A Shocking Confession from Willow Creek Community ChurchJanuary 3 2008 at 1:33 AM
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Its been a while since we discussed the Community Church Movement that has influenced a number of mega churches of Christ. We know about Rick Warren and the Saddleback Community Church in California. What about Bill Hybels of the Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois? How much do we know about the Willow Creek Association? If not, heres the link:
We know that:
Do you know if your [or any] congregation of the churches of Christ is affiliated with WCA? If youre interested, the following link provides a search for a WCA member church. Just enter the church name (generic or specific) and the stateit will list one or more churches within the state.
- Oak Hills Church is a member of the Willow Creek Association.
- Richland Hills Church of Christ is a member church of the WCA.
- Woodmont Hills Church of Christ [now Family of God] is a WCA member.
I have found a number of articles concerning the Community Church Movement and its impact in the religious world. But I consider the following article a very insightful read, written by Bob Burney, titled: A Shocking Confession from Willow Creek Community Church.
A Shocking Confession from Willow Creek Community Church
By Bob Burney
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
If you are older than 40 the name Benjamin Spock is more than familiar. It was Spock that told an entire generation of parents to take it easy, dont discipline your children and allow them to express themselves. Discipline, he told us, would warp a childs fragile ego. Millions followed this guru of child development and he remained unchallenged among child rearing professionals. However, before his death Dr. Spock made an amazing discovery: he was wrong. In fact, he said:
We have reared a generation of brats. Parents aren't firm enough with their children for fear of losing their love or incurring their resentment. This is a cruel deprivation that we professionals have imposed on mothers and fathers. Of course, we did it with the best of intentions. We didn't realize until it was too late how our know-it-all attitude was undermining the self assurance of parents. Oops.
Something just as momentous, in my opinion, just happened in the evangelical community. For most of a generation evangelicals have been romanced by the seeker sensitive movement spawned by Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago. The guru of this movement is Bill Hybels. He and others have been telling us for decades to throw out everything we have previously thought and been taught about church growth and replace it with a new paradigm, a new way to do ministry.
Perhaps inadvertently, with this new wave of ministry came a de-emphasis on taking personal responsibility for Bible study combined with an emphasis on felt-needs based programs and slick marketing.
The size of the crowd rather than the depth of the heart determined success. If the crowd was large then surely God was blessing the ministry. Churches were built by demographic studies, professional strategists, marketing research, meeting felt needs and sermons consistent with these techniques. We were told that preaching was out, relevance was in. Doctrine didnt matter nearly as much as innovation. If it wasnt cutting edge and consumer friendly it was doomed. The mention of sin, salvation and sanctification were taboo and replaced by Starbucks, strategy and sensitivity.
Thousands of pastors hung on every word that emanated from the lips of the church growth experts. Satellite seminars were packed with hungry church leaders learning the latest way to do church. The promise was clear: thousands of people and millions of dollars couldnt be wrong. Forget what people need, give them what they want. How can you argue with the numbers? If you dared to challenge the experts you were immediately labeled as a traditionalist, a throwback to the 50s, a stubborn dinosaur unwilling to change with the times.
All that changed recently.
Willow Creek has released the results of a multi-year study on the effectiveness of their programs and philosophy of ministry. The studys findings are in a new book titled Reveal: Where Are You?, co-authored by Cally Parkinson and Greg Hawkins, executive pastor of Willow Creek Community Church. Hybels himself called the findings earth shaking, ground breaking and mind blowing. And no wonder: it seems that the experts were wrong.
The report reveals that most of what they have been doing for these many years and what they have taught millions of others to do is not producing solid disciples of Jesus Christ. Numbers yes, but not disciples. It gets worse. Hybels laments:
Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back it wasnt helping people that much. Other things that we didnt put that much money into and didnt put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for. If you simply want a crowd, the seeker sensitive model produces results. If you want solid, sincere, mature followers of Christ, its a bust. In a shocking confession, Hybels states:
We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become self feeders. We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between services, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own. Incredibly, the guru of church growth now tells us that people need to be reading their bibles and taking responsibility for their spiritual growth.
Just as Spocks mistake was no minor error, so the error of the seeker sensitive movement is monumental in its scope. The foundation of thousands of American churches is now discovered to be mere sand. The one individual who has had perhaps the greatest influence on the American church in our generation has now admitted his philosophy of ministry, in large part, was a mistake. The extent of this error defies measurement.
