Today, Janet and I attended an annual event that we try to never miss. No, it’s not the Indiana State Fair in Indianapolis, although that is in full swing right now. Instead, it is a leadership conference put on in Barrington, IL by the the Willow Creek Association. For those of you who don’t know about it, Willow Creek Church was started in Park Ridge, IL by Bill Hybels and three other couples 35 years ago. Today, occupying a huge campus in Barrington, Willow is now one of the thought leaders in “doing church” today.
It has tens of thousands of attendees weekly and each year, the Willow Creek Association (WCA) hosts a great conference designed to stimulate leaders. The program is broadcast throughout the US and this year, more than 170 sites, in addition to more than 80 foreign countries, receive a satellite transmission and host more than 165,000 people in local communities who gather together. And each year, we look forward to learning more about leadership, cutting edge concepts and world class leaders. It is a “don’t miss” event in our lives.
Now, Janet will be the first one to tell you that she isn’t a leader – by the way, I disagree, but that she attends to understand more about how leaders tick. I always get great ideas for exercises to enlighten my clients and ways for the owners I serve to leverage their leadership to the next level. And unlike church, the Summit, as it is called, gives us a chance to re-connect with people we have come to know throughout the years in a spirit of discussion and interaction; things you do not traditionally do during “church” services.
There are two full days of lectures and mind-bending, game changing, challenges that each of us leaves with. I can hardly wait to implement the things we learn and there is a camaraderie that develops after more than a decade of attending these events together. This year, however, is the first time that I have asked a client to attend, and it has been eye opening for me. In fact, it has changed the way I am looking at the Summit this year.
But the biggest reason I attend the Leadership Summit is to refresh my spirit. That’s right. Not to learn more about leadership, or to understand that it is okay for me to be a serial entrepreneur. I can keep enough fuel in the tank to run about a year; and then I know that my performance will decline if I don’t get some refreshment. And that usually comes in the form of being filled up by God through the people I am listening to.
Very rarely do I depend on the exact lessons I hear. I depend on God to speak to me throughout the entire two days; about things that I can impact that are important to Him. And that can be different than the words that are spoken – in fact they usually are. Of course, we attend church regularly, but this is different. Because at the Summit, I am able to listen to real world problems, and real world solutions to things that affect my life, and the lives of my clients, every day. And while I love listening to a sermon, I tend to filter everything against what I learned in seminary and so I don’t just let stuff wash over me.
I have found, however, that when I am at the Summit, I feel energized, inspired, motivated, grateful and in awe of God; and the talented people He has created. And when tomorrow ends, I will already start thinking about next year. Because I crave refreshment. And how do you know if you are being refreshed? Because you feel alive, with heightened awareness, pumped up, energetic and ready to go out and do something – not just think about doing something. And that is the difference – ready to act rather than merely to think.
There are seven references to refreshment in the Scriptures. My favorite is in the book of Philemon, the epistle that Paul wrote to his dear friend from prison. In verse 20, Paul says, “I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ.” Notice that while Paul correctly credits the source of the refreshment as Christ, he acknowledges that the refreshment comes through a human source, his dear friend Philemon. And that’s the same thing I get each year. Other Christ followers who are the agents of God to refresh my spirit. I need more of that; and my guess is that you do also.
So my encouragement tonight is to let you know that Christ has surrounded you with opportunities to refresh your spirit. Don’t be surprised if this comes from some relationship, or encounter, that occurs in your life when you least expect it. And my prayer is that God will refresh your spirit; and that you will have a full tank of fuel to tide you over until you get to the next refill station. We all need divine refreshment – a gift from God…..