In a recent email [1st November 2007] from the ministry of Lighthouse Trails they identified some results from a survey carried out by the leaders of the Willow Creek Community Church [Senior Pastor – Bill Hybels]. Herewith are some extracts from that email –
The headlines on a Townhall.com article this week certainly catch the attention…The article talks about a survey Willow Creek performed and the findings of the survey. Townhall columnist Bob Burney explains:
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…”
Burney quotes Hybels who talks about what he feels Willow Creek should have been doing:
“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”.
Cecil’s comments: Shortly I will cite an example of how Willow Creek have obviously failed in this area of ‘discipleship’ in the life of one particular Willow Creek adherent but I want to say at this point that whilst Bill Hybels is correct in part that professing Christians have a responsibility to become what he calls ‘self-feeders’ there is also a God-given commission given to church elders to “Take Heed therefore unto yourselves and to all the flock over which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers to feed the Church of God which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock…men…speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch and remember” [Acts 20:28-30] – this feeding/fencing role of elders is also clearly identified in Ephesians 4:11-14 “And he gave some…pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man…that we henceforth be no more children tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men and cunning craftiness, by which they lie in wait to deceive”.
It is vital to note the clearly identified relationship between the necessity of sound teaching by the elders, pastor and teachers and how that sound teaching will then act as a guard against false doctrine and false teachers. Again I will show clearly that Willow Creek are failing their flock in this area of protection against false teachers and false doctrines.
Returning to the failed ‘discipleship’ of one Willow Creek adherent I want to refer to a musical that has been performed in the La Salle Bank Theatre in Chicago. It is called ‘Jersey Boys – The story of Franki Valli & The Four Season’. This particular group had many hit records during own my teenage years in the 1960’s – songs like ‘Rag Doll’ and ‘Sherry’ to name but two. In the programme guide for the show, under a heading of ‘Who’s Who’ there is this entry –
KRAIG McCREARY (Thug: Guitar) thanks God for life; and Mom, wife Christy, Austin and Jack for love and encouragement. Kraig has played on thousands of commercials; written, recorded, produced and arranged hundreds of recordings, and has been MD for Jonathan Brandmeier and WILLOW CREEK CHURCH. Show credits include Rent, Lion King and Movin’ Out’.
So here we have someone involved in the musical ‘Jersey Boys’, in both musical accompaniment and acting roles, (Thug: Guitar) who has publicly identified his clear link to the Willow Creek Church. How does this relate to what I have referred to as failed ‘discipleship’? Well, I can assure all readers, on the very best of authority, that no sensitive disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ could endure more than 10-15 minutes of this ‘musical’. From early on it is laced and littered with obscene, foul-mouthed and indeed blasphemous language. No maturing disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ could possibly be a party to such an offensive production yet sadly Kraig McCreary clearly has no difficulty in participating in such an unholy show. This is a real example of what was identified in the report of the failure of Willow Creek to produce ‘solid disciples of Jesus Christ’.
Having identified their failure in this respect are Willow Creek taking the right steps to redress this failing – not by the evidence of an upcoming [April 2008] conference that they are advertising for SHIFT 2008. Herewith are some extracts from their website –
Shift – April 9-11, 2008 Willow Creek Campus, South Barrington, IL
As the world of student ministry continues to shift and change, so do the needs of those who serve students. Recognising this, our team has designed an event that is unlike any other Student Ministries Conference we’ve ever hosted. SHIFT 2008 is about innovation: Rather than highlighting one specific model of ministry, we’ve invited some of the most innovative thinkers and leaders we could find and asked them to shape our experiences and discussions.
Wed. April 9: Main session: 9.00-10.30am
Fri: April 11 Main session: 11.15am-12.45pm
Willow Creek’s answer to their problem of failed ‘discipleship ‘ of young believers is to expose them at SHIFT 2008 to two of the leading proponents of what has been called ‘The Emerging Church’. Far from shielding them from ‘grievous wolves’ and ‘every wind of [false] doctrine’ Willow Creek is willingly opening their doors to such men and their ‘cunning craftiness’. On other articles on our website I have highlighted the gospel-destroying views of Brian McLaren who rejects as ‘divine child abuse’ the glorious truth at the heart of the Christian gospel – the truth of ‘penal substitution’ by Christ on the Cross of Calvary. As for Dan Kimball, Roger Oakland in his book exposing ‘the emerging church’ called ‘Faith Undone’ writes on pages 45-46 ‘If you listen to the emergent conversations long enough, you will hear a recurring theme: Christians are wrong to confront unbelievers head on with the Word of God…They often use Jesus as an example, saying, He did not confront people but always accepted them for who they were…Kimball refers to the story where Jesus is sitting near a well by Himself…and he talks to a Samaritan woman. Kimball alters the story by saying “He [Jesus] stopped and asked questions of the Samaritan woman and didn’t just jump in and say ‘Samaritans are all wrong’”. But Kimball is wrong, Jesus did the exact opposite! He didn’t ask her ANY questions and he confronted her straight on…The fact is Jesus did confront people with the truth’.
When it comes to making ‘sound disciples of Jesus Christ’ I’m afraid for Willow Creek it’s a case of out of the ‘seeker-sensitive frying pan’ and into ‘the emerging church fire’.
Cecil Andrews – ‘Take Heed’ Ministries – 13 November 2007
PS Further helpful information on both Brian McLaren and Dan Kimball can be accessed on these links –