GLS still inspiring leaders and growing after 19 years

Oscar Muriu, Senior Pastor, Nairobi Chapel, Kenya -- one of the inspirational speakers at GLS 2013.
Oscar Muriu, Senior Pastor, Nairobi Chapel, Kenya — one of the inspirational speakers at GLS 2013.

Half way through its run at 12 venues in South Africa the Global Leadership Summit (GLS) in SA is on course for record attendances and I have heard of people saying it’s the best GLS they have ever attended.

Certainly there was a great vibe at the fully-subscribed GLS event at Harvest Christian Church in Port Elizabeth last week where some 600 delegates were inspired by two days of high calibre screen presentations on various facets of leadership and enjoyed the opportunity to interact with each other at coffee and lunch breaks.

As usual the first presentation was by visionary founder of the GLS, Pastor Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church, Chicago. Showing no sign whatsoever of “GLS faigue” after 19 consecutive years of motivating leaders at the annual summit, Hybels set the bar high with his exhortation to leaders to “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. God will be with you and will never forsake you [Joshua 1:9]”. A visibly emotional Hybels urged us not to allow vision that God is giving us to abort secretly because we are too afraid even to speak  it out aloud.

“Every vision that God puts in your heart will require courage,” he said.

He had everybody’s attention as he spoke about the courage he had to summon in order to share and pursue a costly building project in the current season in which his congregation is experiencing substantial financial pressure.

More than opinions
Perhaps one of the reasons for the enduring popularity and growth of the GLS is that its speakers do not come merely with opinions — something that is not at all in short supply in Christian circles — but with a track record of significant achievements, real-life experience in the trenches of leadership, and solid research data. It should be noted that the GLS is designed to inspire and equip people with leadership tools, ideas and strategies. Christians are the main target audience but the conference is packaged and run in a way that makes non-Christians feel welcome and respected despite the live worship and the Christian flavour of most of the presentations. At least one delegate made a public commitment to follow Christ as a result of what he experienced at the summit in PE. Some Christians stay away from the GLS because they differ strongly with certain speakers on issues about which they are passionate. Those that come with a desire to sharpen their capacity to lead where they are go home with practical insights and encouragement.Those who come with team members have the added opportunity to explore potentially transformational ideas together afterwards.

Some of the broad themes that I noticed running through the GLS 2013 are courage, relationships, and the next generation.

“You can choose courage or you can choose comfort but you can’t have both,” said researcher Dr Brené Brown who spoke insightfully about how to let love into our leadership through being vulnerable and authentic, and avoiding the destructive ways of shaming and blaming.

All of the speakers had something of substance to say and their own unique communication style. I will just mention two of them in passing. Oscar Muriu, a Kenyan pastor who grew a small church into a thriving network of churches. I enjoyed the rare experience of seeing an African leader addressing the GLS and I was inspired by his call on leaders to instil their values into the next generation — a value that he lives out with great fruitfulness.

Mentoring young leaders
“Never do ministry alone. To be alone is to waste an opportunity to mentor a young leader,” was one of his memorable quotes. There was a healthy spread of age, race and genders at the PE event. It will be interesting to see if the calls to mentor the next generation lead to more young leaders at next year’s GLS.

The other speaker I have chosen to mention is gifted American communicator and senior pastor of North Point Ministries, Andy Stanley, who closed the GLS on a high inspirational note by reminding delegates of the infallible promise of Jesus to build His church. Jesus gave the Great Commission to a small group of ‘outlaws’ who would be faced with great persecution, he said, yet millions of people worldwide have since converted to Christianity.

“The church survived ‘because Jesus made the promise, and He has been at the epicentere of the activity of the local church for 2 000 years,’ said Stanley. ‘And you can believe or not believe. You can participate or not participate. You can behave or misbehave. It does not matter. Jesus has been and will continue to build his church, and nobody’s death is going to stop it – not even His own.’ “

About 175 000 people in some 100 countries are attending GLS 2013 events this year. It may still be possible for you to experience the GLS for yourself at one of the remaining sessions in South Africa. Or you could listen to the speakers by ordering a DVD of the summit.

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