Learning from Heartbreak - Better Together

August 21, 2018

For many years I have attended the Willow Creek Association Global Leadership Summit. I have grown so much from the leaders assembled there, and the exposure to both secular and church leaders. The founder of the WCA was a very high profile, charismatic leader who never failed to inspire and give me areas of my own leadership to fine-tune, stretch and grow. Last year (2017) he inspired again by giving us rules of respect and civility for leading in a culture of disrespect and incivility.

This year, the 2018 Global Leadership Summit was wrapped in controversy, as the founder stepped down from leadership in April following allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment, misusing his power over several decades. At first the people who worked for him and benefitted from his leadership tried to mount a defense for him, because the actions seemed incredulous for a man who had espoused such a high standard and appeared to live it. But as the accusations rose to include more than a half dozen women, women whose colleagues, well known to both the man and the accusing women, attested that these women were godly and credible, deserving to be believed, the momentum switched, even in the mega-church he founded.

I attended the summit again this year, despite organized pressure from Christian leaders to boycott the Summit in solidarity with the women. In my opinion, the summit quickly distanced itself from its founder in April after the first allegations, and the wonderful work to hundreds of thousands that the Summit does every year needed to go on. I was so glad I went. The Summit leadership handled the situation with grace and integrity. We prayed for the women, and challenged ourselves to be holy, consistent, godly leaders of sexual purity.

One of the highlights of the conference was when Danielle Strickland, powerful speaker and author, former Salvation Army officer, spoke to men and women about our relationships in our sexually crazed, #metoo culture. My heart weeps for the women affected by this terrible situation, and for the brokenness in our world at large. Her words and thoughts are so powerful I simply want to share some of them with you, and then call us to prayer and integrity.

  • We are at a strategic cultural intersection where the relationships between women and men are eroding. There is suspicion, confusion, pain, and a whole lot of ambiguity. Global movements are exposing the pain of sexual harassment, and thank God, the truth will set us free.
  • Women and men are better together. We desire this deep within us. One of the oldest stories of origin is found in Genesis. At the pinnacle of creation, God creates humanity. He makes man by himself in charge. God says, “This is not good.” He creates woman. Literally a savior, helper, tutor, so we can be better together. This is not just something we are desiring, it’s what we are designed for.

Step 1: Believe it is possible. McKinsey Report: If women were treated equally it would add “12 trillion dollars or 28 trillion to the global economy.” UN says one of the keys to making a better world: gender equality; not just a fundamental human right, but essential to a peaceful, sustainable world.

  • Refuse despair. Challenge the status quo. Believe for the future. Change. It has to be an active confrontation of fear.

Step 2: Do not be afraid. Two thirds of women are not optimistic of gender equality. Ghandi said, “We think the enemy is hate, but it is really fear.”

  • God’s design is for every person to be free. I read Exodus. I knew Pharaoh was a bully. Exodus 1 says that because Pharaoh was afraid of the Israelites, he oppressed them. If our reactions are fear-based, we will either be oppressed or be an oppressor. Fear is the currency of oppression.
  • Seth Richardson – two concepts that need to be held – difference: we are not the same; mutuality. Fingerprints are proof that you are different. To be human means to be unique.
  • When we overemphasize one difference over any other difference, it skews everything. It leads to tokenism or stereotypes.
  • Difference through the lens of fear is a threat; through the lens of faith is an opportunity.
  • Mutuality – the sharing of feelings, actions or relationships between parties.
  • Your success and failure is linked to me.
  • Enemies of mutuality in gender equality: power and sex. Thirty-five percent of women globally have experienced physical or sexual violence. One fourth of North American women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime. Is it any wonder women are fed up? They should be.
  • We hear the truth and pain of women who have suffered the realities of inequality, injustice,or sexism on any level. Thank you for speaking up.
  • We believe the future will be better together.
  • 1/6 internet searches are for porn. 1/5 mobile searches is for porn. 60% of men admit to viewing porn at least once a week.
  • What happens to your view of gender if the lens you use objectifies? Pornography needs to be identified and confronted. Objectification is the opposite of mutuality.
  • Power is the capacity or ability to influence the behavior of others.
  • We all have power because we all have influence. It’s good to take a sober look at how we use the power we have. How we use the power we have is the measure of our leadership.
  • Misuse of power – coercion and threats. Are you kind to those you lead? Are you fair in the decisions that impact them? Can you accept change?
  • Misuse of power – intimidation. Do you cut people off when they are talking? Do you close yourself off?
  • Misuse of power – emotional abuse. Do you value and actively listen to others? Do you show regard for others?
  • Misuse of power – isolation. Do you encourage people to think and act widely? Do people feel included?
  • Misuse of power – minimizing, denying, blaming. Do you accept responsibility? Do you acknowledge when you are wrong?
  • Misuse of power – economic abuse. Have you mutually agreed with others about fair distribution of work? Are women invited to be part of your big decisions? Do you define the role women or men can play in your culture or organization?
  • Empowerment Principle: Great leaders use power to empower other people. If power is a tool, how are you using yours?
  • Jesus was the greatest leader ever. Jesus literally was “Let’s come and give them power.” He was the most empowering person who ever lived.
  • This is no clearer than in how he interacted with women. He invited them to be disciples. When Martha comes screaming, it’s not because of dishes. It’s because of the social implications. Jesus invited women to be a part of a new system called the kingdom of God that was going to dismantle injustice and poverty and sexism.

Step 3: Start now and start with you.

  • It’s a simple step but not an easy one. I’d rather start thistomorrowand with someone else.
  • Part of a movement called Amplify Peace, raising peace makers up. We listen intentionally to voices we didn’t used to. We learn. We live differently as a result. Then we repeat. If you find yourself in a board room where everyone looks and feels like you, it’s time to hear some other voices.

Step 4: Never ever give up.

  • The Disney Myth – we think some fairy godmother will just make it happen. Real empowerment and real freedom is an awfully long walk in the same direction. It will require a change to our lives every day.

The only way God’s kingdom will come and His will be done in a lasting way is if there is true confession and repentance of the sins that have occurred—not just the actions themselves, but the inequality and disrespect that allows such things to go unnoticed and unaddressed. Let us be part of the movement that sees men and women better together.

  • Let us pray for the repentance and acceptance of culpability from the abusers.
  • Let us pray for the women who have carried this trauma for years, and have endured the added trauma of speaking truth to power.
  • Let us pray for a new day in the church of Jesus Christ, where men and women together respect and thrive, and experience the deep emotional healing Jesus died to provide.