Home > Uncategorized > Willow Creek Has Made a Huge Mistake

Willow Creek Has Made a Huge Mistake

October 31st, 2007
Marketing Advertising Blog — VuManhThang.Com

That great sucking sound you hear is the sound of  church planting task forces and mission executives gasping in horror  at this Halloween  "trick or treat" revelation.

Here is a quote from the story.

Willow Creek has released the results of a multi-year study on the
effectiveness of their programs and philosophy of ministry. The study’s
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 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.

If you simply want a crowd, the “seeker sensitive” model produces
results. If you want solid, sincere, mature followers of Christ, it’s 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 Spock’s “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 he’s asking us to transform this planet.

Isn’t 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.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Monte Meyer
    October 31st, 2007 at 20:42 | #1

    I’ve been reading quite a few conservative Lutheran Blogs and conservative Lutheran emailers dancing on the supposed grave of “Willow Creek”. I’m not sure what to think of their joy and “see, I told you so’s.” There are undeniably scores of people who heard the Gospel at WC and came to know Jesus as Savior. I rejoice over the Holy Spirit’s work in their hearts – even as I questioned much of their theology.
    NEWS FLASH – Seeker sensitive or “contemporary” worship is not going away because of this – if you think so, you are sadly mistaken.
    How they feed and mature the flock will surely change – and that is a good thing, wouldn’t you agree? Even as I disagree with much of their theology of discipleship, I truly admire their willingness to admit their mistakes.

  2. Phil
    October 31st, 2007 at 20:59 | #2

    “Our dream is that we fundamentally change the way we do church.”
    Clearly they admit that they made a mistake, but that sentence makes me wonder whether they’ll replace “seeker-sensitive” tactics with something better or just something equally bad yet different–something that will, once again, seem OK to a lot of people at first glance.

  3. the other David
    October 31st, 2007 at 21:23 | #3

    Surely they’ll assemble a focus-group and see what it is they need to do in order to market their new findings and salvage their brand identity. Maybe they should read “Become a better you” by Joel Osteen.

  4. wcwirla
    November 1st, 2007 at 02:50 | #4

    As Jesus’ parable of the four-fold soil indicates, the noon day heat of persecution will reveal the depth of the implanted Word. Given the cultural tides, it’s a good thing they realized now that Willow Creek soil is shallow.

  5. Erich Heidenreich, DDS
    November 1st, 2007 at 06:55 | #5

    This is from Bob Burney’s editorial column posted at townhall.com on Tuesday:
    Quote:
    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 he’s asking us to transform this planet.”
    Isn’t 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.
    Unquote

  6. the other David
    November 1st, 2007 at 15:55 | #6

    I can’t decide if it’s funny or if it’s tragic that suggesting to a “church” that they actually follow the bible comes to them as some sort of radical new concept or last resort. The problem with these “seeker sensitive” churches is that they aren’t really doing what their “seeker sensitive” name implies since the bible makes it clear who the seeker is (Romans 3:11). Since when has a dead man ever sought anything other than rotting? Someone who can provide life MUST be the one to seek the dead, the dead cannot seek anything. The correct title for them should be “The lost friendly Church” or even more accurate would be “A Comfortable, stench free Tomb”.

  7. Joseph Siegel
    November 1st, 2007 at 21:14 | #7

    “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 he’s asking us to transform this planet.”
    Bonhoeffer’s response: “Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it. But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves…God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians which his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly. He stands adamant, a living reproach to all others in the circle of brethren. He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds men together. When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure. When his ideal picture is destroyed, he sees the community going to smash. So he becomes, first the accuser of his brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself…(et.al.)”
    Anyone have a spare copy of Life Together we can send these folks?

  8. November 2nd, 2007 at 06:22 | #8

    “…admire their willingness to admit their mistakes”
    What to admire about people who have made mistakes based on a lack of understanding of how people become deeper Christians? So what if they apologize? Have they changed their theology? People become deeper Christians by hearing God’s Word, both the law and the gospel. Jesus promises us strengthening of faith through the Word and the Sacraments.
    A few years ago I left my conservative ELCA church as it underwent a transformation, at the hand of Bill Hybels, to a seeker-sensitive megachurch complete with reformed children’s curriculum. This transformation also included a HUGE bank note, because “God” had told our pastor to build it and they will come. Five years later, many pledges are unfulfilled and people are grumbling. Who will pay the bank?

  9. November 18th, 2007 at 15:53 | #9

    The Truth About REVEAL
    Friends,
    I’m thrilled to see the high level of interest and energy behind the blogosphere comments about REVEAL. But I’ve read enough postings to think that it might be helpful to provide a few facts on three issues that keep coming up. Trust me. I’m not into “spin control” here. I just want to fill in some gaps.
    1. It’s Not About Willow
    • REVEAL’s findings are based on thirty churches besides Willow. In all thirty churches, we’ve found the six segments of REVEAL’s spiritual continuum, including the Stalled and Dissatisfied segments. And these churches aren’t all Willow clones. We’ve surveyed traditional Bible churches, mainline denominations, African-American churches and churches representing a wide range of geographies and sizes. Right now we’re fielding the survey to 500 additional churches, including 100 international churches. So, while REVEAL was born out of a Willow research project in 2004, the findings are not exclusive to Willow Creek.
    2. Willow Repents?
    • The first blog started with this question, and the answer is “yes”. But repenting is not a new experience for us. We’ve made a number of major course corrections over the years – like adding a big small group ministry for the thousands of new Christians coming to faith at Willow, and adding a mid-week service for our Christ-followers. We’ve always been a church in motion and REVEAL is just another example of Willow trying to be open to God’s design for this local church.
    3. Is Willow Re-thinking its Seeker Focus?
    • Simple answer – no. My boss would say that Willow is not just seeker-focused. We are seeker-obsessed. The power of REVEAL’s insights for our seeker strategy is the evangelistic strength uncovered in the more mature segments. If we can serve them better, the evangelistic potential is enormous, based on our findings.
    I hope this was helpful. In any event, I’m enjoying following the dialogue. Keep it up! And let me know if you have any questions you’d like me to address.
    Greg Hawkins

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