Guest Post by Nancy Beach: A Survivor Responds to the Independent Investigation of Bill Hybels and Willow Creek Community Church

“A multitude of magnificent, swirling clouds in Jupiter’s dynamic North North Temperate Belt is captured in this image from NASA’s Juno spacecraft. Appearing in the scene are several bright-white “pop-up” clouds as well as an anticyclonic storm, known as a white oval.”

“Seasoned leaders have to come up with some way signaling to everyone in the organization that they are in code red.” Bill Hybels

__________

Recently, the Independent Advisory Group (IAG) released their report on Bill Hybels, Willow Creek Community Church and the Willow Creek Association. Here are the names of those who served on this committee.

These are their conclusions.




You can go to the report to read their recommendations. These would include making Hybels return some of his compensation to WCCC while obtaining his own legal counsel and the need to form a means of reconciliation with the victims.

After I read this report, I experienced a feeling of *meh.* I decided to let my thoughts simmer a bit and am glad I waited. Nancy Beach, one of Hybels victims, just released her evaluation of the IAG report in RIGHT/WRONG/CONFUSED/MISSING: MY RESPONSE TO THE IAG REPORT.

She has kindly given me permission to reprint it here. Dee is particularly excited to see TWW listed as part of The Press. My high school English teacher would be startled, given my rather abysmal performance in the writing aspect of that subject.


RIGHT/WRONG/CONFUSED/MISSING: MY RESPONSE TO THE IAG REPORT by Nancy Beach

I have been asked by friends, family, and a few reporters how I feel and what I think about the recently released report by the IAG (Independent Advisory Group) concerning the allegations related to Bill Hybels (BH). Here’s my bottom line: I believe the report got the big ideas right:

  • The allegations of sexually inappropriate words and actions by BH were credible.
  • Over multiple decades, the WCCC boards were unable to provide sufficient oversight of BH.
  • BH verbally and emotionally intimidated both female and male employees.
  • The organizational culture of WCCC and the WCA was positively and negatively affected by the power, influence and management style of the founder and leader.

That being said, after reading the report I experienced a wide range of emotions – numbness, great sadness, some anger, and an overall feeling of, “Is that all there is?”  Last year at this time I was in Florida, waiting for the Chicago Tribune article to come out.  One year later, I find myself reflecting often on the extreme challenges, deep pain, and totally unexpected events of this past year. I know I am not alone in this story, and only represent one dimension and perspective on what has taken place. For me it has not been a story of one year, but of 5 years now since I first learned of allegations of a 14 year affair with BH, confessed to Leanne Mellado. I joined a process that spanned the next several years, seeking to bring that truth to light with the elders of Willow Creek and the Board of the WCA.  Of course my story goes back decades, to a time when I first met Bill as a teenager and the entire trajectory of my life changed.

Many strategic planners and leadership coaches, including me, use a structure to assess their current reality. Four categories are looked at to bring clarity – what is Right, what is Wrong, what is Confused, and what is Missing. I have chosen to react to the IAG report using this outline. Again, this is my personal perspective…

RIGHT

  • I want to begin with gratitude and respect for the 4 members of the IAG. These individuals served without any pay, sacrificing countless hours to listen and learn. All four of them have high integrity and brought decades of experience and accumulated wisdom to this process. They listened respectfully and with grace. Their only motivation was to serve the Kingdom, and they were truly independent of both the church and the WCA.
  • As I mentioned above, their bottom line conclusions were right, in my view.
  • I affirm the IAG calling out the leaders of the WCA who chose to “second their responsibility,” (to the church), stating that “they should have taken greater responsibility to understand the nature and context of the allegations.”

WRONG

  • I think the biggest “Wrong” for me is not the report itself, but the original plan for what the IAG were charged to do. As they stated, this was not an “investigation.” And it was not set up to be one. But this leaves everyone with a lack of closure. This entire situation never had an outside, objective, skilled investigation process. So the report could only look at patterns and recurring themes. I realize that a true investigation will never take place and must accept that reality.

CONFUSED

  • The report stated that “no related email content was recoverable.” I believe there was a big part of the story here that the IAG chose not to tell, concerning how BH made sure, years ago when the reports of the 14 year affair first surfaced, to destroy those e-mails. I am confused why this has not been revealed to the congregation and the WCA in an effort to bring full transparency.
  • The report makes a recommendation that BH “review any possible financial resources (apart from personal retirement benefits or income) provided to him through WCCC and/or the WCA for support of his ministry after his retirement from WC and return such resources.”  I agree with this idea, but think it requires further information and development. I think the donors of the church and the WCA should know what kind of funding BH received and the new elders should discern whether that should be returned.
  • It is confusing and inaccurate to say that BH was merely a “contract employee” for the WCA. He was the head of the Board, the founder, and the primary voice of the entire organization.

MISSING

  • Outrage:

The report sounds dispassionate and somewhat clinical. I realize they need to be professional and objective. But if I’m honest, I long for a sense of outrage. What happened grieves the heart of God. So many lives were broken and affected by the sins of BH and the lack of strong oversight by those called to lead the church and the WCA. Jobs were lost. The consequences are immeasurable. The reputation of the church and the ministry of the WCA were seriously damaged. Followers of Christ around the world were heartbroken to learn that a leader who brought so much vision and leadership lessons had let them down. This is not simply a benign series of misjudgments. This was a tragedy of epic proportions.

  • Lament:

Tracing all the way back to last March, I’m wondering where the lament of God’s people has been. Willow Crystal Lake, one of the satellite sites, did hold an evening of lament and confession. But I’m not aware that a similar experience took place at the Barrington campus, or as a part of last year’s Summit. I believe we all need more grieving before moving on. I keep hearing about “the new season” and how the church and WCA were never about one person. That is true. But what is also true is that the founder of a world changing movement, the primary voice and visionary leader followed by scores of people, has committed serious sins and then lied to cover up those sins. I agree with Scot McKnight who called us to lament.

  • Greater Transparency:

What is missing in the report are details. Why do details matter? Because there are still people wondering if this could possibly be an over-reaction, if the women are fully telling the truth, if Bill’s abuse of power was really just “strong leadership.” I am aware of specific evidence and many episodes and stories that were told to the IAG. None of that comes out in the report. But it’s not too late if Willow Creek Community Church and the WCA choose to get all the important information out there. Why not clear the air? What are we afraid of? Details matter.

  • Specific Apologies:

In an effort to move on, I believe what is missing are still some specific, long overdue apologies. These should be made publicly. Several people had their good names and reputations dragged through the mud. The Mellados and Ortbergs were called “colluders” who had a “vendetta” against BH and the church. That is false information. The words spoken by Betty Schmidt, Vonda Dyer, myself and others were challenged and called lies by some. This should be made right. I also believe the elders who resigned should cycle back and apologize more completely for their serious missteps. In addition, the Board of the WCA and its leaders should apologize for not fulfilling their responsibility to take greater care with the information they received, and for allowing misinformation about the victims to be distributed globally. The WCA should also clear up any impression that their former President, Jim Mellado, had any motives to bring down Bill Hybels, the church or the WCA.

  • Reparations:

The IAG recommended that the church consider granting financial assistance for counseling or other resources for those who were directly harmed by their interactions with BH.  I agree, but think what is missing would be the scope of this assistance. Specifically, I believe the church should consider making major compensation to Pat Baranowski and Vonda Dyer, who both lost income or incurred financial repercussions because of the behavior of BH. Even though the current church leaders had nothing to do with the sin that affected the victims, I call them to do the right thing for these victims or any others deemed worthy of financial help.
Repentance From Bill Hybels: Finally, perhaps the biggest thing missing are any words from Bill himself. Words of genuine, full, complete repentance. His silence further hurts all the victims. I pray regularly that God will do a work in his heart and spirit, that he will pursue truth, counseling, confession and forgiveness.

