An August 8, 2018 Christianity Today article titled Willow Creek Elders and Pastor Heather Larson Resign over Bill Hybels chronicles events that led to Willow Creek founder Bill Hybels’ resignation from the megachurch due to numerous women having come forth with accusations of years of sexual misconduct and abuse by Hybels. Because of the lackadaisical attitudes Willow Creek leadership has taken toward the victims of Hybels sexual abuse, the Christianity Today article states that the two current lead pastors have resigned followed by the entire board of Willow Creek stepping down.
The Christianity Today article leaves the impression that once Willow Creek gets rid of these leaders, elects a new board, and apologizes to the women, there will be a fresh “new start” for Willow Creek. However, there is more to this Willow Creek story than meets the eye, more to repent of than the cover up of sexual misconduct, and the Christianity Today article unknowingly alludes to it. The CT article states:
In the summer of 2008, Bill Hybels stood in front of thousands of pastors and other church leaders gathered at Willow Creek Community Church and admitted his megachurch had failed.
“We made a mistake,” he told the crowd gathered for the 2008 Global Leadership Summit (GLS). A detailed Willow study had found that the church had helped many people find new faith in Jesus, but had failed to teach them how to practice the spiritual disciplines needed to grow their faith.
Lighthouse Trails remembers when Bill Hybels came forth with this declaration. He had actually announced it earlier in 2007. At that time, headlines across Christian media blasted the news that Willow Creek had repented. Lighthouse Trails readers began contacting our editorial office asking if we heard the news that Willow Creek had repented. This led to our researchers digging a little deeper to get the full story on Willow Creek’s “repentance.” In November of 2007, we issued an article titled “No Repentance from Willow Creek – Only a Mystical Paradigm Shift.” Our article began:
Recently, headlines about Willow Creek filled the front pages of several online news outlets. The caption stated: “A Shocking Confession from Willow Creek Community Church.” Some wondered if Willow Creek’s pastor Bill Hybels was repenting from past errors in ministry techniques.1 But a Lighthouse Trails commentary showed that this “shocking confession” was actually a re-enforcement of Willow Creek’s efforts to “transform this planet” through contemplative and emerging spiritualities.
That earlier LT commentary stated:
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 churches, 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.”
Back then, Willow Creek had conducted a study to find out how they had failed as a ministry. The results of their study led Willow Creek to make a new more passionate commitment to taking their congregation into the emergent church via contemplative prayer practices (i.e., spiritual disciplines) as was clearly illustrated in the Fall 2007 issue of their magazine, where editors stated: “The landscape of our ministries is shifting. Brace yourself for the aftershocks.” The issue included the articles and teachings by numerous contemplative/emergent figures such as Richard Foster, Richard Rohr, Ruth Haley Barton, and John Ortberg (see more detail). There was no doubt about it after reading that issue of their magazine, Willow Creek’s repentance was basically saying, “We are changing the way we do things around here – we need to incorporate more of the contemplative, mystical element into our people’s lives.” And, yet, Christianity Today and other Christian media outlets made it look like a true biblical repentance was taking place at Willow Creek.
Since Willow Creek’s “repentance” in 2007, Lighthouse Trails has tracked much of what Willow Creek has been up to from Lynne Hybel’s anti-Israel efforts to the work by Hybel’s grown kids and kids-in-law to bring the contemplative prayer movement to full fruition at Willow Creek—and, of course, Bill Hybel’s own demise through his out-of-control sexual exploitations of women who worked for or with him.
To give an example of where Willow Creek is at today, we’d like to draw your attention to The Practice, a program started by Bill Hybel’s son-in-law, Aaron Niequist, in 2014 that takes place on Sunday nights at Willow Creek and specifically incorporates contemplative prayer practices. On The Practice website, it states:
The Practice is an experimental gathering where we immerse ourselves in God’s dream for humanity, practice the historic disciplines [i.e., contemplative meditation] that align us with His dream, and carry each other along the way.
While the headlines for a while will focus on the sexual-abuse accusations and the resignations and apologies that are following, there’s not much chance that you will see headlines discussing Willow Creek’s contemplative/emergent ways. Of course, you won’t. Virtually every major Christian media outlet (including Christianity Today) is either giving a pass to this mystical paradigm shift or is outright promoting it. If only the purpose-driven, Willow Creek, seeker-friendly, church-growth, dominionist “church of today” could see that it is on a mystical slippery slope to full apostasy, and while exposing sexual predators and helping victims is an important thing, the very nature of the “new spirituality” with a dependence on esoteric experiences instead of God’s Word and the power of the Holy Spirit, will not make people live more righteously and God pleasing but will, in fact, pull them deeper into darkness and sin because the source of those esoteric (contemplative) experiences are driven and led by the same source that deceived Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and not by the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. Thus, any “fruit” of such a “repentance” will be sour and harmful.
