Scot McKnight: Willow Creek, What’s a Pastor?


Dream Catcher

A strong team can take any crazy vision and turn it into reality. John Carmack


As many of you suspect, I am a fan for Scot McKnight who has a blog called Jesus Creed. According to Wikipedia:

Scot McKnight (born November 9, 1953) is an American New Testament scholar, historian of early Christianity, theologian, and author who has written widely on the historical Jesus, early Christianity and Christian living. He is currently Professor of New Testament at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, IL.[1][2] McKnight is an ordained Anglican with anabaptist leanings, and has also written frequently on issues in modern anabaptism.[3][4]

McKnight was the Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies at North Park University from 1994 to 2012. Prior to joining the NPU faculty in 1994, he was a professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

McKnight is a prolific author, and has written more than fifty books. One of his most popular books, The Jesus Creed, won the Christianity Today book award for 2004 in the area of Christian living, and has spawned a number of popular small group studies and a DVD series.[5]

McKnight’s blog, Jesus Creed (formerly hosted by Beliefnet and now by Patheos) is currently one of the most popular Evangelical blogs online.[6

From his bio on Jesus Creed:

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author or editor of some seventy-five books, is the Julius R. Mantey Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lisle, IL.  Dr. McKnight has given interviews on radios across the nation, has appeared on television, and is regularly speaks at local churches, conferences, colleges, and seminaries in the USA and abroad. Dr. McKnight obtained his Ph.D. at the University of Nottingham (1986) and has been a professor for more than three decades.

Scot McKnight is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature and the Society for New Testament Studies.

He wrote a post which nailed the problems inherent in the Willow Creek system: Willow Creek, What’s a Pastor?

The design of God for all of us is to be “co-morphed” into his Son’s very image. I call this Christoformity, a slightly more accurate expression than “Christlikeness.” Conformity to Christ, co-morphing into Christ is Christoformity.

If this is God’s design for us, then this is absolutely the design of the pastoral calling. Pastors first and foremost are called to pastor people toward Christoformity.

…So, two big ideas: pastors pastor people, and pastors pastor people by nurturing Christoformity.

There is not the slightest hint that Willow Creek’s pastor job description comprehends this as the central shaping vision for the pastor they want. Besides being the one and only pastoral search description I have ever seen that does not state that its pastor is to match up favorably with the elder/bishop list of the 1 Timothy 3:1-7 (or Titus 1:7-9) and besides not having anything along the line of the pastoral ends/goals, the job description focuses on the very culture formed under Bill Hybels. That is, a culture in which the pastor is an entrepreneurial leader who expands the Willow Creek brand.

The link to the ad for Willow Creek Senior Pastor

I think you will find much to discuss in this ad. Terms  such as “leader of leaders,” “high capacity men and women,” a caster of vision” and one who can “dream” caused me to wonder if they are looking for a pastor or a shaman.

The Senior Pastor will lead and serve the Willow Creek Community Church at all its locations to become a thriving, healthy family of local churches. This man or woman will provide overall leadership and vision for the entire network of regional campuses. They will ensure Willow Creek’s vision and strategy is clear and understood across all locations, that the right leaders are leading and serving the campuses, and that Willow Creek is positioned for strength well into the future.

The Senior Pastor will have the ability to dream and cast vision for the next season of congregational life and community impact. The ideal candidate will demonstrate spiritual leadership, an authentic walk with Jesus, and a proven commitment to balancing the rhythms of work and life. He or she will be a proven “leader of leaders” who can motivate and inspire high-capacity men and women to use their gifts to further the vision.

I urge you to carefully read all the incredible gifts that this pastor must embody. I’m beginning to wonder if they should require an MBA and six years on Wall Street after a fun-filled summer as a casting director for DisneyWorld.

In response, McKnight begins to tease out the concerns after attempting to be both kind and fair. He is obviously a nicer person than I. Remember, this job description is coming in response to the heart wrenching firing of Bill Hybels for long term accusations of sexual abuse.

