Chicago Tribune Highlights the Current Apologies at Willow Creek

Here’s the link. My guess is that they know they have messed up. I believe the victims of Bill Hybels. I also believe that Bill Hybels has some serious personal issues that have been allowed to go on for years without caring leaders confronting him honestly.

Elders and pastors at Willow Creek Community Church issued public apologies this weekend about the church’s handling of allegations of misconduct against its founder, Bill Hybels.

Steve Carter, the lead teaching pastor of the South Barrington megachurch, said on his personal blog Friday night that he told church elders he believed the church had mishandled allegations against Hybels and the subsequent investigation of those claims.

He said he had “personally reached out to and connected with several of the victims” to hear their stories and apologize for the way they and their families have been treated.

“I recognize that I am not blameless in this,” he said. “I take full responsibility for my actions that contributed to the injustice that was done to these women.”

On Saturday night, lead pastor Heather Larson followed suit and delivered a separate apology from the pulpit.


Comments

Chicago Tribune Highlights the Current Apologies at Willow Creek — 134 Comments

  1. Granting the benefit of the doubt it is entirely possible that some of the staff honestly did not believe all the stories and honestly thought Hybels was being lied about and it is possible that they are now convinced and are doing the right thing for the right reasons.

    It is also possible that a church that size is worth to them whatever it takes to keep it going and they will say whatever needs to be said to do that. In this category would perhaps be some who believed the stories but who felt that most of what he did was not all that bad, and they now see that they have to take it more seriously if for no other reason than to stay in business.

    Either way, it is good to see this happening, especially as an example for other churches in similar circumstances.

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  2. From @Dee’s post: “I also believe that Bill Hybels has some serious personal issues that have been allowed to go on for years without caring leaders confronting him honestly.”

    With the post and the previous recent post about the pastor rubbing men’s and boys’ feet, apparently there are a number of pastors with “some serious personal issues that have been allowed to go on for years without caring leaders confronting him honestly.”

    Pastors (Savage, Tchividjian, Hybels, etc.) as well as others (Nassar, Weinstein, Cosby, etc.) with serious personal issues is a thing now.

    These men all have power, image, access, means, followers, enablers, cover-up, and foremost: pride or preoccupation with self.

    “There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an atrocity to Him:
    Haughty eyes [pride or preoccupation with self], a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans [fantasies], feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.” Proverbs 6:16-19.

    They are full of themselves, they lie – deceitful – about what they do, prey upon the innocent, devise evil sexual fantasies, entrap their objects (victims), lie about the witnesses and label them as liars – gas lighting, and then wreak havoc among their following or in the church in the aftermath. And accordingly, God hates this. Do we, as followers of Jesus, hate this? I hope we do.

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  3. Larson: “I want you all to know I never thought the allegations were all lies,” she said. “I should have jumped in and declared that personally right away. I believe Bill had interactions that were hurtful to these women. That is wrong and I hope and pray that some day this can be made right.”

    ====

    She should step down.

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  4. ___

    Dark Shadows On The Horizon : “Will Current Apologies Net The Stemming Of Dwindling Willow Creek Brand Marketing Successes, Perhaps?”

    hmmm…

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=FgdE-qPv6kw

    #MeToo ripples strike yet again?
    Broke Willow Creek’s widdle brand?

    ♪♩♪♩hum, hum, hum…post @ #MeToo, that’s the name and away goes trouble, down the drain?

    Venerable elders and pastors at ‘Willow Creek Community Church’ ™ among savere brand losses issued public apologies this weekend about the church’s handling of allegations of misconduct against its now nationally discredited Willow Creek Church founder, Bill Hybels, and its apparent subsequent four year long cover-up?

    The losses must be profoundly severe, and piling up, huh?

    Q. Has Willow Creek’s 501c3 Church environment become so toxic that Christian men and women will think twice about interacting with one another for fear of another #MeToo scandal?

    Q. Will the current board be forced to step down?

    Q. Will they finally trade Hybills’ proverbially strange kingdom for a taste of Christ’s kingdom, perhaps?

    could b.

    Stay tuned…

    SKreeeeetch!

    “My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure…” -The Almighty; Isaiah 46:10

    “…with God all things are possible.” -Jesus

    *

    The Almighty certainly has His hands full.

    ATB

    Sòpy

    ;~)

    Notes:
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=BPLm3OdRpZs
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=gjbj-Hdz-ik

    ;~)

    – –

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  5. jyjames: God hates this. Do we, as followers of Jesus, hate this?

    Until the pew hates what God hates, the pulpit will continue to disappoint us. The cult of personality would not exist in church if the pew didn’t enable it. Charlatans would have no stage, if they didn’t have an audience cheering them on.

    Bill Hybels ‘was’ Willow Creek … Hybels is done. Willow Creek is down the creek without their paddle. The disappointed, deceived and disillusioned are leaving. If they had been following Jesus, not a man, they wouldn’t be in this predicament. The end result of seeker-friendly is not friendly at all. Those who seek God, find Him, not a man. Those that found a man are left in the wake of his failure.

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  6. Max: If they had been following Jesus, not a man, they wouldn’t be in this predicament. The end result of seeker-friendly is not friendly at all.

    On point and in brief. The truth took the stairs but ended up right on top. (Lies took the elevator.)

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  7. Max: The cult of personality would not exist in church if the pew didn’t enable it. Charlatans would have no stage, if they didn’t have an audience cheering them on.

    Which is why if you go there and sit among the fans, and know you are not a fan, then you realize you don’t belong there. End of story.

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  8. The pew needs to regain its position as collectively being in authority and the preacher being called to serve, not ceo, the church.

    Until we in the pew repent of that we cannot expect much from the pulpit.

    Just my humble opinion.

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  9. Why am I suspicious? It’s like kids who were making 50 in my class saying, “If you only give me a 70 this trading period, I’ll never miss turning in a paper and will study.” A week or two later they are missing 3-4 assignments.

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  10. Max: Until the pew hates what God hates, the pulpit will continue to disappoint us.The cult of personality would not exist in church if the pew didn’t enable it.Charlatans would have no stage, if they didn’t have an audience cheering them on.

    The responsibility for these narcissistic leaders lies not only in themselves but in those who willingly enable them.

    Bill Hybels ‘was’ Willow Creek … Hybels is done.Willow Creek is down the creek without their paddle.The disappointed, deceived and disillusioned are leaving.If they had been following Jesus, not a man, they wouldn’t be in this predicament.The end result of seeker-friendly is not friendly at all.Those who seek God, find Him, not a man.Those that found a man are left in the wake of his failure.

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  11. drstevej: Larson: “I want you all to know I never thought the allegations were all lies,” she said. “I should have jumped in and declared that personally right away.

    That’s a bit thick to swallow. Sounds more like: “I was willing to go along with the gaslighting, until it was no longer feasible, due to mounting evidence. Now I want to assure everyone that I actually never meant it, I just went along to keep my job. And I’m willing to throw everyone else under he bus because I want to keep my job. That makes two senior pastors who are willing to do or say anything to keep their position and status. Hmmmm . . .

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  12. I feel like these apologies are way too late to ring as sincerely as they want them to sound. But I hope that they go much farther than apologies to make up for it. I think how would be a good question to ask someone like Boz.

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  13. I remember when Hybels began this whole thing. I had family on the stage, and in the auditorium. The ones observing abandoned the church they had been a part of for decades, in order to experience the emotion of the new music and worship team experience. They eventually tired of the shallowness of it all, and went searching for an old-fashioned church again, only to discover that they no longer existed. Eventually, the battered old-fashioned Baptist churches were forced to imitate Willow. Now one is hard pressed to find a church that isn’t a wanna be Willow Creek. Unless one wants to walk into the door of the spiritually abusive Calvinists, who are eagerly waiting to have you sign your life and dollars away on the membership covenant line. So Done.

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  14. truthseeker00: They eventually tired of the shallowness of it all

    Several years ago, Hybels sort of repented for creating a church culture that was one-mile wide and one-inch deep:

    “We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between service, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.”

    https://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2007/october-online-only/willow-creek-repents.html

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  15. The Willow Creek Association (WCA) has its annual ‘leadership’ conference in August. How can this organization connected to Willow Creek Church host a learning event when the senior pastors/elders have been so inept in leading the church through this crisis? Maybe they will focus on their perfect bad example of crisis management.

    One other thought. Do Steve Carter and/or Heather Larson have any chance for a job outside of Willow Creek given their defamation/bullying of the abused ladies? Their apologies only came after a respected professor and former Willow Creek attender gave a spot on analysis of the Willow Creek mess. By their latest statements, Steve and Heather were clearly complicit in the abuse and bullying. Who would want them in any church leadership role? Who would employ them in any orgaization?

