#222 (26/02/06)
The Leader's Prayer

The Message

By: Bill Hybels (Guest Pastor)

Special Music

" Joyful, Joyful.. "
" Take My Life and Make it New "
" All Hail the Power of Jesus Name ”

TOM TIPTON – “His Eye is on the Sparrow”

The Message

My guest this morning is giving us a message to inspire us all entitled, "The Leader's Prayer."  Bill Hybels is the Founder and Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois.  Many people say it is the most influential church in America today.  He started his church in a rented movie theater.  (I don't know how God could bless a church that would start in a theater!)  Today it has grown to more than 18,000 people in attendance for weekend services.  And Bill has authored seventeen books, including such classics as "Too Busy Not to Pray," "Becoming a Contagious Christian," "Courageous Leadership," and "Volunteer Revolution."  I'm very honored that I've been a friend of Bill's ever since he started in a theater.  God bless you, Bill.  Thank you for coming all the way out here.  We really appreciate you!.

The Leader's Prayer

There is a sign that hangs in most yacht clubs and marinas around the United States which says, "The two happiest days in the life of a boater is the day you buy the boat and the day you finally sell it."  I think sometimes leadership can be a lot like that.  The day a young leader is first given a baton of leadership, he or she feels that surge of spiritual adrenalin, the urge to fire up the team, to charge up the first challenge hill for the Glory of God is an exhilarating day.  Young leaders never forget it.  But then after a year, or a decade, two, three, four or five, comes the day when the veteran leader has to be concerned about who will take that leadership baton?  Who is going to run the next in the kingdom relay race?  And if the veteran leader really believes in the person he is about to hand the baton to, then the day that occurs is a holy day. 

This is such a day, deeply fulfilling and significant.  And we all know that day has arrived for Dr. Robert Harold Schuller.

I've had the privilege of knowing the Schuller family for almost thirty-five years.  I came here when I was in my early twenties, when, as a youth pastor, I paid my own way to hear the lectures that Dr. Schuller was giving to people who were starting churches to reach people far from God.  No one will ever know how much God used Dr. Schuller to bolster my fledgling faith in those early days.

When we started Willow Creek Church, we had no money and no facilities but I raised some money to take forty people here, so that they could see the Garden Grove Community Church.  (That's what the Crystal Cathedral was called in those days.)  One of the reasons I wanted them to come here was because we were deciding what decision we had to make about buying land for our new church.  We didn't know if we should buy two acres (there was a lovely two acre site just down the street) íKAnd then there was a ten acre site (not far away from the little theater we were renting at the time) íK  And then there was a 90 acre tract of land.  We loved the 90 acre tract, but we laughed out loud with one another as we had conversations about how impossible it would be to ever try to buy that land.  The average age of the church was nineteen, and all of us had entry level jobs.  Most of us shaved, not all of us.  But we came to one of Bob's conferences and Bob graciously agreed to meet with our group after one of the sessions.  One of our leaders asked Dr. Schuller what his opinion was about the three tracts of land we were considering buying íV the two acre piece, the ten acre parcel, or the 90 acre parcel. 

None of us will ever forget Bob's response.  He had that smile and the twinkle in his eye and he said, "Well, if you bring God a thimble and ask Him to fill it, He will probably honor your faith and fill a thimble.

"If you bring Him a bucket and you ask Him in faith to fill that bucket, God will probably honor your faith and fill that bucket.

"But, if you have the faith to bring God a fifty gallon barrel and you ask Him in faith if He would by His grace and power fill that barrel, He will probably do that íK So buy the parcel of land that you have the faith to buy!"

For the next several months we all talked about in our little leadership circle was thimbles, buckets, and barrels.  We eventually summoned the faith to buy that 90 acre tract of land on which Willow Creek Community Church still stands today.  And that decision was made because of Dr. Schuller.

