~Hot Topics~ Willow Creek Repents

Hi Girls,

I came across an article and I would love to chat about it with you. I think it’s relevant to our day and important for us to look at.
You can read the article in it’s entirety HERE.

In a nutshell, it is a study on the effectiveness of the many programs of the mega-church style churches.

“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 Willow’s 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 that’s how we do it in churches. We measure levels
of participation.”

Through this study, they have come to realize that they have been wrong.

Bill Hybels 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.

He goes on to confess:

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.

I can say that I am thrilled they have come to this conclusion!

Revelations 3:15-17
“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor
hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are
lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 17
Because you say,’I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ — and
do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked —

NKJV

This may be a little toe stepping, but I’m willing to take the risk that all of us need reminding of this- including me!

I believe that it is time for Christians to stop playing the church game.

Are we living for Him or just joining a country club?

This world is not going to get any brighter ASIDE from the light that you and I shed by the Lord inside of us.

It’s time to live this thing. Really live for Him. No more walking the fence, thinking we’re fine if we attend church on Sundays. He doesn’t want to be part of our life, He wants to BE our life- because He IS life!

What do you think?

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Comments

  1. Dust-bunny says:

    Because of a pastor I saw on television over two years ago who now pastors the largest congregation in America, my life was saved. Literally and figuratively. So that mega-church may not work for everyone (and all of it wasn't easy for me to swallow in the beginning, being that I was brought up quietly catholic), but because that humble pastor was able to come into my living room even though he's thousands of miles away, I was able to finally learn how to use and understand scripture in my life. And because my friends and family saw the change in me, some of them were able to get a new faith in God, also. No screaming, condemning preacher demanding our money was going to reach me or my family. Not the way we were brought up. But someone who gets choked up while talking about his beloved dad in front of millions and is willing to let his vulnerable, human side show got us to believe. He got us to read the bible. He brought us back to church…a new church. He helped us to understand that we are human and will need to be forgiven because we are not perfect. And most of all, he gave me hope when I had absolutely none…and to me, he was the answer to a prayer.Why people call this man the anti-Christ is beyond me. He brought at least ten people I know back to their faith in Jesus. I honestly don't see what's wrong with that. …As a matter of fact, if it weren't for him two years ago, I would not be visiting or enjoying your blog today, and that's the truth, lol!!God bless you

  2. Sue @ praise & c says:

    Thanks so much for the testimony dust-bunny!I assure you, no one here will be calling anyone the anti-christ. There won't be any church bashing allowed. The point I want to make is that if we are going to grow, we can't count on a program at church to do it. My life never changed until I opened the Bible for myself. It's what we do when we're not at church that impacts our everyday life.Love ya,Sue

  3. Molly Coddled says:

    Sue,I read that same article last night and was really happy that 1. they could see the mistakes they were making and 2. they were willing to confess publicly they were wrong.They have had a tremendous impact on the churches in my area, so many follow the Willow Creek paradigm. It's time for them to follow the Bible and let God build His church.Bill Hybels has said some great, Godly things before but "we were wrong" is his best yet.

  4. Sue @ praise & c says:

    I agree Molly Coddled, he definitely gained some points in my book on that one. Shows a lot of character!

  5. I love this post. About 4 years ago a very close friend of mine (the kind that no matter how long you are apart you instantly connect when you are together again) moved away. I was so upset with God. I felt this was the first female friend I have ever connected so closely with that I could bare my heart with and now she was being taken out of my day to day life. How unfair! Well after feeling sorry for myself and crying at the drop of a hat (which is so not like me) for about a week God showed me something sooooo valuable…I was going to her with all of my problems and although she always pointed me to scripture I was putting her in between God and me. God revealed to me that when a problem arose in my life I was first going to all my "worldy" resourses before coming to him in prayer and through his Word. I am so thankful for a minister that stresses you don't need anymore "bible studies" you need to "study your bible". You need to compare everything you hear from the pulpit, and anywhere else, against the Word of God for yourself and listen to what God is telling you. If it doesn't sound right, it is problably the Holy Spirit prompting you to check it out for yourself.I should add that neither my pastor nor I am not against bible studies. I love them for keeping myself accountable to be digging deeper. But if the bible study doesn't get you in the Bible then it isn't serving it's purpose. No one should allow themselves to be spoon fed by anyone.Thank you for posting this.Smiles!

  6. Our pastor always talks about how the church is NOT programs, but relationships. After being a part of this church for 6 years I have seen the impact that a relationship with Christ and with each other has really made a difference. What I am most thankful for is how this has impacted my kids who are 18 and 21. They have been able to see how a good, healthy church functions.

  7. Sue @ praise & c says:

    Great words Jennifer…"you don't need anymore "bible studies" you need to "study your bible". "I should add that neither my pastor nor I am not against bible studies"So true- Bible study is wonderful if we take it to our hearts and really apply it to our lives!Thanks!