  • First, no Jesus, no Christ, no Bible, no gospel — that is, in the main words. They are buried into tiny words or they are not there. Amazing. Jesus appears twice. Christ once. God four times. Bible not at all. Gospel not at all.
  • This is an advertisement seeking someone who can carry on the Willow Creek brand.
  • Third, the biggest two words of substance in the job description’s Word Cloud are “pastor” and “leadership.” Leadership is hardly a significant term in the NT for the calling of pastors.
  • Fourth, Willow Creek wants a leader who is both theologically grounded and (or but) that person does not need a theological degree. That’s a very very rare combination. So rare that this Willow Creek job description is stomping recklessly on thin ice.

He has a great way with words.


I look forward to reading your thoughts on both Scot McKnight’s analysis and Willow Creek’s search for a new pastor. For some reason, I thought this song summed up the job description.

 


Comments

Scot McKnight: Willow Creek, What’s a Pastor? — 135 Comments

  1. Somehow, I must’ve missed what Jesus instructed His disciples to do in Mark 10 in this job description:

    “Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

    Instead of looking for someone to ‘cast a vision’, the folks at Willow Creek should rather “fix their eyes on Jesus”!

    Bronze…again?

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  2. “I urge you to carefully read all the incredible gifts that this pastor must embody. I’m beginning to wonder if they should require an MBA and six years on Wall Street …” (Dee)

    Yes, Willow Creek is searching for a CEO, not a pastor. The Willow Creek model has spawned organizations around the country which resemble businesses not churches. The shallow preaching/teaching WC members receive could easily be handled by someone who has an MBA with good communication skills and only a general working knowledge of the Bible.

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  3. ” … will fan the flames of Willow’s DNA of boldness, innovation, and creativity …”

    The American church has been greatly hindered by “Willow’s DNA”, IMO. Hybels was largely responsible for creating seeker-friendly Christianity Lite by serving folks what they wanted rather than what they needed. Church members who live in this atmosphere end up swimming in shallow water, not scaring the devil much when they get up in the morning. I was hoping more for Willow Creek post-Hybels … they don’t need to fan the flames of Willow’s DNA, but seek the Lord for a new work.

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  4. “Thousands of local churches across the globe can trace their beginnings to an inspiring vision they received while attending a leadership conference, event, or service at Willow Creek.”

    Yes, sadly that is true. Willow Creel model churches can be found in communities across the American landscape and beyond. They caught the vision of a mere man, not a word from the Lord, and ended up with Christianity Lite.

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  5. “Provide leadership to help Willow discover her target audience. In the past, it was “unchurched Harry and Mary.” This needs to be redefined for 2020 and beyond.”

    -Thick Wallet Wally
    -Trust-Widow Gertie

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  6. Max: Hybels was largely responsible for creating seeker-friendly Christianity Lite by serving folks what they wanted rather than what they needed.

    “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)

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

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  7. How I wish we would go back to seeking preachers, not pastors. You know, folks who preached the truth whether or not it was popular, or put money in the plate or seats on the pew.

    Seems to me the Master already told us to beware if everyone loves us, and that the real message we have will not be popular.

    Guess He missed the memo about building the brand.

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  8. Max: 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)

    Amazingly enough, I figured this out without being taught it by Willow Creek or anyone else! Imagine! But my next question is, what is the point of Willow Creek then?

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  9. SiteSeer: what is the point of Willow Creek then?

    Hybel’s vision in his seeker-friendly model was to attract and keep as many folks as possible. He literally asked them what they wanted in the way of doing church and then gave it to them. The Willow Creek model was successful in that regard, but had little to do with nurturing and equipping disciples of Christ.

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  10. That ad screams what others have posted: they want to rebuild the brand and hire a charismatic CEO with extraordinary public speaking skills who can give motivational speeches and throw in a couple Bible verses for good measure. Also, why keep the multi-sites if not for multi-sites = more revenue. Maybe I’m too old school, but I’ve never understood the draw of multi-site churches.

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  11. Max:
    “I urge you to carefully read all the incredible gifts that this pastor must embody. I’m beginning to wonder if they should require an MBA and six years on Wall Street …” (Dee)

    Yes, Willow Creek is searching for a CEO, not a pastor.The Willow Creek model has spawned organizations around the country which resemble businesses not churches.The shallow preaching/teaching WC members receive could easily be handled by someone who has an MBA with good communication skills and only a general working knowledge of the Bible.

    Osteen proves you don’t even need a degree, if you have superior communication skills and the general knowledge of the Bible.

