Willow Creek Association's 2013 Global Leadership Summit, which was designed to equip church leaders but has also drawn others from a variety of different fields, is expected to be attended by 170,000 people globally beginning with the live event in the U.S. next week.
WCA was formed over 20 years ago to help church leaders, because "inspired, encouraged, and equipped Christian leaders create thriving local churches that redeem their communities for Christ," the group's website states. The first Global Leadership Summit in 1995, which was attended by 2,200 leaders, was a way for the group to accomplish their goal.
But Steve Bell, executive vice president of WCA, told The Christian Post that the annual event now also attracts leaders who work in business, government, education and other areas not necessarily related to ministry.
"We have a conviction that leaders want to keep getting better," said Bell. "So we're designing this to provide some vision, encouragement and skill development for someone who wants to be a better leader."
Among those who will be speaking at the event are General Colin Powell, former U.S. Secretary of State; Mark Burnett, executive producer of "The Bible" television miniseries; and Bill Hybels, founder and senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church and chairman of the board for WCA. Other speakers include Andy Stanley, founder and senior pastor of North Point Ministries; Liz Wiseman, executive strategy and leadership consultant; and Dr. Henry Cloud, clinical psychologist and leadership consultant.
"All truth is God's truth, and we can learn from every arena," said Bell. "And sometimes Christian-focused events only hear from people in the church. We think it's important to hear from some of the best of the best who are thinkers about leadership that may not even be connected to a local church."
But the event isn't just a series of lectures. Bell says organizers have worked hard to make sure it is an experience where leaders can be truly challenged.
"We try to really craft an experience that will move people, to build in time to have the moments when God can touch people's hearts and lives so that they actually have an encounter with God, where they are challenged beyond just hearing information but actually to be emotionally touched and emotionally moved," said Bell.
The 19th Global Leadership Summit will be transmitted live via satellite from Willow Creek Community Church to more than 230 locations nationwide on Aug. 8 and 9. Last year, 75,000 people attended the event in the U.S. and 95,000 people did so in other nations around the world.
The summit has been an international event since 2005. Later this year, leaders in more than 300 cities across 100 different countries will have the opportunity to watch some of the messages recorded next week. In all, messages delivered at this year's conference will be translated into a total of 45 different languages, a press release states, and could be watched by 100,000 people internationally.