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  16. John M: host a learning event when the senior pastors/elders have been so inept in leading the church through this crisis?

    Way beyond inept. More like what you state in the next paragraph: into “defamation & bullying”, or just plain dishonesty, which is, ironically exactly how they as “leaders” depict the witnesses of Bill Hybels’ indiscretions – calling the witnesses flat out liars. Who are the real dishonest ones here? Who are the courageous? Who are the cowards?

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  17. truthseeker00:
    I remember when Hybels began this whole thing. I had family on the stage, and in the auditorium. The ones observing abandoned the church they had been a part of for decades, in order to experience the emotion of the new music and worship team experience. They eventually tired of the shallowness of it all, and went searching for an old-fashioned church again, only to discover that they no longer existed. Eventually, the battered old-fashioned Baptist churches were forced to imitate Willow. Now one is hard pressed to find a church that isn’t a wanna be Willow Creek. Unless one wants to walk into the door of the spiritually abusive Calvinists, who are eagerly waiting to have you sign your life and dollars away on the membership covenant line. So Done.

    It is a sad fact that many churches followed Willow Creek not only by imitating the style and adopting the methodology but also by covering up abuse and tolerating sin in order to protect the institution. This is not the first time this has occurred (see Rev. 2-3 for ancient examples). Genuine repentance is possible and Bill Hybels may still step up to the plate and demonstrate what that actually looks like.

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  18. Max: how many of the 13,000 Willow Creek Association member churches also have that wrong

    The essential question.

    With what “truthseeker00” wrote above about the two remaining choices: either Cult Celebrity or Calvinist Correct – there may really only be one choice.

    Both are full of themselves, the first by having the Correct Look Staged Appeal, and the 2nd with the Correct Thought Dogma Appeal. Self-Promotion and Follow-the-Leader (BTW, both Top-down, My-Way-or-the-Highway with no regard for Collaboration – which is why they have no regard for the witnesses-against-the-Dear-Leaders testimonies) at the core.

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  19. Sandy: Genuine repentance is possible and Bill Hybels may still step up to the plate and demonstrate what that actually looks like.

    I have to admit I would find few responses from Hybels convincing. Years of the same predatory behavior, leading to his staff joking about his ‘flavor of the week’; then the cowardly, cruel attempt to shift the blame to the victims. I would find it difficult to believe, at this point, anything the man had to say. If he is a narcissistic manipulator, as appears likely, he is very adept at shifting into whatever mode is convenient and helpful. It would not be enough for him to merely admit that ‘perhaps’ his behavior was less appropriate than he realized. People need to be aware that this was not a matter of a godly man one time succumbing to momentarily overwhelming temptation. Hybels demonstrated a long term (over many years) pattern of grooming and seeking to take advantage of trusting, young women. This was deliberate, well thought out, predatory behavior. There comes a point when we have to be shrewd, and stop falling for every word that is said, with no reference to past events. My in-laws used to send us all of his tapes. I get it that it is very hard to think poorly of someone whose teaching and words impacted your life. But this stuff was happening during all of this teaching, making him a hypocrite at best.

    In my opinion, it is too late for a Hybels apology, unless it is a genuine acknowledgement of his deliberate, long term, manipulative abuse of many women and the state of his heart that this reveals. He would basically have to admit he had been a phony all along; something that is probably not going to happen.

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  20. Max: Bill Hybels ‘was’ Willow Creek … Hybels is done.

    Hybels’ staff, mega, and pewsitters joined themselves to Hybels like a conjoined twin.
    They rose with Hybels, and they fall with Hybels.
    What happens to a conjoined twin when their twin dies?

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  21. You know, for years on this and other blogs I kept confusing “Hyles” and “Hybels”.
    No need for any further confusion.
    They’re both crooked.

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  22. jyjames,

    Don’t get me wrong. Personally, I believe Satan deliberately sets these things up, tossing us from one misleading error to the next. Each contact leaves us wounded, confused and less able to understand what following God ought to look like. It matters not a whit whether the leaders of these movements do this deliberately or in pursuit of selfish interests – they do Satan’s bidding whenever their agenda is anything but genuinely serving and building up the Body of Christ. Our biggest problem is following men and institutions and allowing ourselves to be misled and abused. Some of this is naiveté, but much of it is also a refusal to take seriously our responsibility to seek God and the leading he has promised to give us. Instead, we have allowed a never ending parade of charlatans to persuade us to just follow them.

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  23. Sometimes I think what is needed when evaluating sexual sin is two categories, as exists with manslaughter. There is a vast distinction between ‘falling to a moment of temptation’ and pre-groomed, premeditated seduction. We need to stop letting religious leaders get away with calling their serious, premeditated – and often repetitive – sin ‘moral failure’ or ‘inappropriate behavior’.

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  24. truthseeker00: Instead, we have allowed a never ending parade of charlatans to persuade us to just follow them.

    “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matt. 7:13-14

    and, our Lord promises:

    “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matt. 11:28-30

    It’s a populist picnic to be in the crowd with the charlatans, until the price is exacted:

    Jesus’ words, all from Mark 8:
    “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod.”
    “Get behind Me, Satan! For you have not in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
    “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.”
    “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and for the gospel will save it.”
    “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” – the final price.

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  25. truthseeker00,

    It’s not just an apology that is needed, but genuine repentance of the sort called for by John the Baptist (Luke 3)—repentance that gets expressed in concrete actions. It’s the kind of repentance the apostle Paul insisted on wherever he preached the gospel (Acts 26:20). You may not think repentance is probable in the case of Hybels, but can we admit that it’s possible? And that it would be as remarkable in our day as was the turnaround for Saul on the Damascus Road in his day?

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  26. Max: Until the pew hates what God hates, the pulpit will continue to disappoint us.The cult of personality would not exist in church if the pew didn’t enable it.Charlatans would have no stage, if they didn’t have an audience cheering them on.

    One could view the prevalence of cult of celebrity and arguably also “winner take all” ministry models (as in — attractively engineered church experiences draw “customers” away from more traditional, sort like industrially engineered fast food) as ways in which the churches are increasingly “of the world” as well as “in” it. Without intending to make a reviling judgment, to the extent that is true, it might be that in the sight of the Church’s Lord these entities do not strongly overlap with the Kingdom, which is “in but not of” the world.

    It’s a bit breath-taking to me to contemplate similarities between what has been happening in the US business world and in those parts of the US churches that superficially seem most vigorous. The megachurch movement resembles the imperative of scale in the business world, as well as the importance of branding. It’s pretty widely recognized that in US, businesses are managed to maximize performance metrics over much shorter time horizons than were in view decades ago, which is often bad for the long-term well-being of the enterprises; this looks a bit like the cover-up approach to crisis management in the churches, which kicks serious problems “down the road” and ensures that when they do come to light, they will be much worse. In the drive for profit, worker and customer safety is less of concern to business leaders than it used to be; the analogy to contemporary large church leadership attitudes toward the laity is obvious. CEO compensation as a ratio of line worker compensation has exploded in recent decades; the same has happened for “lead pastor” salaries as a ratio to “average congregant income” in the large-scale churches.

    The churches are simply reflecting what is happening in the wider world.

    Not much salt in many of those shakers.

    As Max and Linda have said, there is need for repentance at ground level.

    A final thought: it may not be much good wringing our hands about the degeneration of secular culture and morals if the churches are taking their lead from the world rather than setting a much higher standard.

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  27. Samuel Conner: it may not be much good wringing our hands about the degeneration of secular culture and morals if the churches are taking their lead from the world rather than setting a much higher standard

    Amen! I’m old enough to remember when the Church of the Living God was counter-culture to the world … now it is a sub-culture of it. There’s a lot of hype in the 21st century church about being “culturally-relevant” … it’s as if church leaders ask their members which way they want to go and then proceed to get out in front to lead them in that direction. That certainly was Hybel’s seeker-friendly model for doing church. Church growth specialists are always coming up with contemporary gimmicks to attract a crowd. We forget that Jesus is the eternal contemporary – we don’t need to change His message nor the means to deliver it. Often, the missing piece in culturally-relevant church is Jesus – the Main thing just ain’t the main thing any longer … we are. The organized church is not scaring the devil much these days, as the culture continues to spiral into moral chaos.

    What’s the solution? 2 Chronicles 7:14. It’s come to that!

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  28. jyjames: With what “truthseeker00” wrote above about the two remaining choices: either Cult Celebrity or Calvinist Correct – there may really only be one choice.

