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oscarmuriuglsOscar Muriu is the Senior Pastor at Nairobi Chapel, Kenya and a passionate proponent for the raising up of young leaders. He was one of the most provocative speakers at the GLS conference this year, bringing a straightforward message that will have been difficult for many to hear. I doubt many leaders went away saying ‘I really must put that into practice next week’. This was hard teaching.

He presented his five convictions of viral leadership:

1. The size of the harvest depends on how many harvesters you have (Matt 9.37-38).

These harvesters are leaders who need raising up. Jesus didn’t leap into the field and spend all his energy harvesting – his strategy was to invest his time in 12 disciples. The first thing he did was find his leaders and grow them. ‘Who will continue your work?’ he asked us. If you want to measure the impact of your life, ask yourself this: how many young leaders are you growing? A wise question and a challenging one  – am I investing in younger leaders?

2. Live for the next generation (Ps 71.18).

His challenge to us was to pour out our lives for the next generation, not our own, and by this he meant those 20 years our junior. This is certainly seek-first-my-kingdom stuff, and the challenge to selflessly live for a time to come was one of the most difficult of the conference.

3. Find your 70. (Num 11.10-17.18)

His point from Moses’ story was that the 70 leaders were already there, because he appointed them all in one day. He challenged us to find the budding leaders who are right under our noses, to recognise potential and train it.

4. Instil the ‘five loves’ (Mark 12.30-33).

Remember these? Heart, soul, mind, strength, neighbour… Love God, love your neighbour – everything is summed up in this! He pointed to these five loves as a model for teaching young leaders: (a) Heart – character; (b) Soul – conviction; (c) Mind – comprehension; (d) Strength – competence; (e) Neighbour – compassion.  Nothing revolutionary here, but a excellent framework!

5. Never do ministry alone (Acts 4.13).

His challenge was to always have budding leaders around, in every part of ministry, at every opportunity. If you’re doing ministry alone, he suggested, it’s a wasted opportunity for teaching. This was the advice I thought most leaders would find the hardest to implement. It’s such a wise idea, but I can see plenty of concerns being raised about privacy and so on. However, people are happy to accept this same approach in a teaching hospital: younger doctors always around, listening and learning, offering suggestions, trying things out. What is so different about spiritual ministry?

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This is the first of a series of posts on the Global Leadership Summit that I attended in Newcastle recently. Even compared to the usual high quality of these conferences, this was an excellent year. We heard huge amounts of high quality content – teaching, encouragement and exhortation – over this two days. Blogging the sessions is a useful way to process everything.

Bill Hybels opened up the conference with a call for leaders to have courage.

Be strong and courageous. Don’t be fearful or discouraged, because the LORD your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1.9

Bill-Hybels-GLS-2013Courage to pursue the vision that God has given you; courage to face reality; courage to build a healthy culture in an organisation; courage to establish values; courage in the face of pressures; courage to finish strong. Be strong and courageous!

How many visions never make it off the starting block because of a leader’s fear? Our cowardice adds to the world’s suffering.

How many organisations suffer because the leader cannot face reality? Or let fear keep them from apologising, from modelling humility, repentance and forgiveness? How many leaders let caution and fear hold them back in championing values? And how many hurt their own organisations by not facing up to the succession question, or fearing reinvention? Be strong and courageous!

Typically excellent stuff from Bill Hybels, with plenty of practical encouragement (although his personal examples are always on a totally different scale!). This was a powerful reminder that courage is not an optional extra for a leader. As he says, courage correlates to every component of leadership. ‘Pastor Bill’ talked a lot about his need to declare the ‘Joshua prayer’ to himself – and to keep doing so – at many points during his years in ministry. Bill is a favourite speaker of mine, not least for his passion and total commitment to the significance of the local church. This is a man who loves Jesus and loves his church, and in listening to him I never fail to be encouraged and emboldened – both as a leader and a disciple. Be strong and courageous! Don’t be fearful or discouraged, because the LORD your God is with you wherever you go. 

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Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

This reminded me of Gary Haugen’s challenge for us to dare to ‘leave the visitors centre and take the risk of climbing the mountain with dad’.

If we never “dare more boldly to venture on wider seas” we’ll never really experience the wonderful safety of God, his grace and strength to see us through, safe in his hands.

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I’ve just finished reading John Burke’s book ‘No Perfect People Allowed‘. I came across John at the Global Leadership Summit 2008 I attended last weekend and was inspired to buy his book. I’m glad I did. Refreshing and inspiring; thoroughly recommended.

John Burke and his wife, Kathy, founded Gateway Church in Austin, Texas, in 1998. Since then, Gateway has grown to over 3,000 people, 70 percent of whom are in their twenties and thirties, and consists mostly of unchurched people who began actively following Christ at Gateway.” (From Zondervan website)

‘No Perfect People Allowed’ has been been a pleasure and a challenge to read. I have a small pile of books I’m half-way through right now, and all are good and inspiring, but the sheer number of stories scattered throughout this book has kept me reading it to the end. I’m a sucker for stories! (I recently cried my way through the stories in the Alpha handbook on a low day…but that’s another story!)