  • Repentance From Bill Hybels:

Finally, perhaps the biggest thing missing are any words from Bill himself. Words of genuine, full, complete repentance. His silence further hurts all the victims. I pray regularly that God will do a work in his heart and spirit, that he will pursue truth, counseling, confession and forgiveness.


If you are still with me, I want to make some final comments. I doubt I will be writing about these events again, and want to make a few commendations, by name. A big thank you to some of the courageous people who played significant roles in this story:

  • Leanne Mellado :She carefully stewarded information given to her about an alleged affair, and continued to pursue truth for 3 ½ hears as the other womens’ stories emerged. Tenacious. Such high integrity. Leanne was supported all throughout by her husband, Jim Mellado, at great personal risk to himself.
  • Nancy Ortberg.- Took the information to the WCA Board she served on, fighting for an independent investigation. Resigned when she could not support their decision to submit to the church’s internal process. Board members Jon Wallace and Kara Powell resigned for the same reason. Nancy was supported by her husband, John Ortberg, who brought thoughtful wisdom and perspective to us throughout the process, at risk to his own reputation.
  • Betty Schmidt. – While fighting health battles, she bravely spoke truth from her decades as an elder of the church.
  • Vonda Dyer.– a strong voice from the beginning for truth, transparency, and repentance. She is so brave. Her husband, Scott Dyer, brought great insight and discernment.
  • I also thank Julie Williams, Boz Tchividjian, Mitch Little, Pat Baranowski, Moe Girkins, and Keri Ladouceur.  Boz served as an advisor starting in late 2015, bringing years of expertise and godly wisdom. Mitch brought perspective as an elder from another church and as a lawyer with boots on the ground meeting with church leaders. Pat stepped up to tell her story last Spring to the NY Times, which God used to bring about massive change. She could so easily have stayed hidden.
  • Scot McKnight. -I can’t overstate the power of Scot’s prophetic and pastoral voice, at just the right time. He is still bringing wisdom, truth, and grace to bear.
  • Steve Carter. – Steve showed up at my house a week or two after the Tribune article. He simply wanted to apologize. Steve would likely say he didn’t do everything perfectly in this process (none of us did) – but he listened to his heart and resigned from a job he loved. It was a game changer.
  • Two Elders. – Two of the elders who resigned came to our home individually to apologize to me and Warren. They were not defensive at all, just broken hearted and humbled. It meant the world to me that they showed up.
  • Rob Speight, Dr. Jim Bedell, and others “Searching For Truth.”:  There’s a group of truth seekers composed of those inside and outside of Willow who have relentlessly sought for transparency and advocated for the victims. I am grateful to all of them.
  • The Press .– including Manya Brachear, Jeff Coen, Bob Smietana, and Laurie Goodstein, and the Wartburg Watch. Without the press, this story would not have come to light.
  • My Family and Friends. – I cannot imagine this past year without my partner, Warren, and our two daughters and son-in-law, Samantha, Will and Johanna. They protected me, listened to me, and helped me gain perspective at every turn. We also have so many treasured friends – you know who you are – who continue to hold me up in prayer and love. Thank you to each and every one.

The historic events that have taken place will be reflected on and studied for years to come. It is my sincere hope and prayer that we will move beyond a sense of Us/Them with people who see things differently – that we will all unite around our original love for  a ministry called Willow that God used to transform thousands of lives. I join with others hoping that ALL of us will experience healing and growth – that God’s church will be purged and cleansed, that we will submit to the work of the Holy Spirit, that the Bride of Christ will become more radiant, filled with truth and grace.


Comments

Guest Post by Nancy Beach: A Survivor Responds to the Independent Investigation of Bill Hybels and Willow Creek Community Church — 116 Comments

  1. While heartbreaking, it is clear that Bill is neither sorry nor repentant but sees himself as the victim. He was in code red his entire ministry overseen by a mentor who was in code red from the beginning also. There was never a time through the “seasons” that the rot was not present and powerful. Do we assume the Lord could not have worked in the lives of believers if WCCC had never been started? I see kingdoms built on individual reputations. I do not see the heart of Christ in those who have been confronted.

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  2. While the IAG report dealt with the key issues at hand, I’m also left hanging with “That’s it?!” I agree wholeheartedly with Ms. Beach’s assessment that “The report sounds dispassionate and somewhat clinical. I realize they need to be professional and objective. But if I’m honest, I long for a sense of outrage.” It would have provided the Body of Christ a greater sense of closure if the IAG had ventured more to the subjective side of things by expressing personal feelings of disgust about the disgusting behavior of this icon of the American church.

    When will this madness end?!! When the church at large begins to shout “Enough is enough!”, when leadership peers across the Christian landscape stand up and speak words of rebuke and correction to wayward ministers both inside and outside their camps, when the first response of members of such ministries is outrage rather than ovation, when those ensnared by cults of personality hold solemn assemblies to repent of following such leaders, when fallen leaders confess and repent openly instead of fading into obscurity … then perhaps, perhaps, a healing will begin to flow through the Church of the Living God in America. Until then, we will continue to do church without God in many places.

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  3. The positive use of power, influence and management style was a source of growth and global impact of the ministry.

    The brazenness of that statement takes my breath away. One all-powerful founder was responsible for Willow Creek’s fame and abuse. This isn’t a thousand-year-old institution that does some bad along with much good. The mentality brings these things to mind:

    The end justifies the means. <—not in the Bible

    What are those gymnasts complaining about? They got their gold medals, right?

    How dare you take away Joe Paterno's sacred legacy!

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  4. A reminder to:
    – Appreciate our local non-famous pastors who love and care for the flock.
    – Put our faith in Jesus not in the pastor.
    – Pay attention to our local church business (finances and personnel matters).
    – Hold leaders accountable.
    – Practice discernment. Don’t be like real sheep and be ignorant.

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  5. Kudos to Nancy for her balanced assesment including some names of those who did right. Encouraged and heartened by the two elders who came to her house to personally apologize (no emails!), and Steve Carter who did the same then resigned. These men will be blessed by the Almighty who opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble. James 4:6

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  6. Beautifully written, Nancy Beach, very well said. I agree with her assessment in total and, I must say, it was very heartening to read of Christlike character and interactions taking place behind the scenes.

    I kind of felt like the abuses that happened were in bold print on the front page–the years of cover up, the smears of good people and accusations of vendettas and collusion – all of the ugly abuse and attempts to make it disappear. Well, in contrast to that, the report felt like a small addendum on the back page. Not that it was incorrect but just that it was insipid and left so much unsaid that needs to be said. Ms Beach brought me much more of a feeling of closure and restored some of my faith. I agree that the victims deserve remuneration.

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  7. What about Heather Larson? Unless I missed it, she was not in Nancy’s comment. Heather was at Willow for about 15-20 years. What did she know? Was she a ‘victim’ in some way? What strikes me most is how any of the people who knew of the abuses could deliver faith stories to attenders on Willow’s stages. I, for 18 years, and so many, were ’bamboozeled’ on one the most prominent church stages in the world. Wow, that is scary evil.

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  8. Carolyn S,

    Yes! As I watch these stories of the MegaChurch (TM) (my terminology for this industry) fall, that seems to be the answer.