    Members from the 13,000 WCA-affiliated churches most likely will over-compensate in their disillusionment by bailing out to join a church with “correct” doctrine. The New Calvinists will benefit from their naivety. The Hybels model certainly didn’t prepare them to test the spirits.

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  29. Sandy: You may not think repentance is probable in the case of Hybels, but can we admit that it’s possible?

    I will not deny anyone the possibility of true repentance. Nor do I deny my own need for much and frequent repentance throughout my life for selfishness, ignorance and arrogance. Nor will I automatically assume repentance is genuine in the case of manipulative personalities – that is the lack of shrewdness that leads overly trusting people into the jaws of clever wolves. Luckily, I do not have to assign myself as a judge of his unseen heart; but I would, admittedly, require strong verification if I was one that he had wronged.

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  30. truthseeker00: I will not deny anyone the possibility of true repentance.

    Genuine repentance is always a possibility, but not a positively. It’s only a godly sorrow working in a man’s heart that works true repentance. Brokenness and tears are good signs that God is at work as a man deals with his sin. Those things are hard to fake, although I’ve witnessed some Christian celebrities ‘crying’ without tears. Genuine repentance is always followed by confession and an attempt to right the wrong done to others.

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  31. Samuel Conner: It’s a bit breath-taking to me to contemplate similarities between what has been happening in the US business world and in those parts of the US churches that superficially seem most vigorous. The megachurch movement resembles the imperative of scale in the business world, as well as the importance of branding. It’s pretty widely recognized that in US, businesses are managed to maximize performance metrics over much shorter time horizons than were in view decades ago, which is often bad for the long-term well-being of the enterprises; this looks a bit like the cover-up approach to crisis management in the churches, which kicks serious problems “down the road” and ensures that when they do come to light, they will be much worse. In the drive for profit, worker and customer safety is less of concern to business leaders than it used to be; the analogy to contemporary large church leadership attitudes toward the laity is obvious. CEO compensation as a ratio of line worker compensation has exploded in recent decades; the same has happened for “lead pastor” salaries as a ratio to “average congregant income” in the large-scale churches.

    The churches are simply reflecting what is happening in the wider world.

    Not much salt in many of those shakers.

    As Max and Linda have said, there is need for repentance at ground level.

    A final thought: it may not be much good wringing our hands about the degeneration of secular culture and morals if the churches are taking their lead from the world rather than setting a much higher standard.

    Not to beat a dead horse, but what if God is trying to open our eyes to the very things you have pointed out, because they are indicative of the nature and motives of those who run this institution called ‘The Church’? When I see the ‘merchants’ wailing, in Revelations, that no one will any longer buy their ‘wares’, I can picture the celebrity pastors among their midst.

    I appreciate the hearts of those who seek to ‘fix’ the church, or ‘restore’ its mission; but a fairly good case can be made that what we call ‘The Church’ has often had little to do with the called out ones of God, other than preying upon them for its sustanance. At the very least we should be able to grasp the parallel to a nation called ‘Israel’ which is not, and never was, ‘all Israel’. Which was the point of Jesus calling out his true sheep from the institutional religion that abused, oppressed and eventually killed all that was good and pure within it. What if it is God’s desire to rescue his sheep from the wolves, rather than to repair the wolf den?

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  32. Samuel Conner: It’s a bit breath-taking to me to contemplate similarities between what has been happening in the US business world and in those parts of the US churches that superficially seem most vigorous. The megachurch movement resembles the imperative of scale in the business world, as well as the importance of branding. It’s pretty widely recognized that in US, businesses are managed to maximize performance metrics over much shorter time horizons than were in view decades ago, which is often bad for the long-term well-being of the enterprises; this looks a bit like the cover-up approach to crisis management in the churches, which kicks serious problems “down the road” and ensures that when they do come to light, they will be much worse. In the drive for profit, worker and customer safety is less of concern to business leaders than it used to be; the analogy to contemporary large church leadership attitudes toward the laity is obvious. CEO compensation as a ratio of line worker compensation has exploded in recent decades; the same has happened for “lead pastor” salaries as a ratio to “average congregant income” in the large-scale churches.

    The churches are simply reflecting what is happening in the wider world.

    Not much salt in many of those shakers.

    As Max and Linda have said, there is need for repentance at ground level.

    A final thought: it may not be much good wringing our hands about the degeneration of secular culture and morals if the churches are taking their lead from the world rather than setting a much higher standard.

    What if God is trying to open our eyes to the very things you have pointed out, because they are indicative of the nature and motives of those who run this institution called ‘The Church’? When I see the ‘merchants’ wailing, in Revelations, that no one will any longer buy their ‘wares’, I can picture the celebrity pastors among their midst.

    I appreciate the hearts of those who seek to ‘fix’ the church, or ‘restore’ its mission; but a fairly good case can be made that what we call ‘The Church’ has often had little to do with the called out ones of God, other than preying upon them for its sustanance. At the very least we should be able to grasp the parallel to a nation called ‘Israel’ which is not, and never was, ‘all Israel’. Which was the point of Jesus calling out his true sheep from the institutional religion that abused, oppressed and eventually killed all that was good and pure within it. What if it is God’s desire to rescue his sheep from the wolves, rather than to repair the wolf den?

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  33. Samuel Conner: It’s a bit breath-taking to me to contemplate similarities between what has been happening in the US business world and in those parts of the US churches that superficially seem most vigorous.

    I spent years working for a multi-national restaurant company, and the parallels between it and the modern church [the Evangelical Industrial Complex] are profound. They are both large-scale businesses, which rely on traffic and cashflow to maintain a high-overhead operation. And that traffic is generated by marketing.

    In the church world, there is an idea that “The Church,” the Body of Christ, is a good thing, and therefore any group or organization or building or institution with the word “church” on it is also good, and worth defending at all costs. “The Church was God’s idea, therefore come to my awesome “church” and give us time and money, and don’t even think of criticizing us.”

    truthseeker00: What if it is God’s desire to rescue his sheep from the wolves, rather than to repair the wolf den?

    Exactly.

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  34. Max: Often, the missing piece in culturally-relevant church is Jesus – the Main thing just ain’t the main thing any longer … we are.

    I’m sorry but I take issue with this. I’ve been attending Willow Creek for about 12 years, a relative newbie considering its history. I walked into their divorce recovery ministry broken and having sought to understand who Jesus was for most of my life. I was married to a Muslim at the time and had agreed to follow his faith because I was never able to fully understand what Jesus had done. Also, Jesus is a major prophet in Islam so I felt like I wasn’t giving Him up entirely.

    Of all the churches I had attended in my life, it wasn’t until I walked through the doors of Willow that I finally came to understand who Jesus was and what He’d done for me. At the time, Bill was travelling a lot so I actually came to faith under one of the teaching pastors, Mike Breaux. After Mike left and Bill decided to reduce his travelling and teach more, I continued to grow in my faith and understanding of Jesus under Bill.

    To this day, I give thanks that I walked through the doors of Willow Creek and only wish I’d done so earlier in my life. I met Jesus there and continue to grow closer to him under Steve Carter’s teachings. I’ve applied what I’ve learned at the GLS in my home as a single-parent and have tried to lead-up in my job. Just because it’s not a tiny church on a city block and has well-produced services, does not mean that Jesus is not present there. My daughters have both come to faith there and are thriving.

    This situation with Bill has been heart-wrenching for all. Again, as a relative newcomer to Willow and how hard it’s been for me, I cannot imagine how it’s been for folks that have been there for decades or since the beginning. Still, I believe Jesus is still present in this church.

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  35. After viewing her video, it seems like it’s a matter of “Our-lawyers-are-telling-us-to-do-this” kind of “Cover Your Hiney” speech. Seems to me that she doesn’t want thrown out with the rest of the bathwater! However, her prior actions (and inactions) make her equally complicit, in my book. In James chapter 3, he tells us, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” James’ half-brother, Jesus, also talks about millstones and deep oceans are in store for those who “cause His little ones to stumble”! They shouldn’t seem so surprised when the hammer comes down.

    Should they be forgiven? Yes. Should they ever be in a position of ‘leadership’ in a church again? Let me ask it this way: Would YOU want them leading YOUR church?!? Me neither!
    They are conniving, manipulative and only sorry because they got caught. No thank you!

    I heard clapping at the end…was there a standing ovation for her as well? SHEESH!

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  36. Max: The Hybels model certainly didn’t prepare them to test the spirits.

    Only to take Lead Pastor’s Mark on their foreheads and right hands.

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  37. truthseeker00: Now one is hard pressed to find a church that isn’t a wanna be Willow Creek. Unless one wants to walk into the door of the spiritually abusive Calvinists, who are eagerly waiting to have you sign your life and dollars away on the membership covenant line.

