A Shocking “Confession” from Willow Creek Community Church

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A Commentary

The headlines on a Townhall.com article this week certainly catch the attention: “A Shocking ‘Confession’ from Willow Creek Community Church.”The article talks about a survey Willow Creek performed and the findings of the survey:

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.

Hybels explains 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.

This may sound quite noble to most that Hybels now realizes he should have been telling congregants to read their Bibles, but what are these “spiritual practices” that people should do “more aggressively on their own”? Will they be the meditative practices that are already incorporated into Willow Creek through their spiritual formation curriculum that contemplatives Ruth Haley Barton and John Ortberg created for WC? While WC may revise some of their big corporation, church-growing tactics and programs to accommodate the survey’s revelations, it isn’t too likely they will be getting rid of their spiritual formation emphasis. After all, spiritual practices (or disciplines) is what is at the heart of spiritual formation (with meditation at the forefront). Still remaining on their site is their Solitude page with recommended resources by contemplatives Henri Nouwen and Dallas Willard. And countless other such resources can be found on the WC website, including many from emerging leaders such as Erwin McManus and Brian McLaren.

What is Willow Creek’s motive in wanting to make these changes? The Townhall article reveals a glimpse of that:

Perhaps the most shocking thing of all in this revelation coming out of Willow Creek is in a summary statement by [WC executive pastor] 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.

It is no new thing that Willow Creek wishes to “transform the planet.” They are part of the emerging spirituality that includes Rick Warren and many other major Christian leaders who believe the church will usher in the kingdom of God on earth before Christ returns. This dominionist, kingdom-now theology is literally permeating the lecture halls of many Christian seminaries, and mysticism is the propeller that keeps its momentum. If Willow Creek hopes to transform the planet, they won’t be able to get rid of the focus on the mystical (i.e., contemplative). Their new Fall 2007 Catalog gives a clear picture of where their heart lies, with resources offered by New Age proponent Rob Bell, contemplative author Keri Wyatt Kent, and the Ancient Future Conference with emerging leaders Scot McKnight and Alan Hirsch as well as resources by Ruth Haley Barton and John Ortberg.

Time will tell what Willow Creek intends to do about strengthening its focus on “spiritual practices” and “transform[ing] the planet,” but if what they have been doing over the last couple decades is any indication, it will only further the cause to unite the world through meditation and a false global peace. And in case some are thinking right now, “Well, let’s give them a chance to show how they are changing for the good,” take a look at the upcoming Shift conference presented by Willow Creek next Spring. Resources for the event include those by atonement denier Brian McLaren as well as emerging/mystic leaders Mark Yaconelli, Scot McKnight, Dan Kimball, and Shaine Claiborne. It is becoming more and more apparent that Willow Creek’s “shocking confession” falls quite short of the truth. Under the guise of telling congregants to read their Bibles more is a paradigm shift that is anything but biblical and should be avoided at all costs.
Related Articles:

Read Faith Undone for documented information on the kingdom-now plan of the emerging church.

Willow Creek Leadership Summit Speaker Promotes Mysticism

Pentecost 2007 … A Step Closer to Global Unity … A Step Further From Gospel Truth

A Line Has Been Crossed … No Turning BackConference ALERT: Arts Conference 2007 (Willow Creek)

More research on Willow Creek

Bible Prophecy on Trial

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