    My response to the original post, and I hope it isn’t taken the wrong way…..
    I agree, but…..
    1. What I, as an outsider, read is that they were trying not to tear down the church which has done good. That dilutes the sense of outrage. As we watch the HBC issue continue to unfold, we see that in a a situation like this, there is a much larger group of believer and followers who ARE betrayed and hurt by having followed and supported something (not wanting to give personhood to the perpetrators) so evil. The problem of the MegaChurch(TM) . The music and lights and show seems to cover up so much.
    2. As a person who apparently has a personality that invites abuse….I have learned that the apologies are never going to happen. Part of my healing is being able to forgive and not expect an apology. As I have moved forward in life, I have watched a good friend, who was physically abused as a child hold onto the need for having an apology from his abusive father. I can tell him/you that will NEVER happen, but in his lingering bitterness my friend has rained upon his children a different form of abuse that he can never see even though I tried to tell him. As a friend, it rained on me, although he will never see it. It is a part of the narcisissm/psycopathy that allows an abuser to be abusive. As nice as an apology would be, as nice as it is when it actually happens (and how that reflects on people who are truly repentant), I do think it important to realize that won’t be part of the healing packet in most cases. The abusers have justified the behavior in their mind. Even when caught, knowing that they are guilty, very few are able to truly see the damage.
    3. Power and wealth do corrupt. We see this in our government and we see it in the MegaChurch(TM) movement. How do we stop this? I don’t know, but I think Carolyn’s post is true. Yes, the big MegaChurch can do big things, but from it’s origin, often times being a cult of personality, it is set up to fail unless transparency is present. I think frequently transparency is lacking.

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  9. I believe that Steve Carter is an opportunist – weighing his options until it seemed more advantageous to side against BH – while still prominently displaying on Twitter his BH endorsed book. I will be skeptical while reading the book that Steve will inevitably write on his WCCC experience. Surely, like Heather, he knew for years what was going on. I’m not sure why he is not being called to some accountability.

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  10. One comment not approved. Seneca-you should never, ever, ever attempt to counsel people who a=have been abused.

    One other thing, you have been strangely silent regarding CJ Mahaney’s fate. I seem to recall you were quite a fan. I bet you could become a his pen pal. He needs some friends.

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  11. Deborah: is clear that Bill is neither sorry nor repentant but sees himself as the victim. He was in code red his entire ministry overseen by a mentor who was in code red from the beginning also.

    Your comment is important. I’ve been pondering a similar question. Was Hybels a predator from the very beginning? Did he set up the structure of the church to indulge his autocratic personality as well as to indulge his predilection for women and maybe even darker activities (watching child porn with an assistant.)

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  12. Max wrote: “When will this madness end?……when leadership peers across the Christian landscape stand up and speak words of rebuke and correction to wayward ministers both inside and outside their camps, when the first response of members of such ministries is outrage rather than ovation, when those ensnared by cults of personality hold solemn assemblies to repent of following such leaders, when fallen leaders confess and repent openly instead of fading into obscurity”

    I would add: when whole congregations quit giving the abuser standing ovations.

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  13. Just my two cents worth, which won’t even buy you a bubble gum:

    I don’t see the failure of BH as somehow terrible BECAUSE it damages the whole seeker sensitive movement. Rather, I see it as REVEALING the evil inherent in that system.

    The number one job of the church is to proclaim the truth. It isn’t to put on a light show or drama or have a kick butt band or host pot lucks or be our family when we have no close family relationships. Now, all those things are not bad in themselves and may well happen but we have to remember the purpose of the church is to proclaim the truth.

    The truth is not popular with unbelievers, backsliders, the half committed, or the self focused. Shoot, nine times out of ten it isn’t all that popular with true blue saints.

    We in the pew have to stop being dazzled by bucks and butts numbers and supporting whoever can pack’em in and start supporting those who proclaim the truth.

    You don’t have to change organizations, or have a church fight, etc. Just avoid sitting under false preaching or false music programs (aka manipulative drivel) and sit on your wallet. Have a great SS? Attend and go home and do NOT put a dime in the plate on your way out. When enough pew packers do this the predators will leave of their own accord, because for them, it is ALL about the Benjamins baby.

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  14. Ruth Tucker,

    This is the key question….. these abusive churches/systems would not exist if pew peons did not support
    them…. I was part of a Baptist Church (not SBC) 25 years ago that fully bought into the “seeker service” model of Willow Creek and BH…..
    The whole thing felt “wrong” to me, but the peer pressure to go along with our church leaderships “vision” was very strong to “not rock the boat” and question this “seeker service” mentality….

    From my almost 50 years being in churches, I can say that the “system” does not like people that are reflective and thinking…. if it questions the “vision” of the leaders…..

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  15. Ruth Tucker,

    I would add: when whole congregations quit giving. And when people in the congregation have the courage to stand up, mid sermon, and rebuke these men on the spot. If they kick you out for doing that, then it wasn’t much of a church to begin with. People have to be willing to get out of their comfort zone.

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  16. Ruth Tucker: I would add: when whole congregations quit giving the abuser standing ovations.

    That is a definite indicator that a cult of personality exists in such churches. Christian celebrities would have no stage to perform on, if they didn’t have an audience to keep them there. When the pew applauds an abusive pulpit, they drown out the cries of victims. The whole thing is upside down.

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  17. Carolyn S: – Pay attention to our local church business (finances and personnel matters).

    Many of the churches written about here don’t allow to the congregation to see the finances or hear about personnel issues of the leader. Which begs the question, “What are they hiding?”

    Answer, it appears, is their hiding a lot!

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  18. Bridget,

    All the more reason (my opinion) that the rules and regulations regarding financial transparency for non-profits be completely overhauled.

    No longer should religious non-profits be allowed to exempt themselves from the transparency laws non-religious outfits must abide by.

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  19. Celeste,

    “there is a much larger group of believer and followers who ARE betrayed and hurt by having followed and supported something (not wanting to give personhood to the perpetrators) so evil. ”
    +++++++++++++++++++++++

    to separate out the perpetrator from his/her personhood absolves their responsibility.

    Even with weighty mitigating factors, the perpetrator made their choices, which impact other human beings.

    there is nothing in the bible prohibiting these statements (whether made individually or corporately:

    “You did x and it was wrong. You chose to do wrong. These are the consequences which other(s) have borne because of your choices:…”

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  20. Max,

    “…standing ovations.”

    “That is a definite indicator that a cult of personality exists in such churches. Christian celebrities would have no stage to perform on, if they didn’t have an audience to keep them there. When the pew applauds an abusive pulpit, they drown out the cries of victims. The whole thing is upside down.”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    there are very few occasions (& very few human beings) which warrant a standing ovation.

    i hate standing ovations. talk about mindless pressure to conform.

    standing is a public statement that you agree, affirm, approve, support, and are of the opinion that such approval and support are the right thing to do. (regardless of what one really thinks).

    you may find something infinitessimal to approve of, and could justify standing based on that. (like politicians standing for a president they despise, or who represents what they despise, at the State of The Union)

    however, where abuse is concerned, standing throws acid on the victim.

    i’m going to make a bumper sticker and a T-shirt: Ovations — Rethink standing.

    but this is old news.

    (if remaining sitting makes too much of a public statement otherwise for comfort, you could at the very least feign tying your shoe, the knot becoming more and more challenging depending on how the long the stupid standing carries on)

    (or just leave)

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  21. elastigirl: i hate standing ovations. talk about mindless pressure to conform.

    Church as entertainment is a direct product of Hybels-type ministries. Give them what they want and they will come, cheer, applaud, laugh, whatever. BH took his seeker-friendly cue from Robert Schuller who held his first church in an open-air drive-in theatre to make folks feel more relaxed and comfortable about going to “church” … “Hurry, Hurry, Hurry!” shouted the carnival barker. The Great God of Entertainment has been drawing in crowds ever since. The Crystal Cathedral shattered … Willow Creek is up a creek without their paddle … that which is built contrary to God’s will always crumbles into obscurity. Bells and whistles, smoke and mirrors only last for a season.

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  22. Julie Roys commented on her blog this week,

    “We need to remember that Jesus never cared about the prominence of His Bride. He cared about her holiness. He didn’t care about Her image to the world; He cared about her willingness to take up her cross. We have lost sight of what ministry and the church should be. And we need to repent and strengthen what remains before it’s too late.”

    What draws and keeps you or me in the Christian community we are now a part of? Is it holiness, humility, and focus on service to others leading to making disciples who obey Jesus?