    “The Devil sends sins in matched opposing pairs, so in fleeing one we embrace the other.”
    — attr to C.S.Lewis

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  38. truthseeker00: What if God is trying to open our eyes to the very things you have pointed out, because they are indicative of the nature and motives of those who run this institution called ‘The Church’? When I see the ‘merchants’ wailing, in Revelations, that no one will any longer buy their ‘wares’, I can picture the celebrity pastors among their midst.

    “Revelation” as in Whore of Babylon, not as in “stacked stewardess mistress of a Romanian Robert Redford” but as in Corrupt Economic System?

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  39. One of the biggest issues I see is making pronouncements of guilt or innocence before all sides have been heard. and vetted. I was in one place where a leader was accused of inappropriate activity, but after all the investigations were carried out, he was innocent and his accuser had severe mental health issues. However, he had been declared guilty, and there was no way to recover his previous position, not to mention his reputation. Flip side-the church where the leader was so guilty, and had been found in a compromising position by several staff at the same time, but everyone just wanted it all to go away. The damage and aberrant behavior just continued. In this day of social media, we need some way to keep things reasonably orderly while situations are investigated. However, confidentiality seems to be in short order this day.

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  40. Linn:
    One of the biggest issues I see is making pronouncements of guilt or innocence before all sides have been heard. and vetted. I was in one place where a leader was accused of inappropriate activity, but after all the investigations were carried out, he was innocent and his accuser had severe mental health issues. However, he had been declared guilty, and there was no way to recover his previous position, not to mention his reputation.

    One problem I have with the CEO mentality in the church is the insistence that people have to keep positions that they consider leadership positions. Even if someone did not do anything wrong, why do people care so much about keeping their positions? To me, this says that position is more important to them for reasons that are not spiritual. I feel almost the same way when people start talking about how important their reputation is to them. That’s not of God.

    I get investigating problems fully, but I don’t think the way we cling to positions in the Western church is healthy at all, nor is it reflected in the NT church. Plus, most churches don’t investigate problems at all, they just jump immediately to burying them.

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  41. Renee: This situation with Bill has been heart-wrenching for all. Again, as a relative newcomer to Willow and how hard it’s been for me, I cannot imagine how it’s been for folks that have been there for decades or since the beginning. Still, I believe Jesus is still present in this church.

    “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in that I rejoice.” – Philippians 1:18

    I praise God that he has most definitely used imperfect, even, at times, utterly corrupt, vessels to spread the good news of the gospel. Unfortunately, when celebrity pastors or churches fall into public scandal, many who have been ministered to by them become disillusioned. Unbelievers are only strengthened in their suspicion that the whole religion thing is simply a tool to fleece the sheep.

    On the one hand, God will use his Word, even when taught insincerely, to reach needy people with the gospel; but the blow-back from exposed corruption can be pretty damaging to a ministry. I’m pretty sure God prefers to use the sincere teacher who practices what he preaches.

    I am not insensitive to the many who have been shaken or wounded by this tragic situation. My heart goes out to you, and all who are hurting, and I sincerely hope that you find comfort and strength in God, who is faithful and without fault. I too suffered painful disillusionment from a much-loved and trusted pastor, and it takes a long time to heal from such a shock.

    Nor do I mean to paint with a broad brush that suggests all at Willow are unrighteous or insincere; not at all. My brother sang on the worship team at Willow years ago, and later at an offshoot. I know his heart, and it is sincere, although he would admit that he struggled with the high of celebrity that surrounded the ministry. I am sure that many, perhaps most, others on staff had genuine motives as well. This is probably true in most churches, even when the institution itself – in my opinion – is not set up biblically and tends to attract narcissists who serve their own interests rather than those of their flock.

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  42. ishy,

    If your position is your vocation, it becomes important to you. It’s a tragedy if you lose it, and it’s not your fault; a logical consequence if you lose it due to your own poor behavior.

    I’m a teacher, and highly qualified in my field. I love doing what I do, and losing my vocation over a false accusation would be devastating to me. Most of these kinds of positions also involve a great deal of expensive academic preparation, which brings further value to the position. So, yeah, it’s important to some of us.

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  43. Following some comments here that this new development is staged/a publicity stunt/just trying to save their jobs etc is disheartening. . . .

    When leaders don’t own up to their involvement they are urged to do so.
    When they do, it’s one or more of the above options.

    time will tell. But, sadly for some, nothing they say or do will matter.

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  44. truthseeker00: Nor do I mean to paint with a broad brush that suggests all at Willow are unrighteous or insincere; not at all.

    This is an important point to note for Willow Creek members trolling this piece. Those of us who frequently comment on TWW are genuinely concerned about the impact of fallen ministers and failed ministries on innocent believers who are caught unaware when things start coming apart. We feel your pain because many of us have similar stories. We know what you are going through because we have been through it. We also know that Jesus still works in the lives of His people even though their leaders have strayed. Our concern lies primarily with those in leadership – Willow Creek and elsewhere – who take advantage of church members through control, manipulation and intimidation. We speak to warn others who have become ensnared in a cult of personality that is sweeping through the American church. We provide warning signs to you, learned through the pain of having experienced them ourselves. We long for a day when God will raise up a new breed of church leaders who seek God with all their heart, who will preach Jesus and Him crucified to a lost and dying world without agenda or gimmick.

    To the Church within the church at Willow Creek, we are praying for you.

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  45. Linn,

    Well, Linn, had Willow Creek truly done that – i.e., investigated thoroughly and independently – before standing up with Hybels and accusing the women of lying and the couples of colluding against BH, things would be different right now. So the leadership of Willow did just the opposite of what you advocate: They declared the women guilty and stood behind Hybels. Wrong decision as they are realizing now.

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  46. Linn:
    I’m a teacher, and highly qualified in my field. I love doing what I do, and losing my vocation over a false accusation would be devastating to me. Most of these kinds of positions also involve a great deal of expensive academic preparation, which brings further value to the position. So, yeah, it’s important to some of us.

    I have three degrees, so it’s not like I don’t understand “expensive academic preparation”. But I think the idea of leaders and followers has no place in the church, where we are all equal under Christ our high priest. We do not deserve to be placed above one another and should not be devastated if that is removed. That attachment to leadership shouldn’t be there to begin with.

    And I do not agree that your vocation is your identity. Particularly because I think a lot of people who make minimum wage probably work just as hard or harder as those with doctorates. Maybe they don’t want their jobs and others do, but that doesn’t mean someone who wants to keep their job is any better.

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  47. Renee,

    Boy, it’s been years since I heard Mike Breaux’ name. He came to a mega church in my state I am quite familiar with from Las Vegas before going to WC. He was around mega church circles and circuits for years.

    One of the best things mega churches used to do are the programs like Divorce Recovery, etc. People who don’t attend church will seek those out. It was a major recruiting tool for church in the 90s.

    I think your story is indicative of something that is often missing in the guest for spiritual gurus. We are just vessels. Doesn’t matter who we are, really.

    The word used for Billy Hybels in megachurch circles was always the same: “Nice”. He had quite the great personality. I think that’s one reason why so many people had such a hard time believing the stories.

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  48. Samuel Conner,

    “It’s pretty widely recognized that in US, businesses are managed to maximize performance metrics over much shorter time horizons than were in view decades ago, which is often bad for the long-term well-being of the enterprises;”
    +++++++++++++++++++++

    the business-world is not on my radar…. i’ve observed that businesses are bought with the intention of then selling them as soon as there’s a good profit margin.

    like, it seems to me that food and drink franchises are passed around from one shadowy conglomerate to another. apparel, drug stores…

    so, perhaps the reason for managing “to maximize performance metrics over much shorter time horizons” is simply to cull profits and then move on to the next enterprise to do the same.

    change it all around with “new” and “improved” to stoke public interest and get them to spend money, then move on.

    professional christians are no different. Sticking around after 6 or so years is remarkable. and has anyone ever observed a professional christian “feel called” to a “smaller venue” enterprise, in a less affluent area? in a poor area?

    i’m probably just stating the obvious.

    so sick of churches as income generating profit centers. they simply spend it on themselves (or so i observe).

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  49. Christine: They declared the women guilty and stood behind Hybels. Wrong decision as they are realizing now.

    We have seen this time and again when church leaders fail morally. Staff and members rally to the side of the abuser and disparage his victims, making the victims more victim than they were. We have got to get over the thought that the pulpit is more important than the pew – that is not the way it should work in the Body of Christ. Mega is a small thing in the eyes of God when we get this wrong.

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  50. ishy: But I think the idea of leaders and followers has no place in the church, where we are all equal under Christ our high priest. We do not deserve to be placed above one another and should not be devastated if that is removed. That attachment to leadership shouldn’t be there to begin with…..And I do not agree that your vocation is your identity.

