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Willow Creek confesses wasting millions on programs

Willow Creek is in many ways the flagship for the Evangelical megachurch model. It pioneered the seeker-sensitive, program-based way of doing church. Now, in the same way that, toward the end of his life, Dr. Spock issued a mea culpa, saying basically, “Heh, heh, sorry everyone who thought I wa…
By Seth Barnes

Willow Creek is in many ways the flagship for the Evangelical megachurch model. It pioneered the seeker-sensitive, program-based way of doing church. Now, in the same way that, toward the end of his life, Dr. Spock issued a mea culpa, saying basically, “Heh, heh, sorry everyone who thought I was an expert who knew what he was talking about, but my liberal way of raising children doesn’t work,” Willow Creek is coming clean about the ineffectiveness of its programmatic approach to discipling.

The good news is that they had the courage to conduct a comprehensive evaluation that showed this. The bad news is that the program-based model of disciple-making has become the de facto standard for a majority of American churches. Floyd McClung wrote a great blog about it:

Rarely I have been
more proud of a church leader than when Bill Hybels recently repented for doing
church the wrong way. I love Bill’s honesty and respect him even more than I did
before his repentance.

floydmcclungI also found his
confession deeply affirming. I have been endeavoring to teach, write, model and
call pastors and leaders and fellow believers to do simple church by focusing on
the basics.

Excellent
programming and systems was the Willow Creek claim to fame. What Bill Hybels did
was issue a public statement repenting for some of their leadership practices.
After an in-depth evaluation of the success of their programs they had concluded
that much of their programming had not resulted in true spiritual growth. Their
conclusion was that a church that builds a dependency on programs for
discipleship will ultimately fail.

Bill and the Willow Creek team concluded that
Bible study, prayer, discipleship and missional community are all practices that
must be instilled into people in a way that makes them depend on God for growth.
It always just comes back to the basics. You can’t program the basics, you have
to instill them into people through one-on-one personal discipleship in a small
community of outward focused people.

Reading about Bill’s
repentance confirmed to me that we are on the right track in emphasizing the
following three “basics” as the only foundation for training and discipling
leaders and workers in the kingdom:

1. Love for God by
cultivating a lifestyle of prayer, fasting and reading the Word

2. Love for each
other as members of the same community by intentionally investing and discipling
in one another

3. Love for those
who do not yet follow Jesus

I would like to
quote the following article from another website about the Willow Creek
Repentance to give you more background.

May god strengthen
us all in our commitment to live a life of simple yet focused obedience.

Click
here
to read the original article “Willow Creek Repents: Why the most
influential church in America now says ‘We made a mistake.'”

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