"God, Rock The Summit"

This year's roster at Willow Creek's Leadership Summit conference includes an impressive lineup of leaders from both the ministry and secular business realms. Pastors John Burke and Efrem Smith, and Bill George (current Harvard Business prof and former CEO of Medtronic Inc.) spoke yesterday, as (of course) did Bill Hybels. Today we heard from Craig Groeschel and Chuck Colson, and later from Brad Anderson, vice-chairman and CEO of Best Buy. But for my money, the two most challenging and inspiring presenters were relative unknowns–two women who lead small but incalculably influential organizations.

The first was Wendy Kopp, founder and CEO of Teach for America. When she was a senior at Princeton, Wendy was confronted with the reality of educational inequity in the United States. That is, she realized that where a person was born largely determines his or her educational prospects, which determines, to a great extent, that person's career prospects. She became aware that 13 million kids in the U.S. live below the poverty level. Only half of them will graduate high school. The other half will perform at an eighth grade education level.

So Wendy founded Teach for America, an organization that scours college campuses for the most promising graduating future leaders. She asks those students to invest two years of their lives in teaching children in under-resourced urban and rural schools.

The second was Catherine Rohr, founder and CEO of Prisoner Entrepreneurship Program. A couple years into a lucrative career in New York City, Catherine was invited to visit a prison in Texas. Her experience there change her; she realized her talents were best spent training these men, many of them gang leaders and drug dealers, whom she calls "natural entrepreneurs," to be positive and legitimate business leaders after their release.

The result was Prison Entrepreneurship Program, a four-month diploma program for inmates nearing the end of their sentence. Participants learn business practices, develop character, network, and create a business plan. The program boasts a 98 percent employment rate and a single-digit recidivism rate (compared to the national average of 50 percent).

Wendy and Catherine were both motivated by the deep conviction that the seemingly insurmountable obstacle they faced could indeed be overcome. And, in Wendy's words, "if it's solvable, we have a moral responsibility to solve it." Not only do they believe these desperate situations can be changed, they both are firmly convinced that people will rise to a challenge. For example, while many people blame the poor performance of poor children on the children's laziness or the family's lack of involvement, Wendy blames the low expectations of educators. "When given opportunities," she explains, "kids excel."

August 08, 2008

Displaying 1–10 of 24 comments

christian cole

May 13, 2010  1:36pm

Dear Brethren, Greetings from Sierra Leone.The End Time Ministry is seeking for partnership and your up coming conference.This ministry is founded on the 17th November 2010 at freetown Sierra Leone. Our focus is to make Jesus known through training leaders, empower women , you for self-relaince and children for better future. Presently, we have four churches, Bible school and orphans Hoping to hear from you. Apostle Christian Cole

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christian cole

April 13, 2010  3:54am

Seeking to be part of your ministry from sierra Leone

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Ellie Campisano

September 15, 2008  1:00pm

Hi Brandon, Thanks for sharing your reflections about Wendy Kopp's presentation at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit. It was a fantastic conference overall, and we're glad you found Wendy's thoughts on the importance of service so valuable. We are so excited about continuing to grow our movement, and want leaders to join us. If you, or someone you know, is interested in learning more or joining our movement, please visit http://www.teachforamerica.org/jointhemovement. Thanks, Ellie Campisano Recruitment Coordinator, Faith Community Relations Team

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August 18, 2008  10:37am

"...but strong, bibically based leadership is a requirement, since,..." I'm sorry Alison, I can appreciate your viewpoint, but till I see scriptural support for this, I'm of the mind that this is a man-centered doctrine that needs to be dumped, ASAP.

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August 15, 2008  7:43pm

Mike–Sounds scriptural, but I don't think it is. (Neither is "God helps those who help themselves"). It's an awesome idea, and a much-needed corrective for those of us like myself who tend to take themselves entirely too seriously! Sheerakhan–I appreciate your point, but there still has to be "a leader". It'd be great if we could all do an amorphous, led-by-committee kind of church, but strong, bibically based leadership is a requirement, since, while amorphous sounds good, it works in only rare cases among exceptional people. There needs to be structure for accountability and development, so that the local church can really make a difference in the world. Without the structure, who's to guarantee that the necessary work will be done, and needs will be met, both within the church and among those in its reach?

