Monday, August 11, 2008

Hybelian Leadership P. II

Well, we took a look at this once before. But since Christian Today saw fit to write another article on this subject, I feel fine responding once again.

Hybels' leadership summit has ended. 50,000+ people have followed their leader, Bill Hybels, to listen to him tell them how to be leaders. Now those people can get on with their lives feeling as though Bill Hybel's 'microwave wisdom' will carry them on through to the next leadership summit.

Is it possible to digress this early on in an article?

Well, anyway, let's find out what everyone learned, shall we?

"Church leaders joining in the Willow Creek Leadership Summit were left with a sobering reminder of the world's woes and the difficult task they have at hand in carrying God's calling."

Oh, good then. 'Cause anybody who is a leader doesn't already know that it's difficult to face “the world's woes”. And anybody who isn't a leader probably wouldn't have the foggiest notion that facing the world's woes is a wee bit arduous; not even when they observe it happening to their leaders. Good thing one Christian leader was paying attention: Bill Hybels. And now 50,000+ other Christians are suddenly aware of the menacing task ahead: the world's woes. Were those Christian leaders unaware of this fact so much so that they actually needed to be reminded of it? At a conference no less?

And what the heck is “God's calling”, anyway? Isn't He God? You know, the One who calls?

"They were asked if they could fully yield to God as one of the most famous humanitarian figures in history, Jesus, had done."

Were they now? Were they ever asked at any point if they agreed that Jesus was a “humanitarian” figure? Or perhaps, what brand of 'humanitarian' Hybels was talking about? Did I say something in my last article about the Willow Creek watering-down phenomenon?

"More than 50,000 leaders stood up at the conclusion of the two-day annual summit, hosted by the Willow Creek Association, repeating some of the proverbs Mother Teresa had lived by for over four decades in her life.

'God, I yield myself fully to you,' they said. 'I will do your bidding without delay. I will refuse you nothing ... I will seek to love You as You have never been loved before.

'Here am I, send me.'"

Okay. Ship 'em all out to Calcutta and have them pick diseased, and half-eaten people out of the gutter like Mother Teresa did. Seems like a good acid test for their newly honed leadership skills, no? Get on it!

Sounds harsh to say, but there is a certain irony in the fact that Bill Hybels rigged up an elaborate conference costing $45 per person only to dote on the life, poverty, and self-sacrifice of Mother Teresa. Is anyone wondering what $45 x 50,000+ equals? $2,250,000+. I wonder what Mother Teresa could've done with that kind of money? I'm pretty sure she wouldn't have used it to cover the overhead on her stadium rentals, church maintenance, sound boards, broadcast technology, and refreshments.

So, is there any reason why Mr. Hybels couldn't have called on 50,000+ people to donate $45 each for the poor people of Calcutta? I suppose 'lead by example' doesn't always imply follow the leader, hey?

Nevertheless, Hybels, in learning about Mother Teresa, was at least able to use her as an excuse for generating more money than most of us will ever see in our lives.

"Noting that no one has affected him more deeply than Mother Teresa, he said the entire summit was worth it for him just to do the research on this woman."

Aren't you glad to know that Mr. Hybels wasn't necessarily interested in what he had to teach, and how it would affect the lives of the people in attendence; that he was mainly interested in researching Mother Teresa? I wonder if he'd do the research anyway, if he weren't charging $2,250,000+ for it?

Moving forward, Hybels promoted the use of stock sayings as a means of improving leadership. So when it comes to catchy phrases, the Willow Creek leader has it down! Hence the reason he could design a question meant to convict the audience of their shortcomings in leadership.

"'Are you lighting up the radar screen in heaven by your yieldedness?' Hybels asked. 'If you were God for a day, would you pick you?'"

Yes, are you making sure that you're trying hard enough to win God's grace? Are you good enough to be one of God's leaders? Have you buckled down in your efforts to yeild to the overtures of God?

I have a category for questions like Hybels asks. They're called Grace By Concentrate questions. Yep, if you just concentrate really hard on doing everything right by God, then He'll give you grace. There's no fooling around with the whole 'grace through faith alone' thing. That's all outdated, and outmoded. We're resurrecting the Old Testament, people! You have to earn your grace, keep your place before God, and constantly flog yourself with how deficient you really are. Shame on you for thinking grace would come freely to those who ask.