In spite of all that has been happening at Willow Creek, this year’s Global Leadership Summit still took place this week as is stated in a Religious News Service article. It was expected that over 400,000 around the world would participate. Christians today seem to need to have their ears tickled and their spiritual bellies filled, and the show must go on.
My brother & sister-in-law attend Willow. I’m a born again Roman Catholic, former nun who has attended an Evangelical Church for a time. I was called back to the Catholic Church by my Lord & Savior Jesus Christ. They both are good. I like the liturgical, and order of the Catholic Church. I’m 72, if I was younger I would enter the Contemplative Carmelite Order. I am becoming a lay Contemplative. I love prayer & meditation! St. Therese of the Child Jesus is my patron saint. God bless all!
Thank you for standing for the truth, for reporting your research to the public. Most of us live in a closed bubble where we don’t look and don’t have access to the truth because we don’t want to have access. Keep up the wonderful work of reporting truthfully.
Not only are emergents apostate, they are also anti-Israel, supporting Israel’s enemies instead, as is proven by the Christ at the Checkpoint conferences. Emergents believe the lies of Israel’s enemies instead of the Bible. Ignorance of scriture. Why don’t they read the Bible. I read 2 chapters in the a.m. and 2 in the evening; read from Genesis to Revelation yearly, praise the Lord. I learn something new daily.
Follower of the Nazarene
Amos 4:7-87 “I also withheld the rain from you when there were yet three months to the harvest; I would send rain on one city, and send no rain on another city; one field would have rain, and the field on which it did not rain would wither; 8 so two or three cities would wander to another city to drink water, and would not be satisfied; yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord… Amos 8:11-12: “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God, “when I will send a famine on the land— not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it. Exodus 24:12 “Come up to me on the mountain and wait there, that I may give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.” Psalm 37:34 Wait for the Lord and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off.
Follower of the Nazarene
Joel 1:4-14: What the cutting locust left, the swarming locust has eaten. What the swarming locust left, the hopping locust has eaten, and what the hopping locust left, the destroying locust has eaten. Awake, you drunkards, and weep, and wail, all you drinkers of wine, because of the sweet wine, for it is cut off from your mouth. For a nation has come up against my land, powerful and beyond number; its teeth are lions’ teeth, and it has the fangs of a lioness. It has laid waste my vine and splintered my fig tree; it has stripped off their bark and thrown it down; their branches are made white. Lament like a virgin wearing sackcloth for the bridegroom of her youth. The grain offering and the drink offering are cut off from the house of the Lord… Be ashamed, O tillers of the soil; wail, O vinedressers, for the wheat and the barley, because the harvest of the field has perished. The vine dries up; the fig tree languishes… Put on sackcloth and lament, O priests; wail, O ministers of the altar. Go in, pass the night in sackcloth, O ministers of my God! Because grain offering and drink offering are withheld from the house of your God. Consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders… cry out to the LORD!
Usher in The Kingdom of God on earth before Christ returns. The arrogance of men. I have been accused of being afraid for not wanting to go through the Tribulation. Today Christians in many parts of the world are being killed for their faith in our savior. Some are beaten, some made slaves some burned alive. Satan like a roaring lion is trying to wipe out Christianity. Satan will not win. The Lord Jesus, maybe today, will come for His Bride and take us Home. Trust The Lord today. NOW is the time.
T. I. Miller
As Jesus said in his rebuke to Peter, ” Get thee behind me….” Many pastors have in mind the things of man not the things of God. Eph. 4 explains what God requires of every pastor, to protect the flock from deception. Yet the traditions of men would have you believe pastor are to do everything but that. No explicit scriptures says they should be the same as the leadership elder. Pastors are grouped with Apostles, prophets and evangelists but never with elders and deacons. I believe, protestants borrowed this tradition from the RCC.
This dominionist centered thought will lead them to help usher in antichrist, believing him to be the savior or a reasonable facsimile there of.
I wondered from the out set why Willow Creek had a woman as a lead pastor and women on the elder board. If I’m not mistaken, the Bible indicates that the roles of pastor and elder are to be filled by men. It seems that the pastors and elders were wholly enamored by Bill Hybels, and not so much by the Word of God. Which of course would lend them all to be easily led down the garden path of mysticism and contemplative spirituality. Lack of discipleship indeed.
This is a very clever work by the devil on how to bring down once a Christian body. The Catholic church started these practices long before and we know what’s happening to them. Lord help us
Most of the churches today just do not get it. Even with all the sin abounding in these emergent churches most Christians do not see the need to depart from the Spiritual Disciplines, New-Age mysticism, Dominionism, etc. So sad to see this horrific apostasy from God’s Word.