Willow Creek Community Church, one of America's biggest and
most prominent churches, recently released a short book called Reveal:
Where Are You? The book contains the results of a comprehensive
study that Willow Creek conducted among their own members and among
members of other churches that use their model. Pastor Bill Hybels has
said that the results of that study are "earth-shaking,"
In a nutshell, the survey results showed that heavy
involvement in the church programs and activities of Willow Creek did
not necessarily translate to spiritual growth and maturity. Findings
like these have caused the church leaders to stand up and admit, "We
made a mistake."
I have to tell you, that is historic. Can you remember the
last time a church leader said anything like that? I can't, and I am
very proud of Bill Hybels. He and his leaders deserve a Christian
profile in courage award, and I will nominate him.
Bill Hybels understands the problem that the Church is in
today. It is into therapy, but it needs to teach doctrine and grow
people in the faith. That is why, by the way, I have written a new book
to be released in February titled The Faith Given Once, for All,
a book Hybels has enthusiastically endorsed.
We have discovered the same thing here at Prison
Fellowship—that we cannot just lead inmates to Christ and then not see
their lives transformed. So, we have looked hard at what we are doing
and whether we are really making disciples—are we transforming people?
We, too, have confessed that we could be doing a lot better. And so, we
have revised our vision statement and made fundamental changes in the
way we work.
I think the lesson that the Willow Creek leaders have
learned, and the courage they are showing, constitute a challenge and a
warning for all Christians. We cannot let ourselves get caught up in a
"just-get-'em-in-the-doors" mentality, no matter how attractive and
effective it looks. It can too easily lead to the watering-down of the
Gospel, to a "feel-good" faith, and to believers having little impact
in society. As the authors of the book, Willow Creek staffers Greg
Hawkins and Cally Parkinson, put it in their introduction: "The health
of your church is not just about the numbers. It's about the movement
of people toward Christ, toward deep love for God and genuine love for
Bill Hybels's example should challenge us all, especially
pastors and those in positions of leadership, to take a long, hard look
at what we are doing and ask whether it is really changing lives. We
all need to improve. Christians today are just like the culture. We
need to be transformed and then turn around and transform the world
During the Reformation, the reformers had a phrase for this
spirit. It was called semper reformandi, or always reforming.
The more we continue to understand that we have not arrived, and the
more willing we are to adopt the humble approach that we and our
churches are in need of continual reformation, the more our churches
and lives will come to reflect the God we preach.
I am cheering Willow Creek on. Think what could happen if,
instead of tickling ears, all the churches gave the people real meat.
Then there might be hope for America after all, as serious disciples
are equipped to defend their faith and take their places in our