Friday, August 1, 2014

What is the 2015 Christian Leadership Experience?

What is the 2015 Christian Leadership Experience?

by Mr. Vernon Kneprath

2015 Christian Leadership Experience has been a topic of posts and comments on at least two other blogs in recent days:The topic is no longer new, and some of the information and conclusions presented here may sound familiar. But the topic is significant enough to merit a post on Intrepid. I will strive in this post to make clear, conclusive statements about Experience, and provide supporting evidence, some of which may not have yet been touched on at other blog sites.

If the information at the website for the 2015 Christian Leadership Experience ( is to be considered representative of the event, I would conclude that Experience:
  1. is ecumenical, interfaith, and interdenominational, even though it specifically targets WELS and those in fellowship with WELS.
  2. is theology of glory; with its primary focus on man’s works, not the Gospel or the Means of Grace.
  3. is endorsed by some high-level WELS and ELS leaders and pastors, as evidenced by their participation and roles in the event.
  4. bears no standards of or identity to Confessional Lutheranism.
I will explain some of the reasons for my conclusions shortly. But before that, consider the information taken from the FAQ section of the website regarding the target audience and the claims of Experience.
    The 2015 Christian Leadership Experience and its organizing partners are specifically inviting the people who make up our constituency, which is primarily WELS/ELS or CELC. However, the event is open to whomever is interested in building their leadership skills.

    As the objectives of the Leadership Experience were identified, we committed to identifying and presenting the best possible speakers on each leadership topic. A few of the speakers who are well-regarded as experts in their field are from outside the CELC (WELS/ELS) fellowship. We pray these speakers will bring value to attendees which has not been previously available to leaders and aspiring leaders in our fellowship.

    Conference attendance is not an act of fellowship. The one "fellowship" activity is the worship at devotions and the closing service. Just as we welcome our friends and visitors to our congregations' worship services so also we welcome them to the conference's devotions and closing service.
As shown by these statements, Experience:
  1. specifically targets WELS and those in fellowship with the WELS for the purpose of teaching skills pertaining to ministry.
  2. involves worship and prayer.
  3. involves speakers both inside and outside of WELS fellowship.
  4. includes the prayer that those outside WELS fellowship bring value to those to whom Experience is targeted.
Regarding the latter point, since this prayer is for secular and interdenominational participants to "bring value to", that is, have an influence on the attendees, this is arguably a violation of what Scripture teaches regarding fellowship, even though the claim is made to the contrary.

Returning to my conclusions regarding Experience, I will refer the reader to hyperlinks of various locations on the website, and to other websites. In some cases, I will provide some of the content found at the hyperlinks I provide, to save the reader the time and trouble of having to search those hyperlinked webpages. These hyperlinks will provide what I consider to be supporting evidence for my conclusions.
  1. Experience is ecumenical, interfaith, and interdenominational, even though it specifically targets WELS and those in fellowship with WELS.

    There is much evidence for this. I will provide two examples.

      Example 1 -
        Refer to and find “Speaker - Dr. Ravi I. Jayakaran.”

        Now refer to for more information regarding Dr. Ravi. Here you will find the following:

          Dr. Ravi I. Jayakaran has more than 37 years of experience in poverty reduction and strategic development programs. Currently he is Vice President of Global Programs for MAP International (medical assistance programs), providing supervisory oversight and strategic support for all of MAP’s global programs. Dr. Jayakaran is also currently the Senior Associate for Integral (Holistic) Mission for the Lausanne Global Movement.

        The Lausanne Global Movement, as evidenced by the “Lausanne Covenant”, is an effort to “enter into a solemn covenant with God and with each other, to pray, to plan and to work together for the evangelization of the whole world”.

      Example 2 -
        The speaker web page,, has the following footer:

          ©2014 Global Leadership Summit: All Rights Reserved.

          The Global Leadership Summit is associated with the Willow Creek Association. Read about the Willow Creek Association at

          Founded in 1991, the Willow Creek Association (WCA) is a not-for-profit organization that exists to help local churches thrive. The WCA stirs up and calls out the core leadership of churches around the world, encouraging them to follow their "holy discontent" as they build life-changing communities of faith. The WCA serves pioneering pastors and leaders around the world by curating inspirational leadership, intentional skill development, and experiences. Each year, the WCA serves more than 18,000 churches in 90 countries with vision, training, and resources.

    Experience is laced with references and linkage to ecumenical evangelical organizations and people.

  2. Experience is theology of glory; with its primary focus on man’s works, not the Gospel or the Means of Grace.

    Again, there is much evidence. I will provide two examples. Both examples relate to designated speakers of Experience. Refer to

      Example 1 -
        Keynote Speaker - Ann Rhoades
        Ann is a Corporate Executive with over 25 years experience in a variety of service-based industries, is President of People Ink, her consulting company that helps organizations create unique workplace cultures based on values and performance and author of “Built on Values”.  She held the position of Vice President of the People Department for Southwest Airlines, and EVP for Promus Hotel Corporation and most recently, JetBlue Airways where she currently remains as a Board Member.

        Ann has a respected reputation in the industry for her creative approach to creating customer-centric cultures and is a popular speaker on the subject of customer service and how to build a strong high-performing culture.

      Example 2 -
        Speaker - Sharon Buck
        Sharon will discuss the perks and pitfalls of leading others when you have NO authority in their business/career. She will also discuss the importance of GODLY leadership and how it affects relationships for now... and in eternity. Truly, leading a volunteer army is challenging, sometimes frustrating but always rewarding. The lessons discussed will be helpful for ALL leaders!

    Notice the focus of these speakers:

    1. “customer centric” cultures, as if the Church can be treated as a business with the chief concern of satisfying customers.
    2. discussing “Godly” leadership, with no confession defining the basis of that Godly leadership.

    Experience is not about using God’s Word or the Means of Grace. This becomes very apparent when you view the event schedule. The presentation topics do not focus on what God has done for us, the true Gospel message, and the theology of the cross. “Experience” focuses on business techniques as if the Holy Spirit, through the Means of Grace, can no longer be effective in today’s culture.

  3. Experience is endorsed by some high-level WELS and ELS leaders and pastors, as evidenced by their participation and roles in the event.

    Again, there are many examples. I will provide three. Refer to (worship leaders)

      Example 1 -
        Rev. Jon Buchholz is District President of the CA-AZ district of the WELS.

      Example 2 -
        Rev. Charles Degner is District President of the MN district of the WELS.

      Example 3 -
        Pastor Don Moldstad is Chaplain, Director of Campus Spiritual Life at Bethany Lutheran College (ELS).

    As evidenced by representation from the high levels of leadership in WELS and ELS, this event implies the full backing of these synods’ leadership.

  4. Experience, based on the information provided on the website, bears no standards of or identity to Confessional Lutheranism.

    Why do these event organizers and participants, WELS and ELS leaders and pastors, choose to use things other than God’s Word to train leaders of the church? The evidence of the conclusion that this event is non-confessional is found in the absence of the Word and the Means of Grace. Evidence abounds of Church Growth and fund raising objectives, but there is no evidence of God’s Word.

    Perhaps this can be explained by the “bait and switch” technique commonly used by Church Growth advocates. That is, focus on what culture values, and sometime later, once the subject has been “hooked”, the Gospel will be revealed and the Holy Spirit can then be allowed to do His work.

According to the information at the website, Experience is a gold mine of man-made business techniques, but a barren landscape of Scriptural truths.

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