When we ran out of money trying to buy that land, I called Dr. Schuller.  I said, "We're about half way with that barrel, Bob, and we need some help."  So he and Arvella, at their own expense, flew to Chicago to try to inspire our people to get behind the dream.  I'll never forget how five to six hundred people gathered together and how Bob, on stage, put his arm around my shoulder and said to our brand new and very young congregation, "I believe in this young man.  I believe his vision is from God and I believe you should follow it."

Over the course of the next few months we raised enough money to buy that ninety acre parcel of land. I have never forgotten that.  People in our church have never forgotten the contribution that Bob Schuller has made to our church and to my life.  Arvella, his wife, has been an encouragement to our family along the way.  And Jeanne, one of their daughters, when she attended Wheaton College, was the babysitter for our first daughter.  So we've had a family connection for a long time.


Robert Anthony and I became friends about fifteen years ago.  We spent one day fishing together off the coast of Dana Point, but the fishing was so lousy the two of us had nothing else to do but simply open our lives up to each other, taking the risk of things we were willing to disclose to each other.  By the time the sun went down that day, we began to settle into a friendship that would grow over the years to the point where, when I receive an email from Robert  these days, he ends it by saying "YFFL" íK "your friend for life."  And I feel the same way toward him.

With that background you can understand what a pleasure it is for me to be a part of this day when the leadership baton is passed from father to son and Robert Anthony is formally installed as the Senior Pastor of the Crystal Cathedral and Hour of Power.

So I would like to challenge every member of this congregation and every member of the Hour of Power family all over the world to make a commitment to pray for the Schuller family these days, pray especially for Robert.  I think all of you who love this ministry and love the family that has served it for fifty years will want to pray on bended knee.  So I would like to offer a few suggestions of how to pray for Robert as he takes on this new responsibility.

1)  I would recommend that you pray that Robert would lead and preach with the faith and optimism of King David from the Old Testament.   You all remember that David had heard that his brothers needed food on the battlefield where they were fighting.  When David arrived at the battlefield, he found thousands of young men cowering on the side of the battlefield because a pagan giant was taunting the God of Israel.  David wondered why someone didn't step up and confront the giant.  But no one did, so David did.  He believed that if he did step out somehow between where he was and where the giant was, the power of God would be infused into his life and maybe a victory would be won.  And you all know the story of David and Goliath.  Now, like David, Robert Anthony has already stepped out of the crowd and he already has said, "In the strength of God I will attempt to do this overwhelming ministry."  We need to pray that as Robert gets going in this new role, and as things get difficult, (and things always get difficult in new leadership roles) we need to pray that Robert will grab hold of the same kind of faith that David grabbed that day on the dusty battlefield and that Robert will receive the infusion of that supernatural power that David had.  Pray that God will fill Robert with His power.

2) A second prayer is that Robert would lead this ministry with the integrity of Joseph.  The Old Testament leader Joseph was entrusted with a huge responsibility in a highly visible political office in a land that was foreign to him, and the temptations that come to highly visibility leadership came flooding his way íK financial temptations íK sexual temptations íK and the temptations to misuse power and influence.  And we read the amazing account of Joseph's entire leadership without a single serious integrity breach.  What a feat!  What a record!  We need to pray that, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, Robert will do what Joseph did.

3) Pray a third prayer that Robert would lead with the courage of Esther.  Esther was a remarkable young woman who became a queen, much to her surprise.  And she happened to be a queen at the very time in history when her people came to kind of a crossroad.  When her life was in risk, her response was, "I will do God's bidding and if I perish, I perish."  Some things are worth dying for.  What a courageous leader she was and how God honored her courage.  Robert will face some agonizingly difficult decisions in the not too distant future.  All senior leaders do íK it comes with the territory.  We can all band together to pray that when Robert comes to those agonizingly difficult decisions, he will pray the same kind of prayer that Esther did, "I will do God's bidding.  I will make the tough call and if I perish, I perish." (Esther 4:16)