  8. Sue @ praise & c says:

    Thanks Judy for the input and testimony!!!

  9. I have always preferred smaller churches. Why? Because everyone knows everyone, everyone is accountable. It feels more like a "FAMILY" than these big churches where you might know a few families. As for participation, of course it's important. But you're right- churches are NOT country clubs. They are a place to go and worship the Lord with your fellow saints. If it's all about "who shows up", then it's wrong. Bible studies and other participation should be done in earnest, with a view to seek God and understand Him more. I think churches should not focus on "numbers". They should focus on God's word. THat, in and of itself, should be the way to call people to God.

  10. Susan Kelly Skitt says:

    Yes, Sue. Amen. Christ is our life… that means everyday, inside out, upside down, right side up. I'm glad to hear this too…

  11. ~Just A Thought Ging says:

    I could say plenty about small churches and big churches. I've been apart of both my entire life. It is soooo not the building or the programs, but what you choose to do with the spoken Word.Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word.Every single church out there is going to fail us in one way or another. God just wants our open hearts, yet instructs us to not forsake the gathering of the brethern.No matter what church a person chooses, it's a ONE ON ONE WITH JESUS that counts in the end.

  12. I read this article last week and my first response was "wow"! For a high profile church to admit they were wrong shows a lot of humility.I've been fortunate the church we have attended for the last 6 yrs has drilled in our heads "It's not about the program, it's about the hearts of the people". We do need to be training people to be in the Word for ourselves. But I would like to also say that programs aren't all bad either. In Women's Ministry we have used them. Why invent the wheel when there is something out there that can give you guidelines and ideas? It's just when the "program" becomes "gospel" that it gets dangerous. We have started a mentoring ministry using a program to help us get it off the ground. But the mentoring will be about training the women toward developing a life that intentionally mentors – not staying with a program.Hummm…did I make sense???

  13. Sue @ praise & c says:

    Sharon,Yes you do make sense, and I agree. I'm a huge believer in women's ministry and small groups etc, but if we just "attend" these things and don't bring it home with us, we miss the whole point. Amen?!

  14. amen. 🙂

  15. What I find sad is that SOOOO MANY churches have followed Willow Creek as their "MODEL"…and it has been a model not based on the Word of God! It is wonderful that they are showing such humility, and saying they are wrong. HUGE!If we believers are really in the Word, and are seeking out what we are called to do…and doing it…there would be no need for "programs" because we would just be doing what we are supposed to be doing. WE'd be reaching out, teaching, ministering, discipling, sharing Christ. It would be just who we are. (In an ideal world, I guess!) It wouldn't have to be an "organized something" because it would just be natural. You know what I mean? It would save the church a lot of money (they could support more missionaries?). If we look at the NT church we will see how far we really are from the original intent. Just some thoughts.Oh, yes. And I'd LOVE to get a Christmas card from "Sue @ praise and coffee"! I'll frame it, and put it on my frig, and EVERYTHING! You are just one of my new friends that I check in with most days!!God Bless!

  16. One more thought….I wonder if so many have followed the WC model, because they want church "growth" (numbers) rather than church GROWTH (holiness in lifestyle, spiritually growing people) Often times "God's blessing" is measured in how many people attend our churches…or how much money a church is bringing in. SAD!!!

  17. Sue @ praise & c says:

    Gina, Very interesting! I have talked about the same thing in regards to things like- homes for young unwed moms or shelters for women. If we were all doing what we should and taking in those who needed homes, there would not be a need for these kinds of places.Just a thought!Email me your address and I will send you a Christmas card for sure!

  18. Monkey Giggles says:

    A daily surrender..a daily building my relationship with my Lord. That's what it's all about. I don't think anyone and/or "program" can build my relationship with Him. Spending much time in prayer, daily reading, learning and most importantly applying His word is what builds a relationship. Don't get me wrong. I love my church and my church family. I enjoy and take part in some of the ministries. However, when I go home it is me and Jesus. What I have done with Him. What I have learned and applied to my life to be what He has designed me to be. Sue, thank you for posting this.

