Optional page text here. The Beast's Lair: Willow Creek Model Shows Failing Results

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Willow Creek Model Shows Failing Results

Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago, one of the more famous "mega-churches" in the country, has released a staggering statement concerning the effectiveness of their "seeker-sensitive" movement. In a nutshell, this church growth model tends to de-emphasize personal bible study, doctrine, and expository preaching and place a greater emphasis on "felt-needs" programs, marketing, and innovation. At some level, the church growth model has worked. Willow Creek is the second largest church in America (right behind Joel Olsteen's Lakewood Church), so they have seen a great influx of people over the last 15 years. If success is based on sheer numbers, as so many of our churches across the country believe, then the Willow Creek model should be implemented immediately. If we are seeking true, growing, maturing disciples in Christ, however, then we have a problem.

Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church and strong supporter of the seeker-sensitive model has had a change of heart. Hybels has said:
"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 wasn't helping people that much. Other things that we didn't put that much money into and didn't put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for...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."

Wow. What an amazing statement, to be the 2nd largest church in America and confess to making a mistake. I appreciate Bill Hybels' statement, one that must be very difficult to make peace with. Nevertheless, it seems that he genuinely has the spiritual health of his people in mind.

We need to pay attention to this. Not so we can point, sneer, and say "I told you so," but so we can learn along with Bill Hybels. He speaks of teaching people to read their bible between services. Do you know what that means? It means we have to take our bible to church. He speaks of teaching people to take responsibility for their own study and relationship with God. How many of us are faithful to do family worship in our homes? To pay attention to the personal spiritual disciplines? I am hopeful that this turn in attitude from the leadership of such an influential church will in turn prompt churches across the country to put structures in place that will bring about not mere numeric growth, but sincere growth in faith.


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