Bill Hybels’ mentee Pastor David Ashcraft named new CEO of Global Leadership Network

David Ashcraft (R), LCBC pastor emeritus and teaching pastor, has been named as president and CEO of the Global Leadership Network, formerly the Willow Creek Association founded by former pastor Bill Hybels (L).
David Ashcraft (R), LCBC pastor emeritus and teaching pastor, has been named as president and CEO of the Global Leadership Network, formerly the Willow Creek Association founded by former pastor Bill Hybels (L). | Screenshot/Vimeo/LCBC Church

David Ashcraft, pastor emeritus and teaching pastor at the multi-campus LCBC Church in Pennsylvania, has been named president and CEO of the Global Leadership Network, formerly known as the Willow Creek Association, founded by his friend and disgraced pastor Bill Hybels.

GLN is the creator of the Global Leadership Summit, which is “the largest leadership experience in the world that partners with local churches, ministries and organizations to help leaders grow and become a catalyst for change,” according to the organization’s website.

“We are very excited for David to take on this position with the GLN. We know that their organization and programming will continue to advance because of David’s leadership,” LCBC church, which currently has 19 campuses across Central Pennsylvania and is ranked among the top 20 largest churches in America, said in a recent statement posted on its website.

Get Our Latest News for FREE

Subscribe to get daily/weekly email with the top stories (plus special offers!) from The Christian Post. Be the first to know.

“We’re grateful for David’s vision and ongoing strategic leadership of The Advantage and we’re excited to see how God continues to use his gifts with both organizations.”

Less than two years before Hybels was forced to resign as lead pastor at Willow Creek Community Church after an extensive investigation published by the Chicago Tribune in March 2018 detailed a pattern of sexual misconduct allegations, Ashcraft described him as a “friend to LCBC” and a mentor during an interview with Hybels published in October 2016.

“I know you hear it all the time that Willow is impacting churches around the world, but for us, it was huge in our development,” Ashcraft gushed during the interview.

“I look at you, whether you had ever realized it or not, I look at you as somebody who has mentored me in my younger years,” Ashcraft told Hybels. “It’s always fascinating to me because people tend to think mentoring means you got to sit down with each other once a week, spend 30 minutes to an hour. Didn’t happen that way for me, so [I] appreciate you very much. Thank you for all of that, [I] so appreciate you and what you’ve done for us as a church.”

David Ashcraft, LCBC pastor emeritus and teaching pastor, has been named as president and CEO of the Global Leadership Network, formerly the Willow Creek Association founded by former pastor Bill Hybels.
David Ashcraft, LCBC pastor emeritus and teaching pastor, has been named as president and CEO of the Global Leadership Network, formerly the Willow Creek Association founded by former pastor Bill Hybels. | YouTube/Executive Leadership Solutions

Hybels denied a number of the allegations, including a consensual affair with a married woman who retracted her claims. But in 2019, an Independent Advisory Group that investigated the allegations called them “credible” and recommended counseling for him as well as a raft of changes to improve the organizational culture at the church and Willow Creek Association, rebranded as the Global Leadership Network.

The Global Leadership Summit was significantly impacted by the scandal as scores of churches cut ties with the event in the wake of Hybels’ fall.

Ashcraft has been a member of the GLN board for the last four years and has been involved with the organization for 25 years overall, including 17 years as a host-site pastor. He said they were slowly rebuilding trust some five years after Hybels’ exit from the organization.

“Any time a leader stumbles, the impact ripples out into many directions. When that leader has been serving in the context of a church or a faith-based organization, these ripples grow exponentially, and countless lives are affected. Many individuals have been impacted by Bill Hybels’ departure, and as a result, some churches and church leaders took a step back from Global Leadership Network for a season,” he told CP.

“On a positive note, this situation has challenged GLN leadership to self-evaluate, create, and implement more robust policies and procedures to insure healthy relationships between GLN staff and their constituents,” he explained. “As more churches and church leaders continue to regain trust in the leadership of GLN, it is creating positive impacts — the organization is growing and outperforming results from the previous few years.”

In addition to taking over the leadership of GLN, Ashcraft says he will continue his current role at LCBC, leading a project called The Advantage that is headquartered in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  

Ashcraft told CP that The Advantage’s mission is to “serve and to be a benefit or an advantage to pastors in Pennsylvania and throughout the Northeast.”

“Because both organizations exist to serve pastors, I am honored to have the opportunity to continue working alongside the Advantage Team under the outstanding leadership of Patrick Murdock while at the same time leading the staff and the work of Global Leadership Network,” he said. 

In his book, What Was I Thinking?: How to Make Better Decisions So You Can Live and Lead with Confidence, published in May 2022, Ashcraft dedicates a full chapter to address “When Leaders Fall.”

He doesn’t name Hybels in the chapter, but he highlighted the fall of a friend and mentor.

“As I read the report, a sick feeling came over me — that sick feeling that rushes in when you hear something so troubling it surely can’t be true. That sick feeling that comes with the realization that your world is about to change. It’s that kick in the gut when you hear words you never wanted to hear,” he wrote.

“This was someone I looked up to. This was someone I considered my mentor, even if only from a distance. This was someone who had helped shape and stretch my leadership skills. This was someone who had greatly influenced our church. And this was someone Ruth (my wife) and I had just spent the evening with not two weeks before, sitting out on the deck of his hotel suite, sharing stories and crackers and cheese with a few other friends and acquaintances,” Ashcraft continued. “I watched sadly as my mentor — my friend — stepped away from his position of leadership. And just like that, another leader fell.”

Ashcraft also went on to describe watching his mentor deliver his final address to his church as the scandal unfolded.

“It was one of the most heartbreaking and deflating endings I have ever seen. Final addresses are meant to be a tribute, a celebration of a life well-lived and an organization well-led. But after pouring most of his adult life into this organization, rather than ending his career by being honored and revered for all the good he had done, he walked off the platform one last time. No celebration. No honor. Only humiliation. Only disbelief,” he wrote.

When asked if the mentor in his book is Hybels, Ashcraft said: “A name was not necessary as it was a personal story that was impactful to me and a caution to others even without the mention of a name.”

When CP noted that a review of Hybels’ final address at Willow Creek shows him getting a standing ovation and being prayed for by leaders, contradicting the description in his book, he replied: “Having not been present in that situation I’m not able to comment.”

As for the mentor he describes in his book, Ashcraft says despite his failures, he still considers Hybels a “friend and mentor.”

“In spite of all of this, I still consider him to be my friend and mentor. And I am so thankful for the influence he has had on my life. But my heart aches both for him and for all who have been impacted by the fallout of his situation,” Ashcraft wrote. “I hold firm to the hope that God is able to make something good out of broken vessels. All broken vessels.”

Was this article helpful?

Help keep The Christian Post free for everyone.

By making a recurring donation or a one-time donation of any amount, you're helping to keep CP's articles free and accessible for everyone.

We’re sorry to hear that.

Hope you’ll give us another try and check out some other articles. Return to homepage.

Most Popular

More Articles