    I have experienced it differently. My vocation was indeed who I was, and it was equally true when I worked as a nurse’s aide and then as an RN as when I worked as an MD. It was not about money or educational level or status, but rather about identity. I always felt ‘this is who I am.’ Then after 35 years of that I worked yet another 15 years in a non-clinical setting for the gov with adequate pay, better hours and good retirement, no weekend and no night call, very good people to work with, and mostly I just explained things to people (something which I love to do) but I just felt awful about it because it was never who I was. Not my identify. I could never get beyond feeling how has it come to this, and how do I handle the low level of chronic grief. I used to walk to work about two blocks from the parking lot and pray ‘why did You do this..let this happen…did I do something all that bad to deserve this’? I have felt very thankful to have had 35 years of doing what I feel like I was called to do, and I will never forget the nights I got called back to the hospital and there behold riding in the car with me was Someone Divine; some of the most profound times of my life. When I was 12 years old and at a religious retreat I sat alone on an upstairs porch at Ridgecrest and asked God to show me who I was and what i ought to do. He told be this, and I did this, and I am forever grateful for having had the opportunity.

    At the same time there are SAHMs who feel the same way about what they do, or so they say. I believe them.

    Just trying to explain.

    But let me say that I do not think that in the church we are all equal under Christ our high priest if by equal is meant functionally equal as pertains to some specific calling. Is it not written that not many should become teachers because those who teach will be judged more strictly? I don’t teach. Never have; don’t plan to; am not called to that function. And I am not held to the same standards as those who do, according to scripture. This is not ‘equal’ when it comes being a teacher who teaches. In this way of thinking the issue of ontological equality vs functional equality plays a role. I do not believe that they are the same types of equality. This has nothing to do with power, or status or money but rather with a specific activity with the responsibilities that go along with it.

    Nobody has to agree with me, but I do feel better for having had the opportunity to describe what I think/feel about vocation, function, calling, work and identity.

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  51. Thanks Max, truthseeker00 and Lydia for your comments. In all the reading I’ve done on this, whether blogs, articles or comments on Twitter, etc., I do feel that the shock, pain and disillusionment of those who call Willow home has gone largely unacknowledged so I thank you for taking the time to respond. Thank you, also, for your continued prayers for all involved in this situation and the church at large. I’ve learned a lot these past. I appreciate all the wisdom that has been shared here and other areas online.

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  52. As long as they’re handing out apologies (and the ones profferred last week are just scratching the surface – each woman deserves an apology and the dignity of an outside investigation – I’d like to see an apology made to the Ortbergs, Mellados, and others who have pursued justice behind the scenes for many years. This process surely must have been very draining, frustrating, and expensive for them.

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  53. Michelle Van Loon: I’d like to see an apology made to the Ortbergs, Mellados, and others who have pursued justice behind the scenes for many years. This process surely must have been very draining, frustrating, and expensive for them.

    They would probably be satisfied just to hear Bill Hybels get honest with Willow Creek and a watching world! A “pastor” would not allow his congregation to experience this pain – he alone holds the prospect of closure for them, as well as those who have suffered his misconduct.

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  54. Carol Hiestand: time will tell. But, sadly for some, nothing they say or do will matter

    Probably true. For some people, it will be impossible to trust the leaders again. That is simply the consequences of their actions. They may be forgiven, but that doesn’t mean they should be trusted again.

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  55. Max: To the Church within the church at Willow Creek, we are praying for you.

    To that I say ‘Amen’, and broaden it to the church within the church wherever she exists. One of the reasons I comment here is because I am deeply concerned for naive believers – as I once was – who do not see all that has taken place in the broader church and are utterly unprepared for what lies ahead.

    Inappropriate authority is a growing issue, and it is at the heart of nearly all abuse. Many, confused and hurting, find their way onto sites such as this one, and are astounded to find how widespread is the problem of spiritual abuse. May God lead us all to healing, wisdom and a better path forward.

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  56. truthseeker00: Inappropriate authority is a growing issue, and it is at the heart of nearly all abuse.

    I refer to the problem as illegitimate or counterfeit authority. We are seeing an increase of this in the institutional church – where leaders, churches, and denominations place themselves as authorities between believers and Christ, rather than servants of the Lord to lead them into a deeper walk with Jesus. The problem arises when such entities usurp the Lordship of Christ to the point of controlling believers, rather than teaching and discipling them to develop a personal relationship with Jesus. We are seeing a waning authority of Christ in the American church as authoritarian patriarchal structures supplant His rule. It may be subtle or in-your-face, but it’s there. Believers need to develop a discerning eye and ear to identify the counterfeit where it exists by reading the Word to know what the genuine is supposed to look like.

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  57. Max: I refer to the problem as illegitimate or counterfeit authority. We are seeing an increase of this in the institutional church – where leaders, churches, and denominations place themselves as authorities between believers and Christ, rather than servants of the Lord to lead them into a deeper walk with Jesus.

    Bill Hybels essentially confessed this to be a problem with the Willow Creek model in 2007, when he said:

    “We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between service, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.”

    https://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2007/october-online-only/willow-creek-repents.html

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  58. My family and I have been attending Willow for the past 12 years and learned much and grown in our walk with Christ as a result. Good things still happen in “megas” despite what happens behind the scenes.

    From the start my wife and I have been disgusted with how Willow’s elders and senior leadership have handled this entire situation. We’ve always “believed the women.”

    As I’ve stated in response to earlier posts, we believe the entire elder board and Lead Pastor Heather Larson need to resign. They were not bystanders in what occurred, but became participants in the further wrong that was done to the victims by the way were involved. The poor judgement and lack of discretion — and the lack of courage she should have demonstrated as a leader — that was shown by hopping on the BH defense bandwagon reveals that she is unfit for the position. Sorry, no “mulligan” for such a serious matter. As my wife likes to point out, she was the one calling for an “honoring of the Hybels’ contribution at the appropriate time.” And as McKnight wrote, there’s no way that Larson didn’t know about what was happening during the prior years.

    I’m on the fence regarding Steve Carter. Though I like him and have learned from him, we’ve always wished that Willow would complement his teaching by using someone who had more life experience when addressing certain issues. Although Carter was a participant in the family meetings, I’m open to the possibility that he is less culpable than Larson. Plus, I believe that his apology was genuine; and if it’s true that he was directed/led to include Larson and the elders after the initial post, together with his initiative to contact victims, it shows a humility and sensitivity that I don’t perceive in Larson or the elders. However, in the end, he, too, may be swept up and have to go.

    The other thing we’ve discussed, even prior to this whole mess, is that Larson and Carter were likely chosen as the next leaders because they could continue to be influenced (manipulated?) by Hybels. Certainly anything he would suggest would be given serious consideration and his legacy would continue. If the proper house cleaning takes place, the ruins of that legacy will bear witness to the damage caused by the lackluster oversight performed by the elders during the “succession.”

    What a shame! But may God bring good for Willow and the Kingdom as only He can.

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  59. In her apologt Heather Larson stated that “Bill had interactions that were hurtful to these women.” This is so passive and sanitized. Almost like she is saying it’s true they perceived his a certain way. What needs to be said is that Bill engaged in predatory behavior over the course of many years. He used his position to take advantage of women and lied about it. The apology is too sanitized to feel genuine.

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  60. Thomas055,

    Thomas055, I have a similar history at Willow; however, embarrassingly, it took me a little longer to see the truth of Bill’s behavior. When I initially read the Chicago Tribune article, I immediately saw the pattern of behavior within it. But then I went to the first family meeting and accepted the explanations given. I was, however, uncomfortable with these situations being called “flat out lies” and some of the joking that occurred onstage that night.

    I’ve been following this closely ever since and reading all thoughts and tweets published on the matter. At times, I have felt defensive of the church because it seemed like everyone wanted the baby thrown out with the bathwater but, at this point, I do agree that many should resign.

    I do also agree that Steve Carter is the question mark. Although he was on staff when this hit the fan four years ago, he was not a power player. I’ve learned a lot from Steve from the pulpit. I had a one-on-one with him a year ago that made a tremendous impact on me and I am still working on the things we discussed. One thing about Willow that has been somewhat of a disappointment over the years is that the touchy-feely impression that we get from the stage does not occur behind the scenes except for Steve. He is the real deal on stage or off.

    I never thought that the reason Heather and Steve were chosen was because they could continue to be influenced by Bill but it makes sense. This is probably why bold action has not been taken. Willow needs to cut the cord with Bill, make some bold decisions about its current leadership and trust God to lead the next chapter.

