If you can change a leader, you can change a church. When you change a church, you can change a community. And when enough churches are changing, you can affect a region, a country and eventually the world.
In the wake of this mission, the Global Leadership Summit was born. Through the impact of the original Leadership Summit and travelling with the international arm of the Willow Creek Association; Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, started to notice a trend. When a church leader led well, communities were effected, people were evangelized and churches were refreshed. In short, the gospel in all its fullness was spread when an impassioned, dedicated, inspired leader exercised his Romans 12:8 gift. When leaders suffered through a lack of training and inspiration; churches died away, cultures grew more and more secularized, and the corruption in governments festered. Hybels and others with him recognized the widespread need for top-quality leadership training to be made available world-wide; regardless of location, language or ability to pay.
After much strategizing and planning, a new idea was forming. The content from the Leadership Summit was so high-quality, and applied so well to the contexts of the world-wide church - there had to be a way to leverage it internationally; cost-effectively, with the highest impact possible. But there wasn't a model in existence that would enable the content to be available at the scope the leaders envisioned. But, what about ...DVDs?
A DVD conference. But, who would sit for two days watching a screen? Would that be the kind of top-quality event the leaders envisioned? Would it work?
They didn't know if it would work. But, it was an ingenious way to broadcast the content world-wide in a cost-effective way.
And so, in the fall 2005, the Global Leadership Summit launched in 22 sites and 9 countries. The logistical challenges were immense. There was venue selection, catering, notebooks to print, content to translate, resources to order and translate and ship, projectors, sound-systems, and volunteer teams. There was live music and programming; requiring knowledgeable tech teams and talented artists. All of those elements and more were obstacles at each of the 22 sites. Every element you see at a WCA conference was delivered, ensuring the highest quality standards. The leaders of the GLS were determined to deliver a world-class event for each delegate who attended. And deliver they did. Originally, they thought they might reach 3,500 or so international participants.
There were 14,000 in attendance that first year.
God was up to something. In fact, He still is. Each year, the GLS has continued to widen its breadth. In 2006, there were 51 sites in 18 countries with 24,219 delegates in attendance. In 2007; 78 sites, 30 countries and 42,617 attendees. In 2008, despite the financial crisis that gripped the world, the GLS continued to expand to 115 sites, 51 countries and 46,556 attendees.
And in 2009, with finances still tight, we are projecting 160 sites, 57 countries and roughly 60,000 participants.
God is still at work. This has truly morphed into a spirit-inspired leadership movement. Check back here often as the fall progresses for updates on the GLS, to hear the stories of the leaders impacted, and to get a front-row seat to the work God is doing across the globe. We couldn't be more excited.