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ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM - WHAT IS WRONG WITH BILL HYBELS AND WILLOW CREEK CHURCH?

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The stated mission of Willow Creek Community Church (WCCC) in South Barrington Chicago is: “to turn irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ." Willow Creek Church is a mega-church seating 7,095 people inside the main auditorium building. They claim that more than 20,000 people worship at one of their six regional campuses each weekend. The Willow Creek Association (WCA) claims to be an international, evangelical Christian association of more than 9,000 member churches from 90 denominations and 45 countries.

Bill Hybels founded the church on the marketing ideas of Peter Drucker who successfully applied them to business management before directing his attention towards the mega-church. Rick Warren, Bill Hybels and Bob Buford were all mentored by Peter Drucker and all three of them seem to have been almost mesmerized by him. Drucker plainly denied being a “born again” Christian and was heavily influenced by the mysticism of Kierkegaard (http://apprising.org).

The desire of Willow Creek is to attract “customers” to the church with the market-driven seeker -sensitive model, and numerically this has been extremely successful. After surveying the community, Hybels designed his Sunday morning services to meet the “felt needs” of non-believers with programmes and entertainment, his focus being on “personal fulfillment”. There are problems biblically with this method because the perceived needs of people are often not what God defines as their real need i.e. salvation. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55/9) The seeker-sensitive method avoids offending people with the core message of the gospel - the seriousness of sin, repentance and eternal punishment. Instead it is based upon self-esteem rather than self-denial and personal fulfillment rather than on repentance of sins, in other words it is all about the individual rather than Jesus Christ. The seeker sensitive approach is a method that promotes men-pleasing as against God-pleasing. (1 Thessalonians 2/4) The danger is that this method produces false converts because attendees of seeker-sensitive churches have never repented of their sins and believed the gospel message in its entirety (Colossians 1/25).

Though there is the possibility of unbelievers coming into the Christian assembly (1 Corinthians 14/23), “meeting together” is primarily about the uniting together of believers: When you [believers] come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. (1 Corinthians 14/26) Willow Creek has reversed the biblical command to be separate by bringing unbelievers into the Christian assembly en masse. This is the diametric opposite of God’s will. Lack of in depth teaching and mutual edification is the result which is deadly in the present spiritual climate. The spiritual growth of any true believers is stunted at best, and at worst they are vulnerable to dangerous false teaching which endangers their salvation. Jesus Christ repeated twice to Peter: “Feed my sheep” (John 21/16-17). So I exhort the elders among you……..to shepherd {guard, guide, tend, care for} the flock of God that is among you (1 Peter 5/2). The clear biblical directive to pastors is to prioritise the sheep, Jesus Christ being the supreme example who laid down his very life for the sheep (1 John 3/16). It is the responsibility of the church to evangelise giving the full gospel message, whether popular or not, and to leave the consequences to God. Many people were added to the Lord soon after the judgement of God fell upon Ananias and Sapphira – not very seeker-sensitive! ….. more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women. (Acts 5/1-14) And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2/47) The numbers are clearly God’s concern, not ours.

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WILLOW CREEK STATEMENT OF FAITH

The church bases its belief on the Bible, asserting it to be inspired by God,

· There is one God, eternally existing in three persons— Father, Son, and Holy Spirit— each possessing all the attributes of Deity.inerrant, infallible, and the final authority on matters which it covers.

· Humans were created by God to have fellowship with Him, but due to their rejection of God, they need His saving grace, which must be received by repentance and faith, in order to end the separation from Him.

· Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth and then voluntarily paid for the sin of humans with His death on the cross. This payment offers salvation for those who believe in Jesus. He rose from the dead and is the mediator between us and God. Christ will return to the earth to consummate history.