    Or do I attend my church because the pastor preaches good sermons, I like the worship and it has a great Sunday schools for my kids- all of which are consumer driven factors.

    Until we stop being spiritual consumers and start being spiritual dispensers we will keep getting what we’ve gotten- churches built around supplying programs to meet our “needs”. Led by men who love their stages and protect their turf.

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  23. Fisher,

    “Or do I attend my church because the pastor preaches good sermons, I like the worship and it has a great Sunday schools for my kids- all of which are consumer driven factors.

    Until we stop being spiritual consumers and start being spiritual dispensers we will keep getting what we’ve gotten- churches built around supplying programs to meet our “needs”. Led by men who love their stages and protect their turf.”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    on the other hand, an effort to combat this “consumerism” is the cattle drive to “volunteerism!”.

    a previous church spent many hours researching and putting together a volunteer handbook (i know, because i put in at least 10 volunteer hours doing so). it included things like “make breakfast for the staff”.

    ever gagged on nothing but an idea at 1:30 in the morning at the kitchen table while producing a word doc?

    how many years have i spent donating hours upon hours of my time (in addition to my full time job) to church, having nothing left for my family or my neighbors, neighborhood, town, anything else? church took it all.

    all my energy and time to benefit the church, kept in-house, for nothing and nobody but the church. made the church better and stronger, made the jobs easier for the professional christians on staff. they had more time to go out for coffee, meals, be at home with their families.

    i ignored my neighbors, neighborhood, where i live (had nothing left to give). church wanted it all for itself.

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  24. Fisher,

    “What draws and keeps you or me in the Christian community we are now a part of? Is it holiness, humility, and focus on service to others leading to making disciples who obey Jesus?”
    ++++++++++++++++++

    you’ve touched on a sore spot, you see.

    if i thought the “volunteerism drive” was pressure, i can already smell the ramped-up pressure of the “holiness drive”.

    first it was “DO MORE!”. now it would be “BE MORE!”

    i much prefer a matter-of-fact approach. dare I use “common sense” one more time?

    something like, in daily life shoot for patience, honesty, generosity, helpfulness, kindness to strangers.

    doesn’t need to be any more complicated or campaign-ish than that. certainly don’t need anyone to monitor me or how i’m doing.

    i don’t need a single sermon, let alone a sermon series or 8-week small-group study with glossy workbook and dvd.

    i certainly don’t need a professional christian managing my life. i’m an adult, exercising personal responsibility.

    (Fisher… i don’t mean to presume you’re advocating for anything i’ve railed against here. i’m speaking to the air.)

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  25. Back in the early 2000s, my church had a “seeker sensitive” service. There were some fun activities, shallow sermons, and very little fruit after all that work. We went back to being our boring, Scandinavian selves. Now, we have a thriving Spanish congregation, many young families, excellent children/youth ministries staffed by our volunteers, and I’m working on putting together a pilot ESL program for our multicultural neighborhood. There are many other things I could add to the list, but we’re doing better just being the church where you can hear the Word faithfully preached and find people who care.

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  26. Fisher: Until we stop being spiritual consumers and start being spiritual dispensers we will keep getting what we’ve gotten- churches built around supplying programs to meet our “needs”. Led by men who love their stages and protect their turf.

    Of course, you realize that trying to be a spiritual dispenser as a plain-old-congregant-with-a-life is liable to get you the left boot of fellowship rather than making headway against the defensive men with their beloved stages?

    I’ve been the church member who did not bake every cupcake and attend every barbecue because I was busy leading a Christian life with heavy family responsibilities. Very small church said we didn’t participate enough to be prayed for. We were visiting shut-ins in the church more than the pastor, but we were on our own time so that didn’t count and was, in fact, a bit suspect.

    I’ve been the church member who questioned the deeds of the leadership and was told to shut up or get out.

    I’ve been the church member who went to church to serve rather than be served, but that got us pegged as the dangerous weirdos.

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  27. elastigirl: all my energy and time to benefit the church, kept in-house, for nothing and nobody but the church. made the church better and stronger, made the jobs easier for the professional christians on staff. they had more time to go out for coffee, meals, be at home with their families.

    This was certainly my experience, along with 90% of money given going to the same in-church pursuits.

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  28. Linn: Back in the early 2000s, my church had a “seeker sensitive” service. There were some fun activities, shallow sermons, and very little fruit after all that work … we’re doing better just being the church where you can hear the Word faithfully preached and find people who care

    Bill Hybels actually got around to repenting (sort of) regarding his seeker-friendly way of doing church at Willow Creek. From a 2007 Christianity Today article:

    “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.” (Bill Hybels)

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  29. Fisher: “We have lost sight of what ministry and the church should be. And we need to repent and strengthen what remains before it’s too late.” (Julie Roys)

    Jesus essentially said the same thing to the 7 churches in Revelation, with a stern warning “Repent or else!”

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  30. Deborah,

    ““Steve is the most gifted teacher I’ve ever come across and he was in our church, and she’s the most gifted leader. This was only about putting people in the positions who earned it and have been tested by our congregation and affirmed by our elders.””
    +++++++++++++++++

    Bill Hybels described her thusly.

    she may have talents in leadership and people skills, i don’t know.

    what i do know is the word “gifted” is getting really old in christianworld.

    it’s the new ‘intentional’. (which had been the new ‘winsome’). and another ball in the BS bingo bag, christian edition.

    (I dare someone to play in church, and call it out when you’ve got BINGO.) (plan ahead for someone to be filming, of course)

    to me, it’s code for

    “…adequate, and the person is useful so i can get what I want. and i’m going to exploit the dickens out of the word ‘gifted’ because it really works to manipulate my audience as further insurance so i can indeed get what I want.”

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  31. JDV,

    These days survivors who try to yell “code red” about a predator pastor can expect to be vilified, discredited, maligned and silenced. If they are eventually heard,as Nancy and other women were,nothing significant happens. The church has no authority to discipline nor will to publicly call out and disassociate from the predator. Every public disclosure I can think of in the church world cost the victims more than the abusers and enablers. Savage, Hybels & Macdonald get their retirement. Ravi Zacharias gets continued honors and invitations.

    If you had a layer of deeper disclosures to make about predators at WCCC, how do people propose victims could do so in a way that the facts would matter and what hope would there be that appropriate action would be taken? This insipid report by the IAG gives none to them.

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  32. Deborah,

    *I do realize Hybels was saying the pastor needed to be able to say that the seasoned pastor was in code red. That doesn’t appear to be a working model. I’m wondering how survivors are able to yell that a predator pastor deserves a code red warning and be taken seriously.

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  33. Max: From a 2007 Christianity Today article:

    “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

    He speaks as though there is no indwelling Holy Spirit, as though a new believer is just a blank slate waiting to be led by the nose. Now maybe this is true if they have just come for the music and coffee, I don’t know, but it seems like to me that when a person sincerely believes, they sincerely seek out the things of God. And often it is in church they begin to be misled or co-opted into other pursuits that are more about the good of the pastor or organization.

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  34. Deborah,

    Because, #’s if butts in the pews is the most important metric, period. If there is some coalateral damage along the way, oh well… which seems to contradict the parable if the Sheppard leaving the 99 and looking for the one list sheep

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  35. elastigirl,

    I think in a religious setting “gifted” also means: God gave you this gift, and you know the Parable of the Talents…that means you gotta use this gift for the Kingdom, so get to work using the skills I have identified as useful to my program and no balking!

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  36. SiteSeer: He speaks as though there is no indwelling Holy Spirit, as though a new believer is just a blank slate waiting to be led by the nose.

    It’s increasingly clear that a lot of 21st century churchgoers are being led by a man, rather than the Spirit. The Holy Spirit will lead a believer to Truth, but it requires personal study of the Word and prayer … it’s so much easier in this do-it-quick, move-on-to-the-next-thing society to let a mere man tell you what to believe.

