Last week I had the privilege of meeting with Bill Hybels, along with Andy & Stacie Wood, Archie Jackson, and my dad. For those of you who don't know who Bill Hybels is, he is the pastor of Willowcreek Community Church - one of the largest (25,000+) and most influential churches in the world. He's had a tremendous impact in my life, my ministry, and my family.
We met him at his vacation office in South Haven, Michigan. We showed up to the beautiful little office that overlooks the Michigan lake, knocked on the door, and there comes Bill Hybels wearing shorts and no shoes. Though he was extremely friendly and laid back, we were a little nervous...
Anyways, we went on to share the vision of South Bay Church (the church we're planting in the San Francisco Bay Area) and then started asking him questions and getting his insight on leadership issues, church planting stuff, family, etc. It was awesome! The main insights he gave us were:
- Stay flexible with your strategy and goals & be crystal clear with your values and vision.
- In the beginning, focus 99% of your energy on people, not technology or anything else. Double b-fasts, double lunches, double dinners...
- Don't over-rev. Don't push too hard, but give your best.
- Schedule your vacations and day offs.
- Don't wait till you're a mega-church to find your wife's strengths and place in the ministry, find them out in the beginning. (Lynn Hybels was there for this one - she was very nice).
- Don't focus so much on breaking numerical barriers that you forget to focus on relationships.
- Be the best Acts 2 church you can be at every level and in every season.
- Don't appoint elders too quickly, take as much time as you need to ensure they meet the Biblical standards for Elders.
- Enjoy every season of the church's growth and stay close together as a staff team.
There were so many great things he said, many that will stay in our minds for many years. His passion for God and the Church is still just as alive as it was when he started Willow 35 years ago. We could hear it in his heart the phrase that he so often quotes, "the local church is the hope of the world..."
At the end of our time, we took pictures with him, he showed us the first copy of his new book (Axiom), he showed us his office where he prepares his talks for the Leadership Summit each year, and then he gave us a check for $10,000 to start our new church! (that last one was a joke).
Before we left, we all thanked him with tears for the tremendous impact he has had in the Church and in each of our lives. Then he prayed for us and off we went... What a great experience!