Perhaps the most shocking thing of all in this revelation coming out of Willow Creek is in a summary statement by Greg Hawkins:
Our dream is that we fundamentally change the way we do church. That we take out a clean sheet of paper and we rethink all of our old assumptions. Replace it with new insights. Insights that are informed by research and rooted in Scripture. Our dream is really to discover what God is doing and how hes asking us to transform this planet. Isnt that what we were told when this whole seeker-sensitive thing started? The church growth gurus again want to throw away their old assumptions and take out a clean sheet of paper and, presumably, come up with a new paradigm for ministry.
Should this be encouraging?
Please note that rooted in Scripture still follows rethink, new insights and informed research. Someone, it appears, still might not get it. Unless there is a return to simple biblical (and relevant) principles, a new faulty scheme will replace the existing one and another generation will follow along as the latest piper plays.
What we should find encouraging, at least, in this confession coming from the highest ranks of the Willow Creek Association is that they are coming to realize that their existing model does not help people grow into mature followers of Jesus Christ. Given the massive influence this organization has on the American church today, let us pray that God would be pleased to put structures in place at Willow Creek that foster not mere numeric growth, but growth in grace.
Bob Burney is Salem Communications award-winning host of Bob Burney Live, heard weekday afternoons on WRFD-AM 880 in Columbus, Ohio.
Source: A Shocking Confession from Willow Creek Community Church
Willow Creek Repents?
|January 3 2008, 2:45 AM |
Willow Creek Repents?
Why the most influential church in America now says "We made a mistake."
Few would disagree that Willow Creek Community Church has been one of the most influential churches in America over the last thirty years. Willow, through its association, has promoted a vision of church that is big, programmatic, and comprehensive. This vision has been heavily influenced by the methods of secular business. James Twitchell, in his new book Shopping for God, reports that outside Bill Hybels office hangs a poster that says: What is our business? Who is our customer? What does the customer consider value? Directly or indirectly, this philosophy of ministrychurch should be a big box with programs for people at every level of spiritual maturity to consume and engagehas impacted every evangelical church in the country.
So what happens when leaders of Willow Creek stand up and say, We made a mistake?
Not long ago Willow released its findings from a multiple year qualitative study of its ministry. Basically, they wanted to know what programs and activities of the church were actually helping people mature spiritually and which were not. The results were published in a book, Reveal: Where Are You? , co-authored by Greg Hawkins, executive pastor of Willow Creek. Hybels called the findings earth shaking, ground breaking, and mind blowing.
If youd like to get a synopsis of the research you can watch a video with Greg Hawkins [see link]. And Bill Hybels reactions, recorded at last summers Leadership Summit, can be seen [see link]. Both videos are worth watching in their entirety, but below are few highlights.
In the Hawkins video he says, Participation is a big deal. We believe the more people participating in these sets of activities, with higher levels of frequency, it will produce disciples of Christ. This has been Willows philosophy of ministry in a nutshell. The church creates programs/activities. People participate in these activities. The outcome is spiritual maturity. In a moment of stinging honesty Hawkins says, I know it might sound crazy but thats how we do it in churches. We measure levels of participation.
Having put all of their eggs into the program-driven church basket you can understand their shock when the research revealed that Increasing levels of participation in these sets of activities does NOT predict whether someones becoming more of a disciple of Christ. It does NOT predict whether they love God more or they love people more.
Speaking at the Leadership Summit, Hybels summarized the findings this way:
Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back it wasnt helping people that much. Other things that we didnt put that much money into and didnt put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for.Having spent thirty years creating and promoting a multi-million dollar organization driven by programs and measuring participation, and convincing other church leaders to do the same, you can see why Hybels called this research the wake up call of his adult life.
We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become self feeders. We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between service, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.In other words, spiritual growth doesnt happen best by becoming dependent on elaborate church programs but through the age old spiritual practices of prayer, bible reading, and relationships. And, ironically, these basic disciplines do not require multi-million dollar facilities and hundreds of staff to manage.
Does this mark the end of Willows thirty years of influence over the American church? Not according to Hawkins:
Our dream is that we fundamentally change the way we do church. That we take out a clean sheet of paper and we rethink all of our old assumptions. Replace it with new insights. Insights that are informed by research and rooted in Scripture. Our dream is really to discover what God is doing and how hes asking us to transform this planet. ____________________________________