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  37. SiteSeer,

    I heard about that comment a wee while after Mr Hybels made it. I think he talked about making folk “a mile wide and an inch deep” as well. And thirdly, my experiences in a cult in Glasgow in the 1990’s, in which people who had signed up or come forward at outreach events had to be relentlessly visited, cultivated, and offered free and ready-organised transport to every meeting of the church (typically two or three every week).

    This last point always bothered me because, as you said, when I was first drawn towards Jesus of Nazareth, you didn’t have to drag me kicking and screaming to gatherings of believers. Actually, you had to lock the doors to keep me out. Of course, these people were not generally converts at all; they were simply marks, who had been sold something by the CEO and who had to be bombarded with post-sale inducements to try to cement them psychologically into the pyramid. The CEO was able to mandate this because we provided him with a near-bottomless reserve of free labour. He, of course, was able to cream off the credit for “leading them to the Lord” and we gladly gave it to him. We worked ourselves into the ground to make it all happen, and considered that God had ordained it to confirm His blessing and anointing on the CEO’s ministry, because we were hopelessly deceived.

    In the stage-centered church model, 90% or more of christian gifts and talents are completely redundant.

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  38. Friend: “The positive use of power, influence and management style was a source of growth and global impact of the ministry.”

    The brazenness of that statement takes my breath away.

    It says, quite clearly, that they haven’t learned a thing.

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  39. My husband and I attended Willowcreek a few times in the ‘90s. We had a question about small groups and met with a man on staff who said that we would have to go to a study group to find our spiritual gifts then get assigned to a service group and then those people in our group would be our small group. He then drew on a chalk board an organizational chart – how all the small groups send a leader to the next level of groups, then this second level would send leaders to the next level, and so on all the way up to Hybels. I soon realized there was no place for the Holy Spirit. We found a smaller church that relies on the Holy Spirit.

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  40. Lea–I think if you re read what I wrote you will see those pot lucks etc can be very good things. They just are not the PURPOSE of the church. People can form all sorts of affinity groups. The purpose of a garden club is gardening, of a dance club is dancing, of a charitable group is charitable acts, and the purpose of the church is proclaiming the truth about God and what He has revealed of Himself, of us, and of our choices for eternity. All of those groups will have means of fellowship, of cooperating, of making friends, probably the pot lucks, etc. Those just are not the PURPOSE of the church.

    Unfortunately today there are a whole lot of people who are not interested at all in Jesus but want all the rest church can offer: respectability, church family relations, fellowship, someone to care for them in time of need, but get all het up under the collar if the church preaches repentance and salvation.

    What I was saying is that we can’t let the peripheral benefits become the purpose of the church any more than a square dance club should never dance, just get together and eat and talk. That eating and talking may be wonderful, but if they never dance, they are not a square dance club.

    Church, when it is truly being the church, will be an important part of our social lives if we are church goers. The mistake the church growth movement makes is trying to be the ONLY social life folks have. I treasure my churches’s meals, activities, fishing days, trips, etc. But if I had to choose between a church that actually preached repentance and salvation but offered none of those, or a church that never got around to good preaching and teaching but was highly social, I would choose the first one and maybe join a good square dance or garden club:)

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  41. dee,

    My understanding is that Dr. Bilezikian was the architect behind the Willow model. CT ran an article about how Willow would not exist without Dr.B.

    It is interesting to note that predators exist in every theological flavor, church polity, size of congregation, patriarchal or egalitarian from the IFB to the mega & relevant. The abuse of power, distortion of Scripture,access to the vulnerable with enablers and colluders can happen in any church/ministry system.

    In Bill’s book about being a Christian in a sex-crazed world (don’t let the irony kill you!), he writes mockingly about his dad’s birds and the bees talk since he was well versed in sexual things in 5th grade and mentions neighbor girls if I remember correctly. Showing a birth film was his idea to titillate the older boys when he worked at a camp. Some weird stuff he wrote when you go back and read it. He was read with the presumption that he was a “godly” Christian pastor. In retrospect, much of his writing is chilling, creepy or plain weird.

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  42. Lea,

    They “get it”….. ends justfies the means… I see this in biomedical research…. “I know I am correct, so what have the time the data says otherwise”

    In the current situations, As long large numbers of people “pray the prayer”, we will look the other way on some “sketchy stuff”….. we live/function in a results driven society…..

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  43. elastigirl: Noevangelical,

    ” And when people in the congregation have the courage to stand up, mid sermon, and rebuke these men on the spot.”
    +++++++++++++++++

    oh, how many times have i wanted to do this!!

    Ditto! It’s why I finally had to stop going to church. 😉

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  44. Nick Bulbeck,

    What a tragedy that the very gifts and blessings God gave to his people are being co-opted and misused to bring worldly treasure to false teachers. I’m still forging a path through the wilderness, as I try to figure out the non-church method of using what little I have to genuinely serve others in need.

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  45. __

    Chicago 501c3 “Raw ‘Hyde’?”

    hmmm…

    October 12, 1975 – April 10, 2018 : “Now Up the WILLOW CREEK, Perhaps?”

    hmmm…

    Absolutely crushing five women giving documented unfavorable eye-witness testimony to elevate in perpetuity a legacy of one forty-three year idolized alledged missive senior pastor?

    Whew, who knew…

    (srug)

    Goin’ to that sweet ole 501c3 plaze, Chicago? [1]

    (sadface)

    Sopy

    Intermission:
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ri83v76PXdE
    Bonus:
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Psm96Dn9KII
    [1] Just Because:
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=xuRhaDrnlWo

    ;~)

    – –

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  46. ___

    “Convinced?”

    hmmm…

    TS00,

    ♪♩♪♩hum, hum, hum…“How great Thou art?”
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0E2mRHouOY

    You bet!

    “See what great love Our Heavenly Father has supremely lavished upon us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Jesus. Kind friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ Jesus appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as he is.”

    YaHoooooo!

    Keep up da good work, huh?

    ATB

    Sòpy

    ;~)

    – –

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  47. Nancy Beach: Finally, perhaps the biggest thing missing are any words from Bill himself. Words of genuine, full, complete repentance. His silence further hurts all the victims. I pray regularly that God will do a work in his heart and spirit, that he will pursue truth, counseling, confession and forgiveness.

    This is actually good he is saying nothing. He is a master manipulator and Nancy wanting that gives him more credibility than he deserves. Hybels modeled the typical NPD traits from reading all the different stories. (I have met him several times back in the 90’s outside of willow creek but connected to the mega world)

    He is a slick brain gaming manipulator. Besides, “words” are not repentance. It’s much deeper than that and takes years to be confirmed as real. Why would anyone trust anything different than that ? NPD’s, if they take the opportunity to be evaluated, rarely ever change. Until then, I don’t know why anyone would believe a thing he says. He is the master of “words”, tone and body language from being on a stage for 40 years. Look at how long he fooled a lot of people on staff.

    My guess? He is busy outlining a book or an apology tour a few years from now on what he has learned from his grievous sin.

    A better way, I found, to heal from similar is not to look to Hybels for closure but analyze how and why you were manipulated and conned and what to look for in the future. That exercise can take years! These types are everywhere hiding behind their compassion and slick words. Many are on church stages. I know quite a few, myself.

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  48. ___

    “Last Call?…my @zz”

    hmmm…

    501c3 Abuse: “Wound up too tight, perhaps?”

    huh?

    …I got a cesspool of preachers, and one just ‘bit’ me!

    What?!?

    The whole dang world stops turning as social media proverbially burns the U.S. 501c3 church to the ground?
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=BxgeSv88c2w

    Could b.

    It’s tickin’ like a time bomb?

    This ‘abuse misery’ won’t stop…

    (sadface)

    Sòpy

    ;~)

    – –

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  49. Lydia: Besides, “words” are not repentance. It’s much deeper than that and takes years to be confirmed as real. Why would anyone trust anything different than that ?

    Yes and Amen!

