For as long as I can remember, I was taught as a young pastor that one of the strongest characteristics of a leader is the drive to never stop learning. In my early years, this played itself out by attaining academic degrees and attending as many seminars or conferences as I was able.
As the years passed, the behavior of “never stop learning” morphed into reading the writings of wise leaders, engaging in conversations with leaders a few steps ahead of me, and visiting and observing the work of successful leaders and organizations, both in the church world and the business world.
And each August, “never stop learning” involved expanding my thinking and developing my leadership skills by attending the Global Leadership Summit (GLS).
As our church continued to grow and expand, we sensed that God was nudging LCBC (Lives Changed by Christ) Church to impact the state of Pennsylvania by introducing more and more people to Jesus throughout our state. Already having multiple LCBC locations across central and eastern Pennsylvania, we assumed that God was nudging us to open more and more campuses across our entire state.
Then, several years ago, visits with the leadership teams of two prominent organizations dramatically changed our thinking and the direction of our church.
‘Taking Jesus to the People’
First, spending two days in Atlanta with executives of Chick-fil-A helped sharpen our focus and simplify our mission. Until this point, we assumed that the mission of Chick-fil-A was similar to ours: to get as many people in our buildings as possible. But we quickly learned that this wasn’t true. Instead, again and again, Chick-fil-A leaders expressed that they exist simply to “take chicken to the people.”
“Taking chicken to the people” might include getting people into their buildings, but it also involves drive-thru lines, home deliveries and a multitude of other methods with which they continue to experiment. (And this mindset is what allowed Chick-fil-A to thrive during the COVID-19 years while other restaurants suffered.)
As we walked away from Chick-fil-A, it hit us: We are not in the business of getting people into our church buildings. Rather, we are in the business of “taking Jesus to the people.” And this simple “taking Jesus to the people” approach launched our online gatherings that prepared us well when the pandemic struck a few years later.
Our second course-altering experience came while on a two-day visit with executives from Marriott International. Marriott is the largest hotel chain in the world, but not all of their hotels carry the Marriott name on the side of their buildings. In fact, the company has more than 30 different brands, all with different names.
Up until this point we had assumed that God was nudging us to impact the state of Pennsylvania by having the LCBC Church name on buildings all across our state. But we walked away from our visit with Marriott with the realization that it doesn’t matter what name is on the side of the building as long as Jesus is being taken to the people.
Right away, we began reaching out to other pastors who were also focused on taking Jesus to the people. What started with a handful of pastors has now grown to over 50 pastors of the largest churches from across Pennsylvania working together to more effectively take Jesus to the people.
LCBC continues to grow and expand with 21 locations across Pennsylvania—and plans for more are on the way—but now we firmly believe that those nudges from God to impact our state are not just about us, but also other like-minded churches. And now we understand it doesn’t matter what name is on the side of the building.
Here is what I know: Had we not practiced the discipline of never stopping learning, we would not have reached out to lock arms with other churches.
Raising the Leadership Lid
One of the most effective ways to never stop learning that I have experienced is to develop an annual rhythm of attending the Global Leadership Summit. Each August during the GLS, I experience world-class leaders challenging me to become the leader God desires me to be.
But the thing I love most about the GLS is that it is not simply helping me to become a better leader, it’s also helping me become more effective at taking Jesus to the people.
The Global Leadership Network exists to serve pastors by becoming a tool for them to grow their own leadership skills. It’s a tool to equip more churches by raising the leadership lid of those serving throughout our churches, and to inspire and unleash more leaders out into our communities.
My understanding of leadership is different because of the discipline of the never stop learning approach. Our church is different because of this behavioral habit. And now, after more than 40 years of serving and growing as a pastor, I have the privilege to continue learning together with you as the president and CEO of the Global Leadership Network.
Plan now to attend the 2024 Global Leadership Summit on Aug. 8–9, or consider making your church a host site. Details at GlobalLeadership.org/summit.