Actually, shame on you for worrying about whether you're good enough, or not.

But the clincher for me is this: if I were God for a day, of course I'd send myself. I'd be God! I'd know if I was fit for leading because leading is inherent to being God. He's right at the top of the heap when it comes to who's qualified for leading!

"Although it may seem nearly impossible to many to see another figure like Mother Teresa come along in history and make an impact the way she did, Hybels reminded the leaders that God continues to search for a yielded heart and that He has planned something greater for this generation.

'Greater things have yet to come', the thousands of leaders sang following Hybels' talk."

Greater than leadership summits? Greater than 'microwave wisdom'? Greater than using Mother Teresa as an excuse for wasting money on lavish conferences, and fancy gadgetry? Greater than questions that promote a sense of self-deprication, and false humility?

I should hope so.

But wait! Greater than the 2006 and 2007 Leadership Summits?

"In 2006 and 2007, the conference featured former US President Jimmy Carter, former US Secretary of State Colin Powell and U2 frontman Bono in its speaker line-up. Hybels acknowledged that many people carried doubts about this year's conference because of the lackluster line-up compared to previous years. But many affirmed with applause that they had not been disappointed this year."

So this year's turnout was disappointing because none of that $2,250,000 went to getting grade 'A' celebrities like former US Presidents, and Irish rock gods. Boo-hoo. It's a good thing though, that people were kind enough to give up the accolades for Bill Hybels. He's not quite at Bono's, or Colin Powell's level, but we can let him lead us just the same. We're holding out though for some real leaders next year, Billy.


suneal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
suneal said...

Anonymous, thank you for broadening the topic, and by so doing pointing out the difficulty of critiquing even the "seeker-sensitive," leadership-based style of Hybels' ministry. I wonder if Hybels, in seeking to use Mother Teresa as an example, is seeking to find in his ministry what he has lacked. I think the problems intrinsic in such an effort, as Chris ably points out, are that it comes across all too on the surface and far removed from God's leadership (kingship). More than that, I believe Hybels needs to renounce some of his former practices if he wants to move toward a deeper spirituality.

Gregory, Chris has shared with you I hear, that I am stressed. He is right, and I am sure some of my prickliness is a product of it. To be clear with you, Chris' comment does show my concerns. I liked your comments- witty, bright, and succinct; but the possible allusion to the one true Church of which the Gates of Hell would not prevail (being the Catholic Church??), well, it irked me. Here is why in a nutshell; yes, sometimes I despair greatly over Protestant churches beyond the point of “temptation,” therefore I am vulnerable, weak, not having it all together. The last thing I need at that point, is any insinuation that there is some "better place" to run to. You may not at all have intended that, but I am sorry to say, past discussions led me to believe you did. My only question to you Gregory, and hopefully in openness and fairness is this; can I be lamenting and despairing of
Evangelicalism, without any insinuations that Evangelicalism is inadequate as a source for fulness of the faith of Christ?

Regarding “wisdom” and “inadequacy,” I would like to give two illustrations, one from my life recently, one from Scripture. I have lamented over the last year to God and friends, that although I have made enough money together with my wife to survive, there is little left over for “fun,” or that evasive end of the year whammy vacation. But recently, my wife needed more of my time, and I was grateful, and keenly aware if I were busier, my job would probably go altogether by the way side. Does not God in His wisdom know how to provide just what I need, and more importantly, more than what I need, but what my family needs? Neither any pithy saying, nor comparison to Mother Teresa would help me here, just the daily grind, the every day walk with God when no satisfactory answers come in. But God is there, and only at the right time, does He make it clear, only as He Himself reveals Himself as our daily wisdom from above, can I say, “Thank you, Lord, where You lead, I can now follow.” In the inadequacy of my life, God shows forth His wisdom and encapsulated in that, His leading for my life.