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  61. Julie: In her apologt Heather Larson stated that “Bill had interactions that were hurtful to these women.” This is so passive and sanitized. Almost like she is saying it’s true they perceived his a certain way.

    Was the Apology(TM) written by liability lawyers?
    “Mistakes Were Made…”

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  62. Unfortunately, today “Apologies(TM)” have become nothing more than Magickal Mommy Kisses.

    Mommy’s Magickal Kiss fixes everything, AND DON’T YOU DARE SAY OR THINK OTHERWISE!!!!!

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  63. ishy,

    There are Christian denominations where all are equal in membership, but it’s definitely not the majority of churches. I’ve been on a couple of search committees, and experience and character were just as important as education-but education played a big role.

    As to identity, I do believe it increases with the amount of education. I also know folks who are trades people or minimum wage who are just as proud and connected with what they do. The point was just that many people in full-time ministry tend to identify strongly with their vocation. Some also identity with the power and prestige that accompany the position. Taking that away, whether it be justified or not, can be a huge blow to their egos. That’s why some of the most disgraced keep coming back from the dead and appearing in places like Arizona or endorsed as ‘cured” by other celebrity pastors.

    I spent 15 years in missionary/church ministry, so I think I saw a bit of all it. Most of the people I worked with were very humble, spiritually growing, excellent leaders, and good team players. Unfortunately, there were always a few, and they made us all look bad. I left one church because I realized I no longer had trust in any of the leadership. Overall, the experience has been positive, and I continue to actively serve in my local church as a lay person, while living out my faith as creatively as possible in the secular school where I work. At church, I look for healthy, as i know I will never find “perfect” leadership.

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  64. Disciple,

    A real apology, including words such as:

    ‘I sinned. I was wrong. I abused my position and preyed upon innocent women. I deserve all of the condemnation and anger directed at me. I am sorry to all I have hurt – not just the victims, but the many who have been stunned by my abject sin and refusal to deal honestly with it.’

    Someone let me know when that sort of apology comes out. I’m not terribly interested in the CYA type.

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  65. While I want to see Hybels repent and apologize as much as any, it’s important to remember that Willow Creek no longer has the responsibility for that. It lies alone with Hybels.

    That said, Willow Creek should provide a specific, meaningful and public apology to every woman by name for the wrong the church did to them in the way they handled the investigation and the subsequent meetings, communications, etc. that followed the matter going public.

    What has been said to date is insufficient.

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  66. Thomas055: Larson and Carter were likely chosen as the next leaders because they could continue to be influenced (manipulated?) by Hybels. Certainly anything he would suggest would be given serious consideration and his legacy would continue

    It sounds like Hybels never came to the realization that the ministry at Willow Creek is supposed to be about Jesus, not Hybels. If Larson and Carter were so easily controlled by Hybels, rather than being led by Jesus, they should resign. Folks, this ain’t about us!

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  67. singleman,

    My thought exactly. Scot’s piece

    Even if they were bullied by Bill and the Elders to show solidarity on stage when this mess began, they should not have smiled and nodded in agreement when Bill accused the woman with whom he did/didn’t have a 14-year affair of being mentally unstable and suicidal. What therapist, counselor or pastor violates confidentially about a patient’s mental health in a public forum?

    The truth always comes out… maybe slowly, but eventually, no matter how inconvenient.

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  68. LInn,

    A real independent investigation would have examined Church and cell phone records, credit card expenses, expense reports, emails and text messages, travel records and itineraries, and interviews of past pastors and staff. It would not be limited in scope to just the 9 women reported so far. And the findings would be publicly reported to the congregation of WCCC without any spin by stakeholders on either side.

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  69. Way too much self righteous, judgemental Bible thumping in here. And all made by imperfect humans. I guess this must be the new definition of forgiveness.

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  70. Jordan: Way too much self righteous, judgemental Bible thumping in here.

    “For what business is it of mine to judge outsiders (non-believers)? Do you not judge those who are within the church [to protect the church as the situation requires]?” (1 Cor 5:12 AMP)

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  71. Jordan: Way too much self righteous, judgemental Bible thumping in here. And all made by imperfect humans. I guess this must be the new definition of forgiveness.

    I will be the first to acknowledge never having enough humility. But I have no hesitation about granting the same forgiveness I often need to truly repentant individuals. I have not seen repentance from Hybels, nor many other egomaniacs who call themselves religious leaders. No, I am not going to ‘forgive’ the wolves for feasting on the sheep, then pretending like it didn’t happen. Even God doesn’t offer that kind of pardon.

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  72. The reason these things happen is because power structures are set up which are not biblical. A small coterie of powerful, favored people come over time to surround the leader and share in the glory and wealth generated by him. In many cases, the leader is chosen because he/she is perceived to be talented, having the potential for celebrity, not for humility or propensity to sacrifice for others. There is no single leader paradigm laid out in the New Testament anyway, and the one time in the entire era before Christ that such a paradigm was given the approval of the Lord was with the most humble man on the face of the earth, Moses (and even he eventually strayed and failed to gain entrance to the Promised Land), so the notion of a single leader upon whom are bestowed titles is anathema to the New Testament model and pretty much everything Jesus fought against and warned us about. And in a world where people are selected for star power, whom should we expect to seek these positions? Humble people with a godly penchant for service? Or narcissistic animals with a lust for power and adulation? The answer to that question is too obvious to require elaboration. We end up with leaders who have more in common with Hollywood actors and pop stars than the small group of Jesus’ disciples who were quite willing to lay down their lives and be tortured to death to serve God and others.

    When power structures such as what existed at Willow Creek are set up, people in power lose objectivity and cease to provide checks and balances, as their prestige, incomes and standing in the community is linked to the leader. They will then defend him beyond all reason. In a church such as Willow Creek, where the priesthood of all believers becomes subsumed by the star power of the supreme leader, one man’s opinion receives precedence over others, so quite naturally the leaders believed Bill Hybels over mere laity.

    How far we have gotten from Paul, who gave up standing as the most brilliant scholar of his age to take on blue collar labor as an vocation so as to be a burden to no one, to be beaten, tortured and murdered for his faith. What we typically have in the pulpit–which probably shouldn’t exist in the first place–is more like the superapostles whom Paul considered an absolute blight on the faith.

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  73. Linn:
    One of the biggest issues I see is making pronouncements of guilt or innocence before all sides have been heard. and vetted. I was in one place where a leader was accused of inappropriate activity, but after all the investigations were carried out, he was innocent and his accuser had severe mental health issues. However, he had been declared guilty, and there was no way to recover his previous position, not to mention his reputation. Flip side-the church where the leader was so guilty, and had been found in a compromising position by several staff at the same time, but everyone just wanted it all to go away. The damage and aberrant behavior just continued. In this day of social media, we need some way to keep things reasonably orderly while situations are investigated. However, confidentiality seems to be in short order this day.

    Do you think that’s the case here? It seems that the primary sides that have been heard are those of Mr. Hybels and the leadership, as it were, at Willow Creek. This was the case at least until the sheer weight of evidence forced them to admit that yes, Mr. Hybels had done wrongly and was rightly forced out. Even Mr. Hybels himself admitted to misdeeds. At this point in time, your comment seems perfectly absurd; the misdeeds have been confessed (albeit in a cowardly, mealy-mouthed way) and the substance of the accusations has been admitted to by all concerned.

    Your post might have had some merit months ago, but at this point it is a perfect non-sequitur.

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  74. Renee: I’m sorry but I take issue with this. I’ve been attending Willow Creek for about 12 years, a relative newbie considering its history. I walked into their divorce recovery ministry broken and having sought to understand who Jesus was for most of my life. I was married to a Muslim at the time and had agreed to follow his faith because I was never able to fully understand what Jesus had done. Also, Jesus is a major prophet in Islam so I felt like I wasn’t giving Him up entirely.

    Of all the churches I had attended in my life, it wasn’t until I walked through the doors of Willow that I finally came to understand who Jesus was and what He’d done for me. At the time, Bill was travelling a lot so I actually came to faith under one of the teaching pastors, Mike Breaux. After Mike left and Bill decided to reduce his travelling and teach more, I continued to grow in my faith and understanding of Jesus under Bill.

    To this day, I give thanks that I walked through the doors of Willow Creek and only wish I’d done so earlier in my life. I met Jesus there and continue to grow closer to him under Steve Carter’s teachings. I’ve applied what I’ve learned at the GLS in my home as a single-parent and have tried to lead-up in my job. Just because it’s not a tiny church on a city block and has well-produced services, does not mean that Jesus is not present there. My daughters have both come to faith there and are thriving.