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mike rucker

August 12, 2008  3:03pm

this has been a good discussion, reminding my that the bible is full of oxymorons: - we lead by serving - we receive by giving - we live by dying (to self) - we are healed through suffering - we win by surrendering and, of course, the weak shall be strong. and the last shall be first. and, the most important one of all: he who laughs last, laughs longest. (wait - is that scriptural?...) m.r. - fairburn, ga

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David Brush

August 12, 2008  10:45am

Kim. Thanks for your challenge. I will be more than happy to listen to any sessions you may recommend. I was too strident; and admittedly I am not allowing for much nuance with my view of a CEO. Larry, thanks for the apology. Also as far as 'Believe what you're doing, and Do it' I am not arguing that this isn't or can't be a biblical sentiment, but it is too easily misapplied or taken out of context without the broader framework of the Gospel. I am not saying this is what the ladies in question have done. I am only saying that I have seen this concept misused by Christians, and that it should be validated within the context of God's Mission in the world. I hope that clarifies.

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August 12, 2008  10:32am

Okay, I'm going to really seize this one by the teeth and throw it out there. Biblical Leadership. Why? Isn't it enough that the Spirit leads us? Isn't it enough that G-d is G-d? Why does someone/anyone have to be "annointed" for leadership? Why do we have this bizarre, and totally unbiblical desire for "biblical Leadership?" Where does this desire for "biblical Leadership""biblical Leadership" come from? Show me in the bible, I want to see these passages, because the entire bible, from Genesis to Revelations reveals that the only we should be looking too is G-d! Everyone else is to be a servant to each other, but thats not what I'm seeing...I'm seeing a whole lot of "me, I'm the one, follow me!" or "You, you are the one, lead us!" Which says more about us allowing/wanting to foist responsibility on one person than corporately sharing responsibility...which...oddly enough, is the biblical model.

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August 11, 2008  8:42pm

thanks to larry for apologizing. it isn't everyday we see that on this blog. kudos to your humility. refreshing to see.

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August 11, 2008  4:44pm

David, asking if you have listened to or are willing to listen to any of the speakers mentioned from the article is absolutely appropriate. It is as much in line with a response to the article as your comments about what the church "needs", as statements like those were not even mentioned in the original posting. (And if you were willing to listen, you would have heard some teachings at the Summit that actually agree with what you said!) You posed a question, seemingly as a response to the fact that there were CEO's represented. Yet, if you did not listen to any of their content, how can you call to question the content of what was presented as if it was not Biblically based? That was simply my point in asking if you actually heard any of the Leadership Summit sessions. For me, if you are posing a general question such as "Where does it end?" - then sure, pose it, but I am not sure that it relates to the original article's summarization of the Leadership Summit. Your other question: "When will we learn that attractional (corporate) models and power struggles only breed large-ego out-of-touch Leaders and co-dependent Christians?" is quite a statement, that again, if you are directing at the "relative artcle" I just flat out don't agree that it fits nor do I agree that it can summarize any of the sessions from the Summit. Asking thought-provoking questions is helpful and needed. However, I cringed when I read your response because it seems as if you want to point your finger as well. Once again, are you willing to listen to the content before you pronounce how it will affect church leaders? Your follow up question about where are we looking for Biblical leadership models...have you heard of Bob Briner and his book "Roaring Lambs"? What a great read from a man who took Jesus' teaching of being "salt" and "light" to corporate America and especially cultural fields. I learned from Bob Briner. I go to church with a man who is an executive in a manufacturing company. I learn from him about humility and servanthood. I was deeply inspired by Catherine Rohr and Gary Haugen, who willingly, joyfully, passionately have made some serious sacrifices to obey the word of God, and live out lives of service. I find leadership role models living lives based on Biblical principles and truths all around.

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