I'll post more about the Willow Creek Group Life Conference over the next few days, but I wanted to start off by sharing the one highlight that trumps all the others. The phone call I received at 8:04 am on October 15 as I walked through the airport to catch my flight.
The call came from Mike Mathews, a discipleship pastor in Pearland, Texas, who has been a family friend and personal mentor to me for my entire life. I can't remember a major life or career decision that I've made that didn't involve a phone call or email to Mike for his prayer and advice. As a kid, I loved Mike because he would play all-time quarterback in our family Christmas football games, and he was a master at setting me up in the endzone for a touchdown. As I grew older, Mike's gifts to me on Christmas turned into books and resources about making disciples. Mike introduced the concept of small groups and Willow Creek Church to me over 20 years ago.
As I walked through the airport to check in for my flight, Mike called me to give me a pep talk and to pray for me. Those prayers and words of encouragement echoed in my ears as I walked into the massive Willow Creek auditorium the next morning.
You've probably never seen Mike's picture in a glossy full-color conference flyer. You've probably never seen him on a massive stage. But his influence is much more profound and long-lasting. He has influenced the hearts of hundreds of people who are passing the baton of the faith on to the next generation.
Of all the amazing encounters and experiences I had at Willow last week, the phone call from my friend was the highlight. The real-life, real-time experience of discipleship.