    The present consensus in favor of “presumption of sincerity” probably has contributed a great deal to spread of a culture of unaccountable abuse.

    It is hard to prove causality, but I suspect that the “Peacemaker” formula for reconciliation, which IIRC presumes that words of repentance from a wrongdoer should be regarded to be sincere, has contributed.

    I think that a more nearly biblical model might be to withhold trust until the verbally repentant wrong-doer “brings forth fruit in keeping with repentance.” And, as you say, the assessment that such fruits are genuine ought not to be made hastily.

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  50. Another big amen to you Lydia.

    In a similar vein, the real preachers (who may or may not be pastors) live the life in front of us.

    They are not always popular. I once had a relative battling a beer problem (long since beat it!) that would get angry at family reunions if any other adults chose a soda from the cooler. Did not have to rant against alcoholism, drunk driving, etc. Just quietly not drinking would send him into a bitter time of loudly telling everyone around that adult was a self righteous holier than thou hypocrite. Some would explain their choices as due to a medication, or hating the taste of beer, etc.

    But nothing put him under conviction like someone who would not answer back, just quietly enjoy their soda.

    Maybe what we need are more of the quiet preachers who do tell the truth in the pulpit even if people find it offensive, but also live out that honorable life.

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  51. Samuel Conner: I think that a more nearly biblical model might be to withhold trust until the verbally repentant wrong-doer “brings forth fruit in keeping with repentance.”

    Amen! A fallen pastor who reinvents himself to launch another ministry – without a clear demonstration of genuine repentance from his last mess – should be viewed skeptically. Saying you’re sorry does not equal repentance – there must be an obvious change in actions and word displayed before the Body of Christ. Attempting to get folks to trust you in a new thing after betraying the trust of others in the old thing just doesn’t cut it in the Kingdom of God. You can’t simply move on until you make things right … and for most of these guys, the right thing to do is not pursue church leadership ever again after they became disqualified from ministry. Forgive them if they repent? Certainly. Restore them to ministry? No.

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  52. Samuel Conner: It is hard to prove causality, but I suspect that the “Peacemaker” formula for reconciliation, which IIRC presumes that words of repentance from a wrongdoer should be regarded to be sincere, has contributed.

    Ah, the Peacemaker… It seemed so godly, so mature–until I saw it in action. Toothless, favored the powerful and abusive, useless.

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  53. I also struggle with the muted IAG report produced by Christians who hold highly respected leadership posts. They focused their effort more on what they did not want to do and what they did not want to reveal, rather than taking this very strategic moment to light a torch and guide the church in a new direction.

    The real root of the problem is not the former WCCC and WCA Elders’ lack of human skills to deal with the press, but their loss of a pure heart to hear Jesus. How easily we all fall into that trap! Hopefully they will repent and let Christ be formed in them in the years ahead.

    But I take some comfort in the fact that the top pastors and the entire board of WCCC elders all stepped down. (WCA ??) That in itself is a visible change. I pray that the new team of Elders at WCCC will pray more deeply and heed the calling of Jesus Christ more closely with holy hearts and minds. I pray that the Holy and might Spirit of our Redeemer will continue to move in the body of Christ to purify it and make it bright again.

    The fact that so many believers share such concern for the spiritual health of the church, and voice the need for change and cure, is very encouraging. Such voice in the wilderness is critical at this age of much darkness and confusion.

    Let’s not faint in this warfare. Maybe it will help us – including the celebrity pastors/leaders – to remember that ” Christ in you (NOT YOU), the hope of glory!”.

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  54. birdoftheair,

    “Christians who hold highly respected leadership posts”
    ++++++++++++++++++++

    seems to me they are very capable of rationalizing their conscience away as they bend “biblical” according to what suits them and their comrades. Influence at its finest. 😐

    Christian = the word for who and what NOT to trust.

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  55. We need to let this go. The people of Willow would like to get back to bringing Jesus to people and keeping this going only hurts the Kingdom work. The people of Willow didn’t do this, a few leaders did. Go after them and leave the rest of us out of it. Please, the damage being done to the Kingdom by keeping this going is wrong. Its over, lets get back to Gods work please.

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  56. linda: what we need are more of the quiet preachers who do tell the truth in the pulpit even if people find it offensive, but also live out that honorable life

    Such faithful men of God are on the threatened species list in America, rapidly moving to the rare and endangered listing. If you should attempt to look for these needles in the haystack in your area, you probably won’t find them in mega-church, but in mini-church faithfully serving out their calling with the uncompromised Word of God. They don’t make six-figure salaries, live in mansions, and fly on personal jets … they love the Lord Jesus and His people and Jesus loves and works through them. May God flush the charlatans from American pulpits and replace them with Men of God with a holy fire in their bones.

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  57. Common_Sense: . The people of Willow would like to get back to bringing Jesus to people and keeping this going only hurts the Kingdom work

    I’m concerned that you don’t understand how this works. Perhaps it is due to the teaching at WCCC.
    1. The very Gospel shouts to the world that men and women are sinful. When we become Christians, we are positionally holy but functionally sinners. Any effort to downplay that reality leads to a theology that attempts to convey that Christians are somehow a bit better than others. When that reality is shattered by the truth, the world sees us as failures.
    2. God utilizes the Bible to show us the continued sins of His people.I doubt you would say “Only David inner with Bathsheba. Let’s forget about it and move on. God chose to document the wretched truth about His people.
    3. In the midst of that awful reality, Jesus showed up, took us to the Cross and then to His Resurrection. We are saved because we need to be saved. We are sinners.
    4. Telling people about Jesus is telling them about us and our sin problem.We MUDST share Jesus in the midst of our exposed sin. It is our only hope.
    5. In the end, it is the Holy Spirit, working in your life and the lives of those you tell, to hear the unvarnished message. In the midst of sin and betrayal, there is hope. No, we are no better than the world around us so we should not be afraid to live out the truth I the midst of sin.

    Go share Jesus. Share Him by pointing out what happened.Use that to show the people why we need a Savior. Share your own reality. Not the *I was a sinner and now I’m doing pretty good.* Nope. I’m a sinner and so is everybody at Willow Creek and every single one of you (and me too) will fail and do some bad things.

    Share the truth. Don’t pretend to be good.

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  58. dee: Any effort to downplay that reality leads to a theology that attempts to convey that Christians are somehow a bit better than others. When that reality is shattered by the truth, the world sees us as failures.

    And, worse, as HYPOCRITS. People can accept failure when amends are made, but who can accept hypocrisy? This entire situation, like so many, is one of hypocrisy. What is the greatest objection to Christianity? Hypocrisy. The answer is not trying to keep hypocrisy more secret. We live in a world where that doesn’t work very well anymore, anyways. “Sweeping it under the rug” is a term for a reason and it’s not something anyone respects or appreciates. It’s time to make a clean sweep. Imagine if we could be known for being honest and genuine. We’ve got a long way to go.

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  59. Common_Sense: The people of Willow would like to get back to bringing Jesus to people and keeping this going only hurts the Kingdom work. The people of Willow didn’t do this, a few leaders did.

    Bill Hybels and his band of yes-men elders would have had no stage if not for a willing audience to keep them there. The rumors were there for years about Hybels’ “affections”, red flags were popping up on several fronts, his intimidating hand in the Willow organization was well-known … faithful elders and members attempted to speak correction into it, but Willow Creek was too big to fail and ignored their cries. Willow cannot strengthen what remains until the people of God within it hold a solemn assembly to admit they had a role in the mess and repent before God … until then, the “people of Willow” collectively cannot get back to anything that has the name of Jesus affixed to it. Church bodies who realize this, move on to “bring Jesus to people”; those who don’t, remain outside of God’s will and purpose.

