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Monday, August 6, 2018

When Your Pitchman Goes Away

In just few days, the 2018 Global Leadership Summit (GLS) convenes at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois. Last year, around 7000 people filled the main sanctuary for the two day event. Sessions will also be broadcast around the country. About 1475 sites are expected to remotely host the event in 2018, both in the US and internationally.

Later, many of the sessions will be repackaged and delivered to other foreign lands not hosting the live event. All told, The Summit will take place in 135 countries and in 60 languages in 2018. This remarkable learning endeavor for pastors, business, and lay people has drawn approximately 2.5 million attendees around the world since the GLS began in 1995.

This year, however, the Summit will have a very different feel. Something will be missing. Or rather...someone. That would the founder of the Global Leadership Summit—Bill Hybels.

No need to get into the complicated details here. There is plenty of information on the Internet about Bill’s personal struggles of the past year. Let it be said, however, that his absence at GLS leaves a big hole. And a costly one.

Bill Hybels drove the machine. He lobbied for bringing in top talent to speak. He conducted marvelous interviews with big time players in the corporate world who could open up new avenues of thinking. His own personal talks at Summits were, in my opinion, some of the best. A missing Bill Hybels will be a shot heard around the GLS world.

And when I say his departure is costly, it has been. No one wants to openly discuss details, but some remote locations decided to cancel. Some speakers decided not to participate. I’ll be very interested to see if the main campus attendance remains strong.

In recent years, we’ve seen other well known corporate spokespersons lose their voice. Most recently, Papa John's Founder and former CEO John Schnatter. He resigned his role following a racial slur on a conference call that brought outrage. The company immediately removed him from any advertisements, seeking to “regain trust.”

Almost immediately, the University of Louisville announced plans to remove the Papa John’s name from its football stadium. And the company’s stock went on a see saw. First it plunged to a 12-month low. After Schnatter’s resignation was announced, stock prices regained 12 percent over several days. But what’s next?

A few years back, it was George Zimmer who discovered an unwelcome mat waiting for him at the headquarters of Men’s Wearhouse. This well known pitchman for the firm he started lost his job in 2013. The lead director of Zimmer’s handpicked board called George in and with Trump-esque style said,“You’re terminated. We’re packing up your office furniture and putting it in storage.” It seems Zimmer’s persona in media was no longer drawing the right crowd.

Losing your main pitchman often results in losing ground with customers. There is no perfect barometer on this. I imagine some Papa John’s customers will drop off. It certainly happened to Men’s Wearhouse. The GLS is feeling the pinch.

Most people in Jesus' time assumed that with His death His followers would disappear and His fan club would dissolve. Quite the opposite happened. The resurrection of Jesus, and the empowerment of His spirit within generations to follow, has kept His message of hope and eternal life very much alive.

The “pitch” that comes with the Gospel is a free gift offer. You receive more than you can conceive. Jesus told His disciples, “'Truly I tell you,' Jesus replied, 'no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.'” (Mark 10:29-30, NIV)

That’s some promise. Following Jesus is always a winning proposition. This pitchman isn't going away.

I guarantee it.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

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