In 1992, I served on a small staff at First United Methodist Church in downtown Oklahoma City. Somehow, our pastor and leaders heard about a conference just outside of Chicago that would later become known as The Global Leadership Summit. Even though our financial budget was tight, my pastor decided it was a good investment for seven of us to make the trip to see what we could learn. We had no idea how deeply those two days would impact our lives and ministry.
As a young pastor, I honestly never saw the value of leadership in the church. We thought pastors were supposed to focus on spiritual things. Leadership sounded like a business term—certainly not something helpful to pastors. None of us understood that leading well is one of the most spiritual things we could learn to do.
When I first heard leadership taught at the Summit, it was as if something came alive in my spirit. The talk at that conference gave me permission to do more than pastor people, it gave me permission to lead them to Christ.
After all, that’s what Jesus did. He selected people others overlooked. He trained them. He cast vision for why He came and what they would accomplish together. He delivered on his promise to give His life and rise again. Before going to heaven, He spoke to His small band of leaders and gave them their assignment—to go into the world and spread the Gospel. He gave them what they needed to get the job done, promising they’d always have the Holy Spirit. And He trusted them to get the job done.
Jesus was a leader. And He calls us to lead like Him.
That first leadership conference gave me what I now call “the gift of disorientation.” So often when we want to learn something, we look to leaders who are one or two steps ahead of where we are. The Global Leadership Summit exposed me to leaders who weren’t one or two steps ahead, but dozens or hundreds of steps beyond what I’d seen before. Instead of confirming my biases, they shattered all my preconceived ideas of what’s possible. They helped to disorient me—in a good way. I simply didn’t know what I didn’t know.
Year after year and Summit after Summit, I’ve absorbed new truths that have changed the way we lead our church. Here are a few big, specific takeaways I remember:
- After hearing Jim Collins talk about what great organizations do, and what good ones fail to do, we cut about half of our programming to focus on the things with the highest impact.
- Following a challenge to “roll the dice” and take courageous risks, we had the courage to reorganize our entire leadership structure. This one change was a major catalyst in moving us forward.
- After listening to Patrick Lencioni unpack organizational wisdom, we restructured our meeting and communication strategy, freeing us to grow and expand beyond what we’d planned.
- Following an interview with Chip and Dan Heath on their book Made to Stick, we overhauled our core values and transformed them from lifeless statements on a wall to powerful truths written on the hearts of our team.
- And at one Global Leadership Summit, my wife Amy was stirred by a talk that sparked her faith to launch Branch15 Ministry Homes. This thriving organization serves women who are transitioning from human trafficking, prison and other challenging situations to recovery and independent, sustainable living.
So much of what our church is doing today came from moments, talks and ideas absorbed through the years at The Global Leadership Summit.
At the Summit I heard, “You’re a leader. It’s your job to keep your passion hot. Do whatever you have to do. Read whatever you have to read. Go wherever you have to go to stay fired up.”
I can’t think of a better place to light your fire, sharpen your gifts, inspire your vision and empower you to lead than The Global Leadership Summit.
Craig Groeschel (GLS 2018, 2015, 2012, 2008) is the founder and senior pastor of Life.Church. He is known for using innovative technology to spread the gospel to multiple locations around the U.S. and globally via Church Online. With a passion for serving the Church and partnering to reach people for Christ, Life.Church shares its resources with churches worldwide, through the Life.Church Open Network, including the free Bible app from YouVersion.