  19. Dear Sue,I really admire you for bringing this topic up. Let's chat.I know here in America, most people are drawn to the big churches. Most people want the programs, entertainment, etc. I guess there is a time and a season for these young Christians, just coming out of the world. But then there is a time for growing up…a time we get off the milk and starting eating the meat. A time when our lives and desires become LESS, so He came become MORE in our lives.Yes, I think Paul said it best when he said, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." It's all about Jesus, really what would He want?So what is the goal of our faith?The salvation of our souls…1 Peter 1:8Sorry for my little sermon!Susan

  20. Bev Brandon says:

    thanks for sharing about that article which was new to me…my faithful husband was terminated from his church staff job last year because of lack of church growth (we had 800) after 27 years on the same staff…this was an awesome church of people we dearly love that wants to make an impact and we respected their decision but it was hard…God orchestrated it to get me to such a better place with Him so I wouldn't trade what happened for anything but it has made me ask some hard questions about what church is all about and how real change happens…there is no higher agenda than to reveal Jesus Christ…Gal 4:19 says that Christ be formed in us…church isn't about just living a moral life or finding community in a small group…our greatest need is a fresh encounter with Christ that exposes how we have tried to make life work on our own…how very humble for WC to say that they were wrong…I think God smiles down on that statement…Hybels is a broken man who encounters his good God and that changes everything…

  21. Sue @ praise & c says:

    Susan, preach it sister! Thanks for chatting. Bev, what wonderful-powerful words, thank you!

  22. ~Java Mama~ says:

    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.Praise God… I know that it must have taken a considerable amount of humility for this man to come foward with his findings. I truly believe that God can use and is using these "mega" churches but I pray that the sheperds of them would rely more heavily on the word and power of God rather than on their own ideas and plans, that they would all examine themselves and that they would first seek His kingdom. I pray that Hybel will earnestly search the scriptures and make some God honoring changes to lead his sheep closer to the cross of Christ and to show them how to feed themselves.As for me personally… I need to repent of my own failures to joyfully making others glad in God. I am realizing that I am being idle in my calling as a Christian and I so desire for a new heart in loving others and leading them to the Saviour.

  23. Thanks for the article, I had not seen this yet. The comments here are GREAT! Thanks to all the ladies and especially you Sue.

  24. Rachelle G. says:

    I'm just as thrilled as you are. For a long time, I've been lamenting the fact that all the church programs in the world still don't seem to be connecting people deeply to the Gospel and to one another. Thanks for sharing this article!

  25. holy chaos says:

    amen!

  26. Sue @ praise & c says:

    Your responses have been so thought provoking and I can tell that this is a subject near and dear to many hearts. Thanks to everyone for weighing in on this hot topic.

  27. happygeek says:

    I am continually amazed by the goodness of God. He works through all circumstances and allows us to learn and grow as we grow up in Him. Was WC all bad? Not at all. Is it filled with humans who sometimes try to do things the way they thought best, yes, as is all the church. I sometimes we as Christians are too quick to point out what is wrong with other's thinking rather than encouraging and building one another up. Thanks for your thoughts on how we all need to be in the word, it's not our church that causes us to grow, it is us abiding in Christ.

  28. toni in the midst says:

    >>>I’ve been lamenting the fact that all the church programs in the world still don’t seem to be connecting people deeply to the Gospel and to one another.< << I would have to agree with this statement. Having been raised in the Roman Catholic church (including grade school and high school), then attending a non-denominational church of 3,000, and most recently (until today) a small, conservative church of 300, I find the above comment to be true in all cases.
    Blessings,
    ~Toni~

  29. freetofly says:

    I very much agree with your post and with Hybells quote. We have to take owenership of our faith, get off the pew or bench and get on our knees and out in life serving, growing, etc. Our Pastor said something I have found to be true, when we go to church and hear a message – it should not be news to us…it should confirm what the Holy Spirit has been teaching us already…Bless you for going there!Maria

  30. Irritable Mother says:

    "He wants to BE our life, because He IS life."Amen, sister. Amen!

  31. It is kind of funny, because I got saved in what I thought was a HUGE church with about 400 people attending. Then I moved to the US and joined what went from 1000 people to 4000 people while I was there. I lost a lot of spiritual ground there. I was very busy, and doing a lot of studies, but I went backwards. Strange, huh?
    I am back in a small church now.

  32. I think the biggest thing our little church has going is the fact that we have been taught to walk it out everyday.We walk it out in love because we were first loved. The only way for others to come into contact with that love is for them to come face to face-on their own-with the ONE who will change them. They need Him.We all need HIM.

  33. Thank you for sharing this with us. I praise God they(willow creek) has grown closer to God through this. I know in our church and lots others there is always the temptation to add programs and activities, but that is not the answer. Daily living with the true living God is what it's about. It doesn't mean we're perfect, but God is gracious and patient as He works in our lives. A group of my friends from church have really started to have a burden to really demonstrate this to our kids by having family devotions together. There are six families and what a blessing to have all 28 of us from age 1 and up together learning the WORD together! It's not another activity, but it is living out the New Testament when the believers met frequently in homes and broke bread together. Thanks again and God bless!

  34. We can ALL fall into a rut of doing things a certain way – because it "seem" to work. I love this saying "sometimes the GOOD is the enemy of the BEST".Willow Creek has done a "good work" BUT it sounds like they want more.. they desire the BEST!!I bless and honor what Willow Creek has done and anticipate even greater fruit in their future!!