    CS, I wish you the best in your spiritual journey moving forward. Jesus is worth it, even though the organizations we might attach ourselves to are not. TWW and others who deeply care about the Body of Christ are “keeping this thing going” until the axe is taken to the root of the tree in the American church; Willow is but one example of the sad condition in many corners of it. That root is in all of our hearts … there but for the grace of God go I. May God forgive us all and give us wisdom for the days ahead.

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  60. Common_Sense:
    We need to let this go.The people of Willow would like to get back to bringing Jesus to people and keeping this going only hurts the Kingdom work.The people of Willow didn’t do this, a few leaders did.Go after them and leave the rest of us out of it.Please, the damage being done to the Kingdom by keeping this going is wrong.Its over, lets get back to Gods work please.

    Who’s stopping you from “bringing Jesus to people”? How is this forum preventing that? I didn’t get the impression from the posts here that a whole lot of people were hammering away at the people in the pews and blaming them necessarily. No one is stopping you from doing God’s work. You sound very confused, or perhaps, you know eactly what you’re doing and you just want people to shut up. Not exactly “Gods [sic] work.”

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  61. Max,

    Yep, way too long. Now we need lots and lots of sunlight, because if CS really thinks that it’s all good now and let’s move on already, just a few months on, CS either has no understanding of the culture that develops in destructive, abusive organizations, or knows all too well and wants to maintain as much of the status quo as possible. Assuming CS is for real, CS’s attitude here is strong evidence that there’s more than a little cancer left over at WCillow Creek.

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  62. Common_Sense: Please, the damage being done to the Kingdom by keeping this going is wrong. Its over, lets get back to Gods work please.

    I don’t think I have ever heard of any Christian church/ministry using a process like “Root Cause Analysis” to find and correct the real problems in their respective ministries). It’s a quality assurance process used in industries such as manufacturing or software development. See https://asq.org/quality-resources/root-cause-analysis for an overview, or search on the internet for other examples (if you search “christian root cause analysis you will find some articles the merely focus on personal issues).

    In the case of Willow Creek, the apparent problem was with leadership. But bad leadership was the result of a deeper root cause. Until the church spends the time and effort to find and correct the root cause they will never get healthy. If the members really want to move ahead in a positive manner they will need to find a way to address the deeper causes.

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  63. Ken F (aka Tweed): In the case of Willow Creek, the apparent problem was with leadership. But bad leadership was the result of a deeper root cause. Until the church spends the time and effort to find and correct the root cause they will never get healthy. If the members really want to move ahead in a positive manner they will need to find a way to address the deeper causes.

    It is also important to remember that it was Willow Creek which essentially created the ‘new’ style of leadership that built mega institutions functioning like businesses. In addition, they have run endless ‘leadership’ seminars and trained countless others to think, worship and look like them. IMO, the organization itself contains the seeds of corruption that are sprouting everywhere. Things are not going to get better unless and until the system is honestly reevaluated, with ‘success’ measured by something more significant than numbers and dollars.

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  64. TS00: it was Willow Creek which essentially created the ‘new’ style of leadership that built mega institutions functioning like businesses … trained countless others to think, worship and look like them … the organization itself contains the seeds of corruption that are sprouting everywhere … not going to get better unless and until the system is honestly reevaluated

    It has been called the “Willow Creek Model” … there are lots of these churches in my area … rivers one-mile wide and one-inch deep. Hybels, himself, finally got around to admitting they had made a mistake – that they should have been equipping and maturing believers in the Word rather than throwing friendly stuff at the seekers. In many ways, he created a sort of soft anti-Christ environment, where Jesus’ name was dropped just enough to appear Christian. I knew his “model” was in trouble from the get-go when he decided to not display a Cross thinking it would hinder seekers from attending. Yes, it’s high time that this system is honestly reevaluated and that the pastors at Willow Creek models begin to model their ministries to be friendly with the living Christ, rather than cater to what the pew wants. I truly believe that seekers will come if the uncompromised Word is preached without bells and whistles – they always have.

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  65. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    For quality assurance or fruit-testing purposes, here is an example of a prophet-teacher who had wide and long-lasting impact with his life and his sermons. These are the words of Tennyson about Oswald Chambers:

    Who never sold the truth to serve the hour,
    Nor paltered with eternal God for power,
    Who let the turbid stream of rumor flow
    Thro’ either babbling high or low;
    Whose life is work, whose language rife
    With rugged maxims hewn from life,
    Who never spoke against a foe.

    Another close friend described Oswald’s life as “the finest commentary on the Sermon on the Mount I know.”

    (Reference of quotes: The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers pages 1438-1439)

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  66. TS00: It is also important to remember that it was Willow Creek which essentially created the ‘new’ style of leadership that built mega institutions functioning like businesses. In addition, they have run endless ‘leadership’ seminars and trained countless others to think, worship and look like them. IMO, the organization itself contains the seeds of corruption that are sprouting everywhere. Things are not going to get better unless and until the system is honestly reevaluated, with ‘success’ measured by something more significant than numbers and dollars.

    It made a mess out of my former church. Yes, there’s some owning up to do and change pursued. Contrary to what C S would like to think, it’s not over. There are going to be repercussions for awhile.

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  67. How the new team of Elders and the pastoral staff at Willow Creek respond to the Holy Spirit is critical. If Willow Creek hopes to clean its path and become a healthy church, if WCCC wants to avoid being a negative and discouraging influence on the evangelical churches in the world, it needs to yield to the Holy God, not the worldly considerations.

    This will also have an impact on how the neighboring megachurch Harvest Bible Chapel will deal with their crisis. Can they just do a superficial makeover? People all over Chicagoland and beyond are watching – especially non-believers.

    Who will really save the city? Who will make the souls stumble over their hypocrisy? Leaders need to realize their own poverty in spirit and seek Jesus whole-heartedly. It will take nothing less than a true revival in the process.

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  68. SiteSeer: There are going to be repercussions for awhile.

    Willow Creek issues – beyond those at the mothership – will be long-lasting. There are WC model churches, with pastors trained by Hybels, all over the American landscape. Hybels’ legacy of the seeker-friendly movement will be felt in Christendom for a long time. Many leaders don’t have a clue on how to do church otherwise and a great multitude in the pew wouldn’t want to try anything else – it’s too familiar and comfortable.

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  69. Max,

    I respect your insight and comments shared on this blog.

    Yes, things look pretty bad now in these megachurches of Chicagoland, and I agree that the problems have deep and wide roots that need to be dug out. It takes more faith to believe that things will actually change fast enough for these churches to survive.

    For the sake of God’s name, and for the sake of the wondering souls that need the real Jesus so badly, for a city that needs to experience true revival, I hope our Redeemer God will not abandon His people, but rather will deal with them in His mercy as well as His power. Even with thin faith, we can whisper a prayer for God to purify the churches that bear His name.

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  70. Pingback: Wednesday Connect | Thinking Out Loud

  71. dee,

    We are all sinners, our lives are just not made public… Why would a person who is interested in God want to come when so many of his followers continue to bash the very church that should be a hospital for the sick? Instead the bashing continues by Gods followers. Jesus forgives Bill…and Nancy and others, plenty of sin to go around. Yes, Bill should repent…in his time, but nothing any of us could say will bring him to that, only God alone. But in the meantime stop the bashing, let it go. We are all sinners that have been freed. Jesus has forgiven all that come to him, so why do we continue to go after people? Bill is out and so are some of the others…now leave all the other great people in the church alone. This continuation only hurts instead of helping.

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  72. common_sense_u2: ollowers continue to bash the very church that should be a hospital for the sick?

    common_sense_u2,

    Your church is not a hospital for the sick.That is a trite phrase which downplays what happened to women in the church. It was a place in which women were molested by the lead pastor. Hopefully, the church will change its ways.

    common_sense_u2: Jesus forgives Bill…and Nancy and others, plenty of sin to go around.

    For a person who chose the name *common sense* you seem rather naive about the Scripture. Perhaps that is the result of Hybels teachings. You are doing something that is called *sin-leveling.* This is a deflection from the real problem which is the fact that Hybels was a predator.

