I can't help but express an opinion on this sort of stuff.
I mean aside from the fact that Willow Creek Community Church has long specialized in watering down Christian praxy into some kind of bubble-and-froth spirituality, their feel-good message now comes with an implicit moral impetus to do as they do so you can lead just as effectively as they do. But I'm willing to bet that if you take any one of these super-leaders and ask them why they prize 'effective' leadership (over, say, personal discipleship), and you'll get some kind of soupy rhetoric drawn straight from the Gospel of Programmatic Christianity (á la Rick Warren, Robert Schuller, and others of their ilk). Scratch the paint off the Willow Creek über-leaders and you'll find a Hybelian automaton underneath.
Does this mean that none of the people attending this massive leadership conference are sincere, thoughtful, insightful people that see through some of this stuff but go and catch whatever tid-bits they can, anyway? Heavens, no! But nice concessions like that don't make up for the fact that these kind of conferences rarely, if ever, hit on the context of real living. Sure, they include punchy examples of how to 'be a leader' in the workplace, in church, in college, in the family, blah, blah, blah. The problem is that imposing a model for leadership into this-or-that situation is just a subversive way of taking control of people; it's not really leading. It's not even leadership when you wrap fancy, emotionally charged words around it, such as 'serving others' and 'regain vision':
The summit, which kicked off on Thursday, has been a self-investment opportunity for many leaders who are usually too tied up with serving others to make the time to regain vision and fine-tune their leading skills.
We can suggest, from a Christian context that leadership involves 'doing as Christ would do.' All well and fine until you realise that you are not Christ and may just have an agenda of your own. Then what? How do you know that your agenda lines up with what Christ would do? Prayer? Reading of Scripture? Sure. Why not? Certainly doesn't hurt.
But it may not necessarily help either. This is because we have a pesky little tendency to think that what we understand is right must be what Christ thinks is right. The Pharisees seemed to think that. Most of history's 'leaders' thought that. The current U.S. president thinks that; as does the current Canadian primeminister. And they've landed us in a whole heap of bloody messes with their 'godly leadership'.
But I digress...
What really irks me in this whole fluffy notion of leadership they Hybelites are pushing, is the idea that leadership is a 'self-investment opportunity' that will improve the church community.
According to the Rev. Bill Hybels, Willow Creek’s founder and the senior pastor, leaders should take time invest in themselves in order to help their church.
“Everybody wins when you improve as a leader,” said Hybels on Thursday during the summit’s opening session, titled “The High Drama of Decision Making".
“And sometimes the best way you can bless your church is to make investment in yourself,” he added.
I don't have a beef with leaders keeping a watch over themselves and doing what it takes to gain some catharsis. Leading is not easy. I do have a problem with the implications of “everybody wins”, as if there was some kind of competition between the church and its leaders. I do have a problem with stating that the church is better-off when “you improve as a leader” instead of the biblical truth that conformity to the likeness of Christ is true improvement.
And I have a huge problem with the sentiment that self-investment is sometimes “the best way you can bless your church”. As Christians, we are not called to self-investment, but self-divestment (John 3:30, ESV). In other words, investing in to yourself is exactly opposite to what biblical leadership is all about, which is setting yourself aside and bowing your head to the overtures of Christ. Christ leads, and everybody else who is a Christian follows, even the 'leaders'. For what are Christian leaders if not people who conform to the likeness of Christ, and point others to Him? The way to lead, for any Christian, and not just those who share the select privilege of being entitled 'leader', is to lift Christ up and He will draw all people to Him (John 12:32).
Still, the Hybelites are sure their steps to leadership are what's needed for their congregants to be effective in preaching the gospel.
This year’s summit was designed to hold a total of nine sessions over the course of two days with topics ranging from "Leading in New Cultural Realities" and "How Leaders Can Get IT and Keep IT" to "Defending the Faith" and "Risk Taking, Barrier Breaking Bold Leadership".
Excellent. So, now, if you just follow these nine steps to effective leadership you, too, can join in the fun of coercing others to believe what you believe – er, what Willow Creek believes. In fact, you can “Get IT and Keep IT”. Whatever 'it' is. Maybe it's that ethereal quality/quantity called 'leadership.' Or maybe, it's Christ, who, in the wisdom of this pop-psychology-type-talk, is (im)properly reduced to an 'IT'.
But it doesn't stop there. No, no. Mr. Hybels had to make the vomitorius remark that having a quick-and-ready stash of catch-phrases, and pithy maxims is a vital tool for leading effectively, and that any leader should cling to such devices.
In his opening session, Hybels, who recently released his new book, “Axiom”, stressed the importance and effectiveness of axioms or proverbs and encouraged leaders to utilise them.
“Some leaders not only have a framework, but they also learned how to condense … questions and wisdom of all their past decisions and compress them into sub-composed leadership proverbs, or sayings, or axioms that give them focused counsel, or ‘microwave wisdom’, for their upcoming decision,” the megachurch pastor said.
Hybels challenged the attending leaders to compose their own axioms to "add so much to the efficiency and effectiveness and clarity of decision making”.
Great! So when your door is knocked on, or you have a chance encounter with one of Bill Hybels' sychophants, when you're looking for the opportunity to digest some deep understanding, you can have “microwave wisdom”. Or, when you really want to delve into a personal issue and gain some insight that you might desperately need, you can rely on these people to not necessarily relate but to condescend to you from on high because their proverbial wit (sarcasm intended) will “add so much to the efficiency and effectiveness and clarity of decision making.”