4) Pray that Robert will lead and preach with the emotional authenticity of an Old Testament guy named Jeremiah.  Jeremiah was a leader to whom God gave a very difficult assignment.  As he carried out his assignment he was ridiculed by people.  He was intimidated by them.  He was physically beaten by them and then he was finally thrown in the bottom of a mud filled cistern and left there to die.  Jeremiah prayed to God, not the kind you would put on a wall plaque, but the kind of prayer you pray when you are in desperate straits.  Jeremiah had the emotional authenticity and the inner spiritual bravery to bear his soul to the God he loved.  He prayed a messy, unedited prayer knowing that his God could handle his frustration, his brokenness and his confusion.  All great leaders must develop this kind of safety and intimacy with God.  Knowing that tough times will come, we have to agree to pray for Robert, Donna and their family that in those dark nights of the soul they will pray with the emotional authenticity of Jeremiah and hang onto God who will rebuild their broken hearts over time and increase their capacity to wonder, worship, love and lead.

5) The fifth prayer I challenge you as a congregation to pray, is that Robert would demonstrate the initiative of the Apostle Peter.  Say what you want about the Apostle Peter's occasional impulsiveness, but there was a reason why Jesus chose him to be in his inner circle.  There was a reason why Peter was called to kingdom leadership.  When Jesus needed a boat, Peter was the first to say, "I'll find one for you Lord."  When Jesus invited the twelve to walk on the water with Him, Peter was the only guy to launch himself overboard to see if the water could hold him.  When Jesus' safety was threatened in the garden, Peter drew the sword and started whacking away, probably that wasn't the wisest thing to do, and Jesus had to fix the guy's ear on the back side of that impulsiveness, but I think Peter's bias for action was what in part endeared him to Jesus.  Jesus knew that part of the job of a leader is to create action; it is to catalyze, mobilize and ignite something new in people. 

I wonder what would happen if thousands of us, tens of thousands of us, hundreds of thousands of us, banded together and prayed that God would give Robert Anthony bold new ideas, and bold new visions, bold new initiatives, as he settles into his new role as senior pastor of this church.  I wonder what new dreams and visions would emerge if all of us were banding together and praying for that to happen.  Let's pray that God will give Robert and his team that is surrounding him some of these breakthrough ideas of how this ministry could reach into the 20-something generation and say something new to a lost generation.  God could do all that.  And from what I read in scripture, God is aching to do a new thing in this world.  Often He is just looking for someone who has a willing heart and an open mind and is surrounded by praying people who are asking for that to happen.

6) May I ask you to pray one more prayer to support Robert?  Pray that Robert would have the tenacity and the intensity in his ministry that the Apostle Paul had.  Remember Paul's words:  "For me to live is Christ, to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21) That's an intense leader.  That is someone who understands the bottom line.  How do we stop a leader like that?  The truth was Paul couldn't be stopped.

Now, as the senior pastor of this ministry, Robert stands in the starting block and he is ready to burst from the starting block and to begin to run his race íK God's race íK for this time, for this day.  May Robert, like Paul, always be motivated about winning the victory for Jesus Christ.

Robert, on this day as you are starting your race you need to know that we are all pulling for you.  We are cheering for you, every one of us.  More importantly, we are praying for you, not just here, but all over the world.  We are praying from this day forward that you run your race and that you will run it in a way to win it; that you will run it as a sacrificial leader, as a humble leader, a creative, bold and joyful leader always quick to give the glory to Jesus Christ.  Blessings, my friend!  All of us will run the race alongside of you in a supportive, loving way. 

Prayer by Robert H. Schuller:  O God, 51 years ago this past October, Arvella had a little baby boy.  And when he was just three months, nine weeks old, she held him on her lap as we drove a long way from Chicago to California to start a church.  Not only was a baby born, but a church was about to be born.  And it was Your plan for my son, Robert Anthony, to be my successor as the senior pastor of this congregation.  So O God, we know that You have Your hand on him and will bless him abundantly. Amen.

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