    Let’s get down to simplicity. I am a sinner, so is Bill. I am NOT a predator. Bill is a predator. Some sins hurt people more than other sins. You need to rethink through you theology of sin.Also, I sure as heck hope you don’t think cussing out a driver in your head after getting cut off is the same thing as molestation. If you do, then you have not read your Bible. Look at the punishment in the OT and see that God declared harsher punishment for the harsher crimes.

    common_sense_u2: Bill should repent…in his time, but nothing any of us could say will bring him to that, only God alone

    So, now you have divorced sin from repentance. What were they teaching at WCCC? Hybels must repent. He must repent to those he molested. He must repent to those who served under him. He needs to repent to you. God is not waiting around to decide when to let him reprint. Hybels knows he should repent now and is refusing to do so. Repentance should be now. Hybels either knows it and isn’t doing it or Hybels never really understood his faith. I’m shocked that you would think that it is OK with God for Hybels to sit around and say nothing. Is God really telling him to sit around?

    common_sense_u2: stop the bashing

    I think you mean to say, “Stop making me feel so bad that I joined a church and devoted my life to a ministry by a man who was a sham.” Time for a little introspection for you. Who are you to say what is bashing and what are victims who are exposing the deep-rooted sin that you apparently were not aware of? You are the one who need to rethink your tag line “common sense.”

    common_sense_u2: now leave all the other great people in the church alone. This continuation only hurts instead of helping.

    So what you are saying to the victims this. “Shut up and leave us alone.” Sorry, that dog don’t hunt.

    You need to pick up a book and start studying the long range affects of molestation. You are naive. That naivety is what allowed Hybels to carry on for years. At this point, I would say that if you represent the *good people* at WCCC, the church still has some deep rooted problems.

    Finally, you didn’t ONCE show any sympathy to those who were molested. This is a ll about your feelings. You put yourself in a position of one of the *great people at WCCC” and yet you don’t seem to give a fig about the wounded. You are more concerned about your *hurts* than the hurts of the molested. How weird is that?!

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  73. birdoftheair: whisper a prayer for God to purify the churches that bear His name

    I shout that every day both privately and publicly. Jesus is coming back for a church “without spot or wrinkle” (Ephesians 5:26-27). He’s got a lot of washing and ironing to do before that happens! I have a feeling that we haven’t seen the last of His purging/purifying of churches like Willow Creek and Harvest Bible Chapel … He will not allow folks to bear His name if they don’t carry only His image to a lost world.

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  74. Max,

    I agree that the purifying/purging process usually takes a lot longer than we expect. People have a hard time facing their own deep sinful nature, and lack the courage to confess it. (I am growing more and more aware of the part of my heart that does not please my Father. And I ask Him to change me) . In the past I have seen a church dealt with by God (of course this is my own observation only, I don’t presume to know what God is doing at any given time since I am not God) through various hardship, outside pressures, even partial splits, etc.
    It seems that the sooner we all get authentic with God, the better off we will be, and the church will not be held back by our pride and deceitful minds that forever wants to justify ourselves.

    Thank you for crying out to our God constantly! We desperately need more of Jesus, less of self – actually zero self!

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  75. birdoftheair,
    Max
    “Thank you for crying out to our God constantly! We desperately need more of Jesus, less of self – actually zero”

    Romans 12:3: “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”

    Isn’t there a balance that we, as Christians, should strive to achieve? We are God’s creation. Through Him, we can do much for his kingdom. An ‘in Christ’ self, full of humility and service to Him, combined with a fuller use of our gifts, can be more vs less of the ‘self.’

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  76. Melbs,

    I agree with what you said about a new self led by God’s Spirit, that glorifies Christ.
    When I said zero self, I was referring to that carnal, not-Christ-centered old Self.

    Thanks for the discussion.

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  77. Melbs,

    birdoftheair: When I said zero self, I was referring to that carnal, not-Christ-centered old Self.

    “Therefore if anyone is in Christ [that is, grafted in, joined to Him by faith in Him as Savior], he is a new creature [reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit]; the old things [the previous moral and spiritual condition] have passed away. Behold, new things have come [because spiritual awakening brings a new life].” (2 Cor 5:17 AMP)

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  78. dee,

    Jesus didn’t come to focus on sin, but his plan to forgive. I am convinced that we should extend forgiveness just like Jesus does. Jesus would want us to forgive the leaders, whether Bill has repented or not. Fact is the leaders have been removed, and we are to forgive, and let God work on changing Bill and the other leaders hearts. That’s why I find blogs like this so fascinating. Jesus forgave all of us for everything, and yet many won’t forgive and move on. There are new people in the church, did they do anything…nope, so why keep this going? Who is it hurting? Bill, nope. God will deal with Bill and the leaders. Not us, lest we should now attack others sins too in fairness? No, Jesus came to forgive, and we all should. Not to say to let them continue to lead, which they are not, but remove them, get new leaders which has been done, then forgive and move on. That shows the love of god to people that don’t know God. Our comments should be about love and forgiveness and truth. I know that God loves Bill and the leaders, and he is working in their lives for restoration through the things that were done. God wants me to forgive and move on…which is what I plan to do since I can see how the righteous work here:) We can talk more in heaven:)

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  79. common_sense_u2: Jesus didn’t come to focus on sin, but his plan to forgive.

    Jesus came as both Redeemer and Judge.

    “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34)

    When His sword of judgment swings through the church, it severs and divides. While there are good folks at Willow Creek, true believers who were caught up in this mess, the church model created by Hybels needs to end, to be severed from the true Church. Easy believism, seeker-friendliness, give them what they want has done the church much harm.

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  80. Max,

    Yes, we are new creatures now. But the old self is not eradicated overnight or dead. It pops its head now and then. There is a maturing process when “Christ is being formed” in us. For some they become more Christ-like even at a younger age: such as James Hudson Taylor, Oswald Chambers, John Sung, etc. For many others it’s slower. The closer we are in tune with Jesus (the Holy Spirit), the more aware we will be of our vanity, futility, or other sins.
    That’s why many Christians exhibit carnal nature.

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  81. common_sense_u2,
    WCCC and WCA are such visible landmarks in the evangelical landscape that it will affect people everywhere regarding their trust in a Christian church in the future. I care since I used to attend there and serve there. To me it is not academic or personal. It is coming from the hope that new leaders will indeed take the follow up decisions seriously to show the world that Christians are honest and God is powerful to transform lives. We are saltt and light, not artificial sweeteners.

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  82. common_sense_u2: Jesus didn’t come to focus on sin,

    This is not true. Jesus very often forgave and said, “. . . sin no more.” If a man caught in sin does not admit his sin to those he harmed, has he actually even stopped sinning? Jesus is concerned with sin and the damage it does, or he never would have come to show us the way!

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  83. common_sense_u2,
    Respectful and responsible blogs like The Wartburg Wach helps those who read make future decisions through the sharing of thoughts and information. Forgiveness and grace were part of my process of leaving WCCC after 18 years…and so was the reflection and prayer of what to do next. TWW helped me better understand my next steps as a Christian volunteer and church attender.

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  84. common_sense_u2,
    Respectful and responsible blogs like The Wartburg Wach helps those who read make future decisions through the sharing of thoughts and information. Forgiveness and grace were part of my process of leaving WCCC after 18 years…and so was the reflection and prayer of what to do next. TWW helped me better understand my next steps as a Christian volunteer and church attender.

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  85. Max:
    birdoftheair,

    Willow Creek = Hybels.Harvest Bible Chapel = MacDonald.Without them, the works which bore their image, which carried their DNA, will eventually be dissolved.

    Mars Hill = Driscoll.It no longer exists.

    Most personality cults don’t long survive the death of their founder.
    Few Joseph Smiths have a Brigham Young to reorganize what they began into a self-sustaining religious system.

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