    This situation with Bill has been heart-wrenching for all. Again, as a relative newcomer to Willow and how hard it’s been for me, I cannot imagine how it’s been for folks that have been there for decades or since the beginning. Still, I believe Jesus is still present in this church.

    It is quite possible that you were blessed by hearing about the Bible and the teachings of Jesus and that this was used by the Holy Spirit to lead you to Him–but that at the same time, those who were bringing this message to you were hypocrites, liars, scoundrels and, perhaps, not even believing what they preached, and thus there was a serious want of Jesus at Willow Creek. Even Paul was willing to acknowledge that there could be some benefit in the good news about Jesus being preached by those with vicious ulterior motives—if a murdered stands on a street corner and reads from the Gospel of John, that could very well be the spark that brings one to faith.

    What Max said is not necessarily incompatible with what you experienced (which probably had a lot more to do with the relationship between you and Jesus than the words expressed by any of the characters you cited).

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  75. Carol Hiestand:
    Following some comments here that this new development is staged/a publicity stunt/just trying to save their jobs etc is disheartening.. . .

    When leaders don’t own up to their involvement they are urged to do so.
    When they do, it’s one or more of the above options.

    time will tell.But, sadly for some, nothing they say or do will matter.

    Indeed, that is true. But the issue is, those leaders treated women who’d been manipulated and abused in a manner such that nothing those women said or did mattered. True, no? I won’t be shedding any tears for them.

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  76. Law Prof: What we typically have in the pulpit – which probably shouldn’t exist in the first place – is more like the superapostles whom Paul considered an absolute blight on the faith.

    “If someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles.” I may indeed be untrained as a speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way. Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge?” (2 Corinthians 11)

    Paul called these false teachers “super” in a facetious manner because they were coming across as superior to him in their arrogance … which was more about them than HIM. The New Calvinists like to talk a lot about Paul, but they are in no way imitating him in their ministry. And Jesus? Well, the Savior has been subordinated and nearly silenced … they talk more about “God” (the Calvinist God) than Christ. They preach another gospel, which is not the Gospel at all … and as Paul said, we “put up with it easily enough.”

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  77. Max: The New Calvinists like to talk a lot about Paul, but they are in no way imitating him in their ministry. And Jesus?

    He bends the knee and burns the pinch of incense to Calvin, of course.

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  78. Carol Hiestand: When leaders don’t own up to their involvement they are urged to do so.
    When they do, it’s one or more of the above options.

    There are many examples where church leaders have to be dragged kicking and screaming to do the right thing. Often their action reaches just a minimum acceptance by a bare majority of their followers and then only after far too much time has expired.

    The standard should be openness, humility, and timeliness, instead they not only miss the mark, they fall well short of it.

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  79. Shalom Ken F.

    Re Satire: Bingo! And there is way too much “holier than thou” judgemental, arrogant and condescending claptrap in here.
    Blessings,
    Jordan

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  80. Headless Unicorn Guy,
    In her apologt Heather Larson stated that “Bill had interactions that were hurtful to these women.” This is so passive and sanitized. Almost like she is saying it’s true they perceived his a certain way.

    …..as if OTHER women would not have been hurt by these same interactions. It must have been these particular women who were ultra sensitive to Bill’s interactions…..

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  81. MaxThe New Calvinists like to talk a lot about Paul, but they are in no way imitating him in their ministry.And Jesus?Well, the Savior has been subordinated and nearly silenced … they talk more about “God” (the Calvinist God) than Christ.They preach another gospel, which is not the Gospel at all … and as Paul said, we “put up with it easily enough.”

    While among them as an elder at a neocal, I heard talk about the mission, the local church, and the leader’s vision. I heard a misinterpretation of Hebrews 13:17 shoved straight down our throats with regularity. I heard about how the vision of the head pastor and right-hand man were greater than the collective thoughts of all those in the pews, I heard about the necessity of giving more to support building plans and help dear leader meet his growth projections and long-term plans. I heard about great men like Lord Piper and Lord Washer.

    But I did not hear much about Jesus.

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  82. Law Prof: I did not hear much about Jesus

    When New Calvinism started flooding the landscape several years ago, I listened to sermon podcasts by YRR “lead” pastors in my area. I kept a tally-sheet with 4 columns marked: God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, New Calvinist icon. Without exception, I recorded more checks for “God” than Jesus, who was barely mentioned if at all. It was rare to make a check next to Holy Spirit. The icons (Piper, etc.) got many more checks than the precious name of Christ. The New Calvinist movement is not about Jesus at all.

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  83. Jordan: Re Satire: Bingo! And there is way too much “holier than thou” judgemental, arrogant and condescending claptrap in here.

    The reason I asked is because you seem to be fighting fire with fire.

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  84. Shalom Ken,

    Condescending, arrogant, holier than thou claptrap is how I characterized the written opinions/ideas of many in this thread. Folks that harbor these opinions couldn’t care less about the response of a pacifist, e.g., “why can’t we all just get along?”. Calling a spade a shovel is the only thing these folks may actually understand. Judgemental on my my part? You betcha. And I most certainly welcome any judgement of my opinions. It’s about their opinions/ideas and NOT their hearts. Everyone without exception judges opinions/ideas. Judging another’s heart remains God’s job.
    Blessings,
    Jordan

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  85. Any investigation should include conversations with former pastoral staff members who were in position to observe Mr Hybles aberrant behavior, all who left the church quickly and with brief explanations. Former teaching pastors and one particular executive pastor almost certainly could shed some light on the subject.

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  86. Jordan: Judging another’s heart remains God’s job.

    Thusbus true, but I have not seen too many, of any, judge anyone’s heart. I haven’t heard anyone claim someone isn’t saved.

    However, you need to read your Bible. It has plenty to say about judging people’s actions and responding appropriately.

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  87. Jordan: Condescending, arrogant, holier than thou claptrap is how I characterized the written opinions/ideas of many in this thread.

    This is why I am wondering if you are writing satire. Or perhaps you have a major blind spot…

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  88. Shalom Ken and Bridget,

    Re reading the Bible, I have and continue to do so daily.

    Re satire: so be it. Re blind spots, we all have them. They’re part of the human condition.
    Blessings,
    Jordan

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  89. Jordan,

    Jordan, you might as well just tell us which stuff meets all those criteria, rather than making blanket condemnations. Generally, people here judge behaviors, which as you seem to concede, is perfectly fine, and sometimes speculate about the heart than produces those behaviors. If I can make an opinion about your behavior, I’d say it’s pretty typical of one in a cult: a blanket condemnation that doesn’t directly address a thing, so that no one can know whether they have run afoul of your standards, just the typical scattershot condemnation. Again, like being in a cultic church (Willow Creek?), where no one ever really knows where they stand, the condemnation flies, often without specificity so that the recipients of it are unsure of themselves, off balance, and never really helpful, as it cannot be addressed in any legitimate way. Of course, it’s a tactic straight out of Cult 101.

    So in my personal opinion, your behavior is utterly unchrist-like, vaguely abusive, and shows signs of being well-trained in a cultic environment, probably Willow Creek, as we seem to have struck a nerve, and her nerves seem to be quite sensitized. Just my guess.

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  90. CORRECTION: “your” nerves, not “her” nerves. Awaiting your response, hoping it is a little less shrill that your previous ones, maybe we can talk and work through this.

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  91. Law Prof: signs of being well-trained in a cultic environment

    From comments on this blog and elsewhere, some of the Willow Creek seekers come across as hypersensitive as to how they are seen or perceived by others. It’s not only the leaders at Willow Creek who are in the limelight, but their followers as well. As WC members come to the realization that those they trusted have failed, they become frustrated and strike back. The whole thing is just a sad demonstration of what happens when men supplant the Lordship of Jesus, when patriarchy pushes out the authority of Christ.

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  92. Max: From comments on this blog and elsewhere, some of the Willow Creek seekers come across as hypersensitive as to how they are seen or perceived by others.It’s not only the leaders at Willow Creek who are in the limelight, but their followers as well.As WC members come to the realization that those they trusted have failed, they become frustrated and strike back. The whole thing is just a sad demonstration of what happens when men supplant the Lordship of Jesus, when patriarchy pushes out the authority of Christ.

    It’s very strange behavior. He starts out saying the one who needs to apologize is Hybels, then later, after some people agree with his initial post, lays into everyone, throws a bit of a tantrum. Is he confused? Was the first post a Trojan horse to set people up for the kill? If the latter, I’ve seen that cult tactic repeatedly.

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  93. Law Prof: Is he confused?

    The American church is so messed up in many corners that members eventually end up exhausted, confused, and/or crazy trying to process it all! There is a spiritual leadership crisis in America. It’s got so bad that believers may have to do what they should have done all along … look to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.

