I received an email in my inbox several days ago. It was a reminder to register for the Willow Creek Association Leadership Summit, held each year in early August. Finally, tonight, I filled out the online registration form and submitted it for Janet and me. There’s something almost magical about doing that. Because there is only one leadership conference I attend each year, and this is it. It’s the grand-daddy of them all and the faculty selected each year represents the top echelon of leadership across the board – academic, church, political, social and corporate.
This must be about the 10th year that we have attended, as the central Indiana satellite site is hosted by our home church, Grace Community Church, in Noblesville. And for us, it’s a “must attend” event. In fact, Janet and I won’t plan a vacation in August until we know the dates of the Summit for sure. Now I won’t bore you with all the details about it, but suffice it to say that it is where I get my batteries charged for my next year of leadership. Even Janet, who doesn’t consider herself a leader, gets jazzed watching all the leaders around her get pumped up to new highs – guiding people and teams in their quest for leadership excellence.
What most non-leaders don’t realize is that leadership can take its toll. Physically, emotionally, mentally, everyone needs time to renew themselves, improve their skills and get ready to jump back in the saddle and guide their organizations. So each May, I can start to feel the anticipation build as I look forward to a time of refreshment with fellow leaders.
Leadership is one of the spiritual gifts that Paul tells us about in the book of Romans. Now there are other spiritual gifts mentioned in other sections of the Bible, and most people I have coached throughout the years possess two or three of them in significant measure. For example, the gifts of helps, mercy and faith are high on Janet’s list of God given gifts. Mine tend to run more toward leadership, teaching and hospitality. And over the years I have observed that those of us who have more visible gifts tend to marry people who compliment us and fill in with things like mercy, or the ability to help others selflessly, or who have great faith. I think it is God’s way of reminding us that we are stronger together than any of us would be individually.
Sometimes I hear people talk about “gift envy” – wishing that they had a set of gifts different from those that God endowed them with. But God doesn’t give anybody gifts that aren’t important. Whatever your gift set it, it was given to you by the Creator of the universe to do a job that has been specifically assigned to you. And that means that there is something that you were created to do at this time and place – better than anyone in eternity past or eternity future. So whatever those gifts are – administration, wisdom, knowledge, giving, helps, creative communication, or more than 10 others I haven’t even mentioned this evening, God has a plan for each of us.
But knowing that God has placed me in places of leadership, it is important that I do everything I can to improve my skills so that my efforts on behalf of God are the best they can possibly be. And that means that I have to continue to learn and train and humble myself before other leaders who can teach and guide me as I continue to evolve. That’s what the Summit is all about for me.
Tonight’s verse is the foundational verse for biblical leadership. In Romans 12:8, we are told by Paul, in speaking of spiritual gifts, “if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” So those folks who have been given the gift of leadership are to lead with “diligence.” But what does that practically mean? That we should lead with careful and persistent effort to achieve our goals.
My encouragement this evening is that you will work to enhance your spiritual gifts, whatever they may be. And my prayer is that God will reveal to you whatever it is that He has designed you for – and then give you the tools to enhance the talents that He has already endowed you with. And if, perhaps, you are a fellow leader, I may even see you at the Summit, as I coast into August to re-fuel and ready myself for the next chapter that God has in store for me. Grace and peace…