. One leader said she has had a tendency to be passive about sharing the gospel, but now she’s excited to seize the moment, and not worry about what others may think, even though she lives in a culture where Christianity is only practiced by 4% of the population.

Putting on the GLS is an adventure of faith for every Steering Committee, but it is especially challenging for first-time sites. The team in Cancun, Mexico faced many obstacles, but persevered. Though Cancun is not one of Mexico’s large cities, there is fragmentation and division among different denominations. In the face of this challenge, the team putting on the GLS decided to focus on raising the level of leadership in­side and outside the church—no matter what denomination or group they belonged to. More than 400 leaders from business and ministry were excited to be at this first-time site, and even lined up outside the door hours before it started. Leaders came together in unity and engaged quickly with each session, giving great attention to the application of the teaching as they seek to transform their communities for Christ.

A glimpse at the GLS in Minsk, Belarus


View more pictures and stories at www.willowcreek.com/followthegls

Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your heards and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

How Bill Hybels Stays Replenished

We all know that you lead at your best when you are filled up. Bill Hybels talks to leaders about staying replenished. His message reflects on his own journey navigating a healthy work life balance.

How do you stay replenished? Share you thoughts and best practices. 

Shoes for Syrian Refugees

Post by Matt Brown

Last winter, Michelle and I were watching a CBS evening news story with Scott Pelley, which shared about the great need in refugee camps bordering the war-torn nation of Syria. Thousands of refugees are flooding the camps, and the needs are massive. A businessman from Texas had begun overseeing one of the camps, and expressed the need for shoes for the children during the harsh winter there. This broke my heart. I had a sensation that there are a million problems in the world, but God wanted me to do something about this one in particular.

To this day, I have that same sense in my heart, and I’m wondering what God could use us today if everyone partnered a little bit - how many refugees could we help during this time?

In the last two years, over two million Syrian refugees have fled from the crisis in their country into Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.  Some of the refugees live in overcrowded, unsanitary, often dangerous camps like Zaatari in northern Jordan—a camp established for 30,000 people and now housing more than 150,000 men, women and children.  As conditions in the massive camps become more desperate, increasing numbers of refugees seek help outside the camps in urban areas, only to discover they have virtually no access to jobs, housing, education—or even food.

Fortunately, local churches and grassroots Christian organizations are providing help and hope for these refugees.

These local heroes are offering desperate families groceries, clothing, shoes, first aid supplies, towels, blankets, mattresses, water filters, and heaters, particularly necessary now as winter temperatures reach record lows in the Middle East.

In addition, these faithful servants deliver food and emergency supplies to displaced and vulnerable people still inside Syria, and they help to rescue Syrian women and girls from sex trafficking.  All this work is done in the name and spirit of Jesus.

The local people providing these services are heroes, but they have to be unsung heroes. Because of possible security threats to on-the-ground workers, we can’t name them.  However, one of our partners in this effort, Lynne Hybels, has personal connections to these Middle Eastern ministries, and will transfer 100 percent of your donations directly to them.

If you wonder how much your money can do, here are some examples:

  • Shoes: $8
  • Socks: $2
  • Pajamas: $6
  • Sweaters: $8
  • Blankets: $12
  • Jackets: $17
  • Support a women rescued from sex trafficking for one month: $30
  • 4 blankets and mattress: $70
  • 2 blankets, mattress, stove: $140
  • Support a woman rescued from sex trafficking for one year: $365
  • Provide a family with 3 blankets, 2 mattresses, 1 water filter and filters for a year, 1 stove and fuel vouchers for 8 months: $495

The more you give, the more we can show the love of Christ to Syrian refugees who are suffering. Will you help us? Will you mobilize your friends to meet these needs?

 Go here to give: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/shoes-for-syrian-refugees

Matt Brown is an evangelist, author and founder of Think Eternity. He and his wife Michelle are impacting thousands of people with the gospel each year through live events and online. Their speaking ministry has taken them to the ends of the earth with thousands of people who have dedicated their lives to Christ. They also minister to over one hundred thousand followers on social media on a near-daily basis.

The GLS Thrives in Albania and Kosovo

In a post-Communist culture, more than 350 church leaders gather at GLS events in Albania and Kosovo.

Christian leaders in Southeast Europe’s Balkan Peninsula are eager for leadership training and inspiration. In a post-Communist culture, the GLS is one of the few places where they can gather to experience encouragement and resources.

The Christian minority faces opposition in the form of government curruption, violence, and poverty; and Kosovo’s unemployment rate of 73% is one of the highest in the world. Gathering with other leaders at the GLS “retreat” lifts their spirits.

The highest attended event was in Tirana, Albania, which is the largest gathering of leaders in the country, and includes leaders from the Orthodox church. In the neighboring republic of Kosovo, where the majority of leaders come from a Muslim background, the context of the GLS is very different.

We celebrate the second year of the GLS in the new country of Kosovo, which gained its independence in 2008. While Kosovo is seeking to find its place in the world arena, the church strives to find its identity. Leaders are experiencing a growing belief that God can use the GLS to improve the leadership quality in the church to impact communities and the entire country.

“I like to think that when we said goodbye to the participants at the end of each of the three events in Albania and Kosovo, the work was not finished…that it is just the beginning. Leaders will go out into the world and back to their churches, and implement all that has been spoken into their lives. I am glad I am alive in a time when I can see God work in wonderful ways in the lives of church leaders in Albania and Kosovo. The GLS is God’s way of saying “I love you” to the hundreds of Albanian leaders and hundreds of thousands of leaders  around the world.” -Doni Lilo, GLS Producer in Albania


View more pictures and stories at www.willowcreek.com/followthegls