I visited Bill Hybels’ Willow Creek Church while I was living in Chicago in the late 90’s. And while it is always dangerous and unwise to criticize a ministry you have little firsthand knowledge about, I remember thinking, “This is fantastic for the unchurched…but what are they doing for the believers?”
I asked this to one of the church leaders, and he told me the church had Saturday and Wednesday night services for the maturing believers, as well as small groups, and leadership training tracks.
At the time, I felt this was satisfactory.
But guess what? Bill Hybels now says that it isn’t working.
EDIT (2011): When I originally wrote this post, I had a video from Bill Hybels. That video has now been pulled off the internet because Bill Hybels said he was misunderstood. Maybe he was… Either way, here is a video from one of his staff members from about the same time:
Bill Hybels and Willow Creek published a book about their findings, and you can read all about it in Reveal.
I have great respect for Bill Hybels for admitting (thirty years into ministry!) that what he and Willow Creek have been doing is not working. I truly hope that they can make the necessary changes.
The lesson for the rest of us is to make sure we are learning from this. How are we doing in training our people to feed on the Word for themselves? How are we doing in helping people learn to follow Jesus? How many of the people in our church are trained well enough, that they themselves could train others also (2 Tim 2:2)?
If you have a website or a blog which shows how your church (or a church you know) is teaching and training believers to be fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ, please post these links in the comments section below.