By Warren Bird
Leadership Network has built a team of high-capacity leaders who serve churches in powerful ways. These leaders are field-tested as innovation catalysts in their ministry areas, and they bring unique backgrounds and experiences to their pursuits with church leaders in North America.
In this edition of a regular blog to introduce those leaders, you’ll meet Lee Powell, church planter and former pastor of one of America’s fastest-growing churches. In his work with the Engage Initiative, Lee connects with churches that financially support the innovation and multiplication work of Leadership Network.
What background qualifications do you bring to the Engage Initiative and leading other churches to be involved financially with Leadership Network?
We started Cedar Creek Community Church (Toledo, Ohio) in 1995, growing it from 25 people to 9,000 people in 5 locations. As you can imagine, we went through a number of capital campaigns and leading people to be involved in ministry with us through their financial giving.
When I left pastoring at Cedar Creek, I thought my days of capital campaigns and fundraising were over. But I’m still sort of doing it, just on a different level, and this time getting churches involved in ministry with us at Leadership Network.
Why are you excited about connecting and collaborating with church leaders to help fuel Leadership Network financially?
Leadership Network used to call this group “Fans, Friends and Family,” but we’re now calling it Engage, which I really like. Engage is a powerful word. When you’re engaged with someone, you are committed and you believe in them. That’s the kind of relationship we want with churches in the Engage Initiative—belief in each other and the ministry we’re working on together, and a commitment to each other. This is a different level of relationship with our partners.
Why do you think it’s important for churches to be involved with Leadership Network financially?
When you ask people to be involved in missions and you’re the giver, you enjoy a tighter relationship with the ministry you’re supporting. You’re treated differently, and the relationship is closer. In addition to this tight relationship, there is the bigger idea of partnering with someone else to do more than you can do alone. We consider our church partners to be just that in the ministry we’re involved with around the country–partners. They are partners with certain perks and a tight relationship with all that Leadership Network has to offer.
How did you move from pastoring a fast-growing church to your role with Leadership Network?
A couple years ago, when I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, it became clear that I wouldn’t be able to continue leading the church at the level I had been before the diagnosis. I wanted to volunteer with somebody, maybe doing some consulting, so I contacted Leadership Network President Dave Travis and told him I would do whatever he thought I would be good at doing.
When I was leading the church, Leadership Network provided some of the most catalytic experiences we had as a church. My being able to do something to help grow Leadership Network’s influence was a slam dunk, and I still have the opportunity to be involved with the local church. I love the local church and have such high hopes for it, so that was really important to me.
What can church leaders expect to experience when they partner with Leadership Network through Engage?
When I was at Cedar Creek and we partnered with Leadership Network, I always felt like it put us closer to the center of some incredible information and learning experiences. The knowledge gained about church innovation and multiplying yourself as a leader was invaluable from what I call “the data guys” at Leadership Network—Dave Travis, Warren Bird and others. I always felt like I had a much greater likelihood of benefiting from that partnership by being closer to center.
On the practical side, church leaders also get perks by being involved with Engage that offset the cost. There are three different levels of involvement, and all of them include free access to learning events and other perks.
What do you do for fun?
When I was diagnosed, I was told I had 15 quality years of life left, and working with Leadership Network in Dallas gives me the opportunity to be close to most of my kids and grandkids. I spend all the time with them I can, and have a blast with them. I exercise every day to stay fit and to help manage my condition. My grandson and I are building a go-kart, and we like to do off-road racing with remote control cars.