John’s church, Gateway, prints this notice in their weekly service sheet:

Come as you are… You don’t have to dress up. You don’t have to be any particular age. We couldn’t care less who you voted for in the last election. And please, don’t feel the need to pretend about anything. Gateway Community Church is a place where God meets seeking people who are far from perfect. That means anyone is welcome, no matter where you are on your spiritual journey. So learn at your own pace. Ask questions. Seek. We believe you’ll find what you’re looking for. You’ll learn how to relate to God. You’ll experience Christian community. And here’s the big thing — you will change. Join us as we seek God together. Just com as you are.

In this book, subtitled ‘Creating a Come as You Are culture in the Church’, John discusses the challenges of the postmodern, post-Christian world, explaining the issues that mission to the ‘emerging‘ generation must struggle with and how Gateway has sought to address these. He puts these under five headings:

  • The Struggle with Trust
  • The Struggle with Tolerance
  • The Struggle with Truth
  • The Struggle with Brokenness
  • The Struggle with Aloneness

There is something so ‘right‘ about the way he describes how the church must respond to these challenges, to reach out to broken people and draw them into loving community and relationship with God. This may be old news, but we all need to be reminded again and again what the church is really about and to be inspired again that God’s message to the world is good news for broken people.

Do we believe that we have a message that ordinary, sinful, struggling people would see as good news for them if they only understood it?

I believe the problem comes from our wrong perception of the goodness of God. The church often fails to accurately portray his compassion for hurting, broken, sinful people. Creating a culture of hope in which God can heal our broken generation starts with the leader’s view of God. …

Jesus rebuked the religious leaders of his day because they had an inaccurate perception of God and no compassion for broken people. The focused on teaching people how to conform by outwardly making sacrifices. They taught extensively about not breaking God’s laws… and yet Jesus rebuked them saying, “You load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.” He also said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.

God’s love and mercy for a hurting, broken world is indescribable. But if we don’t work hard at describing and demonstrating it, people won’t believe it.

(‘No Perfect People Allowed’, p.208, my emphasis)

This is Gateway’s story, setting out how they responded to the challenges of their city and culture in Austin, Texas, and their specific response clearly reflects an American story as well. In Western Europe we are much further down the ‘post-Christendom’ path and the church has a correspondingly harder task ahead. It seems as if in the US, however postmodern the surrounding culture, the church is still on the radar for most people. In Europe, this is no longer the case for most people (see Tearfund’s report ‘Churchgoing in the UK‘ – pdf). But the struggles John Burke describes, the results of the ‘Postmodern Experiment’ (as he calls it), are still the same. I was inspired to hear Gateway’s story and to follow John’s example in modelling a ‘come as you are’ culture, displaying the reality of God’s grace at work in his own life as he leads others.

Here is how John ends the introductory chapter:

As you can see, the challenge for the church of the twenty-first century has very little to do with the type of music or weekly service or drama or art or candles or coffee we serve. These things are important and may attract people initially, but they will never keep people connected and growing in a faith community. The challenges ahead of us has to do with biblical priorities for the church, functioning as Christ re-presented in community. Only then will we help people overcome their struggles with Trust, Tolerance, Truth, Brokenness, and Aloneness.

(p.47, my emphasis)

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May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitations of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.

From a Franciscan Benediction, quoted by Craig Groeschel at the Global Leadership Summit, and also in his book ‘It: How Churches and Leaders Can Get It and Keep It‘.

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Craig Groeschel is the founder and senior pastor of LifeChurch.tv, a church with thirteen ‘campuses’ in six states (video introduction below!). He spoke at session 5 at the Global Leadership Summit, which I attended last week.

He’s written a book called ‘It: How Churches and Leaders Can Get It and Keep It‘ and in this session he explained that although he doesn’t know what ‘IT‘ is, he’s seen enough of this transformational force at work to have some clues about what’s necessary in order to get It.

Here are my notes from his talk at the Leadership Summit:

Having a laser focus
He asked us: what can you be the very best at? How are you going to reach people that no one else is reaching?

To reach people no one is reaching, you’ll have to do things no one is doing – but to do things that no one is doing, you can’t do what everyone is doing!

He asked us to look at our ministries and to ask, what is actually effective at making disciples?
What do we need to stop doing?

Seeing opportunities where others see obstacles
He encouraged us to see the potential in who we are and where we are.

You have everything you need to do what God wants you to do.

He asked us, what is God trying to show you through your greatest limitation?

Being willing to fail
He emphasised that having courage to take risks and not being afraid to make mistakes is crucial. Failure is the first step in recognising God, in seeing his grace and power at work.
We have to be willing to ‘shake off’ failure and ‘step up’ when God calls us.
He asked us, what has God called you to do that you’re afraid to attempt?

Leaders who have It
He emphasised that in order for the ministry to have It, the leader must have It.
He described the way that he lost it in his own ministry when it stopped being about building God’s kingdom and was more about building his church. He became ‘a full-time pastor and a part-time follower of Christ’.
He challenged us to fall in love with Jesus again.

[Read a fuller summary of his talk here or here.]

our goal is to disarm people and confront them with the truth of the Gospel…

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A film from the Global Leaders Summit 2008.

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