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  94. Max,

    Yes, people go a bit crazy when exposed to enough of it. I’ve sat in the pews and listened to sermons that sometimes stretched to over 100 minutes, and noticed that pastor contradicted himself a half dozen times, and tried to see the sermon as anything other than a superficial, cynical, self-interested ramble from a confused, emotionally disturbed, spiritually bankrupt man. And if you expose yourself to such a thing enough, while trying to fit it within the paradigm of a loving, kind, caring fellowship of Jesus, you do start to lose your mind.

    So perhaps that is what is going on with Jordan–or perhaps he has simply been trained, formally or informally, to set up the attack with a benign initial post that agrees with the general tenor of the forum. It is a very common tactic. God knows his heart.

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  95. Law Prof: if you expose yourself to such a thing enough, while trying to fit it within the paradigm of a loving, kind, caring fellowship of Jesus, you do start to lose your mind

    That’s why it is crucial for 21st century believers to “test the spirits to see if they are from God” (1 John 4:1). Where the Holy Spirit resides, a “sound mind” results (2 Timothy 1:7). If you find yourself becoming a looney-tune in the midst of other looney-tunes in both pulpit and pew, you need to find somewhere else to camp out.

    If the Holy Spirit was lifted out of the American church, most of the stuff would still go on. At best, the Holy Spirit has been relegated to the back pew in many places. This has provided a haunt for other spirits to take up residence: religious spirits, lying spirits, evil spirits clothed as angels of light which peddle half-truth and mistruth through the doctrines of mere men. Yep, every church member in America needs to pray for a new measure of discernment – to test the spirits to see if they are from God – before they lose their spiritual mind.

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  96. Another VERY good piece on “The Willow Creek Case” by Scot McKnight at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2018/07/09/willow-why-the-women-went-public/.

    I also want to call attention to his confidence in the good work that many within Willow are doing for the Kingdom and the gospel…

    “And this must be said: I have encountered one noble Christian after another at Willow. The accomplishments at Willow are because of the lay folks giving their heart to the gospel work of that church. Let no one dispute the commitment of Willow’s people, and the problems that arose have taken the people by surprise. Blindsided and backhanded is how some have described it to me.”

    While I ENTIRELY disagree with Jordan’s comments above, I do sense sometimes an all-to-ready willingness to castigate the “megas,” overlooking the good work that can occur and is occurring in those places. I know how easy it is to speak and write in a shorthand that is familiar to those who are like-minded. However, to maintain the “goodness” of this forum and the interactions we have with others, I encourage all of us to exercise caution that we don’t condemn everyone associated with a “mega” when we really intend to address what leadership have done.

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  97. Thomas055: an all-to-ready willingness to castigate the “megas,” overlooking the good work that can occur and is occurring in those places

    As long as the Main Thing is the main thing, it matters not if a church is mega or mini. If believers are focused on Jesus and becoming Christlike – if the message is all about Him – it matters not what the form looks like. If the mission is the Great Commission, both large and small church are on track. However, as has been noted on TWW and elsewhere, “mega” has a way of distorting a leader’s focus and mission – the limelight and accolades can go to his head. After a while, he senses that he is too big to fail.

    However, God is not confined to working only in churches which are more manageable size. He shows up where a people are prayerfully seeking Him, where the Gospel of Christ is being preached, where the lost are being reached and discipled, where the various gifts among His people are mobilized and work together to accomplish the Great Commission. Anything less than that is doing church without God … it happens in both mega and mini.

    When a mega church pastor falls, we must ask “What was the Main thing in his life? What was his focus? What was his mission?” As members of such church (any church for that matter), we need to ask ourselves the same questions. I suppose the megas get more attention when a leader fails, just because they are mega. But they should; lots of folks within and without such church are impacted. Hybels had a world-wide ministry; his failings had worldwide repercussions.

    Peter preached one sermon and 3,000 were added to the church that day … a mega success! Some men today preach 3,000 sermons without seeing any move of God.

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  98. Thomas055:
    Another VERY good piece on “The Willow Creek Case” by Scot McKnight at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2018/07/09/willow-why-the-women-went-public/.

    I also want to call attention to his confidence in the good work that many within Willow are doing for the Kingdom and the gospel…

    “And this must be said: I have encountered one noble Christian after another at Willow. The accomplishments at Willow are because of the lay folks giving their heart to the gospel work of that church. Let no one dispute the commitment of Willow’s people, and the problems that arose have taken the people by surprise. Blindsided and backhanded is how some have described it to me.”

    While I ENTIRELY disagree with Jordan’s comments above, I do sense sometimes an all-to-ready willingness to castigate the “megas,” overlooking the good work that can occur and is occurring in those places.I know how easy it is to speak and write in a shorthand that is familiar to those who are like-minded. However, to maintain the “goodness” of this forum and the interactions we have with others, I encourage all of us to exercise caution that we don’t condemn everyone associated with a “mega” when we really intend to address what leadership have done.

    I used to attend a mega with roughly 8,000 members. The church eventually went off the rails and was destroyed when they made a catastrophically ill-advised senior pastor hire. Throughout the process, even as the church nosed into bizarre cultism, there were Christians of good will in attendance, some of them trying desperately to fit what was going on into a paradigm of godliness, others knowing exactly what was going on with clear eyes, but staying around in an attempt to be a light in darkness. I know full well there are many people who love Jesus even in the darkness of most cultic churches. But in my opinion, Jordan’s behavior did not fit within that “Christian of good will” paradigm. I could be misinterpreting him, but it seemed like a very typical Trojan horse post to get into people’s good graces followed by a stinging, cultic, wholly ungodly attack.

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  99. Max: That’s why it is crucial for 21st century believers to “test the spirits to see if they are from God” (1 John 4:1).Where the Holy Spirit resides, a “sound mind” results (2 Timothy 1:7).If you find yourself becoming a looney-tune in the midst of other looney-tunes in both pulpit and pew, you need to find somewhere else to camp out.

    If the Holy Spirit was lifted out of the American church, most of the stuff would still go on.At best, the Holy Spirit has been relegated to the back pew in many places.This has provided a haunt for other spirits to take up residence: religious spirits, lying spirits, evil spirits clothed as angels of light which peddle half-truth and mistruth through the doctrines of mere men. Yep, every church member in America needs to pray for a new measure of discernment – to test the spirits to see if they are from God – before they lose their spiritual mind.

    This exactly.

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  100. John M,

    Hybels groomed Rob Bell and Steve Carter. He mentored Carter while he was working at Rob Bell’s church (alongside Hybels’ daughter, Shauna and son -in-law who is in charge of the music ministry at WC). If what has been published about the time line of events is true, Carter & Larson have been undergoing their grooming to take over as Pastors for about 5 years. At some point, they were both in positions of leadership during these private “investigations,” and neither one has publicly expressed remorse for their involvement prior to the Tribune article. When I initially tried to read Carter’s apology, his website invited me to pre-order his new book. I would have been impressed had Carter met with the Elders and submitted his resignation or at the very least a request to temporarily step away from the ministry to seek help from God and wise counselors. Willow Creek leadership enabled Hybels behavior. They need to resign.

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  101. Bea: Hybels groomed Rob Bell

    That speaks volumes about Hybels’ discernment (or lack of it). Bell was/is “out there” in his beliefs – he is most commonly referred to in mainline Christianity as a false teacher (some call him a heretic). Rob Bell and Mark Driscoll were buds for a while when they teamed in the emergent church movement … that speaks volumes about both of them. I know folks who are still trying to get over Bell’s “Nooma” teachings – he sure messed with their minds.

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  102. Max, on Willow’s website you can watch the videos of conversations b/w Hybels & Carter. One of Hybels’goals for Carter is to “raise up EMERGENT teachers/leaders.” That spoke volumes to me. Hybels’ told the Board that only he could pick his successor! He brought Carter in for exactly this purpose. Larson was already being groomed at Willow. In Carter’s Bio, he deceptively writes that his friend,ROB told him to “graduate as soon as possible & come live in my basement,” b/c “Rob” needed help at “A” church in MI. He never writes that it was “Rob BELL” or NAMES the church. Just, “a church in Michigan,” and “a pastor named ROB.” Who does this kind of stuff? DECEIVERS!
    Merchandising Christianity & building up these celebrity personas is evil.
    We will see if the people at Willow are seeking God or man. They need to demand that the pastors & board members step down.I don’t know if anyone at WC has enough integrity to resign on their own.
    The people need to walk away until the leadership is ready to step down and turn the operations of the church over to a ministry that can properly steward God’s sheep, leading them back to their 1st Love.

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