So also this often happens in Scripture. In II Samuel chapter 7, when God gives the prophecy about the royal descendant who would sit upon David’s throne, coupled with the “seed” theme stemming back to the promise given to Abraham (Gen 12), yes indeed, much was unclear at the time. Much is still unclear today, but God’s wisdom has been unfolded in the fullness of time in a manger in Bethleham, at the Virgin birth, in the life of our Savior, at the cross of Calvary, in the burial and resurrection of this descendant and seed of Abraham/David, and finally in His coronation at the right hand of God in the heavens, wherein the Apostle Paul declared emphatically that Christ's coronation at God's right hand fulfilled the promise to David to "seat one of His descendants upon His throne" (Acts 2:30-33). God is building His house, making us living stones for Him, hence our leadership exists. So in the apparent "inadequacy" of fully revealed prophecy, God has appeared as wisdom to Isreal in the Person of the incarnate Word of God, as King of His people, of whom we as Gentiles grafted into the vine of Christ, also are fellow-citizens! (Ep 2:19)

He who knows the beginning from the end, just because He is obscure somewhere in between, does not mean that He is inadequate, although we as His servants, not knowing all, all too often appear weak, unsure, unknowing and inadequate in our expressions of Him. If we claim we know all, understand all, have our direction, course, and plethora of leadership tools armed and ready to go in Hybelian form, I wonder if we can really say God is leading us, or rather if it becomes inverted that we think we are leading Him. If, as Anonymous has said, “true leadership is about submission to Christ,” then true leadership is actually about following our God, through thick and thin, and by so doing finding ourselves leaders, shepherds of the flock, almost as a by-product rather than by intention.

May God then lead us and make us shepherds in the "worlds" or "nations" (plural in Greek) to which He has commanded us to go (Mt 28:20).

suneal said...

I would like to make one correction and one addition.

"He who knows the beginning from the end" should have read, "He who knows the end from the beginning."

In addition, when the first of the Twelve disciples was called by Christ, Jesus said, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Mt 4:19). The Greek for this verse is "deute opisw mou," meaning, "Come here after Me," which is the same Greek wording as used in the famous call of Christ in Mt 11:28, "Come here to Me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest." In Mt 4:19 the word "Me" is in the genitive tense, therefore denoting a "following" or a "coming behind," or a "being a disciple of." Personally, I think something is lost in the translation into English from the literal reading of "COME HERE AFTER ME." As Chris points out above works has little to do with this. Too often Evangelical circles put our leadership down to our efforts at it. How foolish! In Matthew 11, although the dative is used on the word "Me" translating into "to Me," the end product is for rest from our labors. As we go "after Him," to be disciples unto being leadership material, Jesus would not expect us to cease going "to Him" for rest! In order for there not to be too great a dichotomy in the meaning of this expression in Matthew, the word "here" shows us following Christ is foremost about being near Him.

Gregory said...

Suneal, I'm sorry to hear about the stresses in your life, and pray that God will give consolation.

And I suppose that, in the past, we've had some prickly conversations. However, my allusion to Matthew 16:19, for once, had relatively little to do with my belief in institutional Catholicism, and more to do with my faith that Christ promised never to let His Church be overcome, whether from the inside or from without. Obviously, my bias is for the Catholic Church, but in my comment in the previous post, I was making a solid attempt to be oecumenical, since that is what this blog's mandate is.

I'm more than willing (when I have time and energy) to pick the fights at my Catholic Apologetics blog Barque of Peter (that's what it's for). But here, this is primarily Chris' blog, and I'm going to follow the rules. Doesn't mean that I'm not going to parry and riposte when someone else launches the attack, though.

But quite honestly, if you and I are ever going to willingly discuss whether or not there is something better than evangelical Protestantism, and whether that something better is Catholicism, we're both going to have to be in a much different frame of mind. In the meantime, I'm willing to play nice if you are.

suneal said...

Gregory, thank you for answering "yes" to my question:

"can I be lamenting and despairing of Evangelicalism, without any insinuations that Evangelicalism is inadequate as a source for fulness of the faith of Christ?"

That is all I am looking for, and sorry on my part, if I misunderstood your intentions based alot on past experiences.

Regarding discussing there being something better than Evangelicalism, I don't want to do so, unless I feel forced to. It would not be willingness on my part, for I do not make the argument there is anything better. I only make the counter-argument when such an idea is presented. For now, here, it has to do so with the spirit of being vulnerable.

I am sorry if you felt I launched an attack. I was as "nice" as I felt I should have been. For from my perspective, putting us all historically in the same predicament is ecumenical. I know you believe otherwise, therein lies the issue.