    Willow Creek has not only spawned numerous copycats but also many people who have either walked away from God completely, or at best they find a church they can tolerate, never join, and when and if things go wrong, they can leave without anyone noticing or caring. I fit the latter category.

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  12. Loved the pic of the Dream Catcher up-top!
    I have several of them hanging from the limbs of my pepper tree.
    And then to top it off, you link to the old song Dream Weaver, which I woke up to playing in my head this morning.
    I think there’s more to C.G. Jung’s collective unconscious theory than current ‘scientific’ consensus would care to admit.

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  13. Max: “I urge you to carefully read all the incredible gifts that this pastor must embody. I’m beginning to wonder if they should require an MBA and six years on Wall Street …” (Dee)

    PASTOR Gordon Gecko!

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  14. Max: Yes, sadly that is true. Willow Creel model churches can be found in communities across the American landscape and beyond. They caught the vision of a mere man, not a word from the Lord, and ended up with Christianity Lite.

    To use a Wiccan term, they are Churches for Fluffbunnies.

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  15. Max: The Willow Creek model was successful in that regard, but had little to do with nurturing and equipping disciples of Christ.

    Thw other ironic factor is how it attracts selfish people by catering to people who want their needs met. The SBC church we left is becoming a mini mega, but they cannot find enough volunteers to meet the demands of the environment they created. We basically aged out, being in one of the age groups that is required to meet the needs of others in the church but not allowed to have any needs of our own.

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  16. Ken F (aka Tweed): The SBC church we left is becoming a mini mega, but they cannot find enough volunteers to meet the demands of the environment they created.

    This was the case of the mini mega I left in Atlanta. But I noticed that they only wanted volunteers to do very menial tasks. Stand at the front doors. Direct traffic. Usher people into seats. We have 8 pastors for “important” things and nearly everyone leading a class or group was a pastor, married to one, or related to one. They didn’t do outreach. They expected people to come to them and seemed to want a big show of greeting them.

    They only wanted people to pay up and make the church look like it was super popular…

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  17. Ken F (aka Tweed): it attracts selfish people by catering to people who want their needs met

    Exactly. That is part of the legacy of Hybel’s Willow Creek model of doing church. When you have an outreach designed to attract flesh-babies, you have to feed them pablum and give them toys. Some never mature in Christ. There are folks in my area who have been going to Willow Creek model churches for years who struggle to locate books of the Bible cited in a sermon, who don’t know how to pray, and who never minister in the community.

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  18. Mark R: Willow Creek has not only spawned numerous copycats but also many people who have either walked away from God completely, or at best they find a church they can tolerate, never join, and when and if things go wrong, they can leave without anyone noticing or caring

    And that is part of Willow Creek’s DNA which its leaders refuse to acknowledge.

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  19. drstevej,

    The terms leader or leadership have crept into the Christian world of the smaller and smallest churches. My IFB church, my first church after being saved, the term leader was never spoken. My second and then my current, I hear “leader” creep in once in a while.

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  20. Sheriff: That more you peel the onion that is Peter Drucker + Bill Hybels + Rick Warren + Robert Schuller + etc. the more this makes sense.

    I’ve thought this for years … that The Leadership Network (Peter Drucker and Bob Buford) helped produce mega-mania and other aberrations of faith in America. Mark Driscoll said once that LN essentially spawned the emergent church movement. Bringing business concepts and marketing gimmicks into Christendom was not a good idea.

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  21. What is a pastor?

    I believe the ad is a symptom that the leaders are so well conditioned/trained in Bill Hybel’s fraudulent DNA that they cannot exercise independent discernment/thinking before God.

    https://drj1952.com/2019/06/13/willow-creek-community-church-a-cautionary-tale-section-2/

    This reminds me of the leaders of an SBC church that we left. The Senior Pastor is hyper-focused on training leaders – to the point that people are not sheep to be cared for, but lab rats to be trained in their leadership training.

    Our family spent 16 years at this church, only to finally learn the hard lesson that the pastor has built his kingdom in order to train up church ceo’s to manage his brand of “kingdom values.”

    Leaders there are trained not to care for the sheep, but to make the sheep submit to “kingdom values.” Care is reserved for those who aspire to be leaders and cooperate with the leadership training. Sheep are for shearing and meat only.

    …developed as a training center for leaders…

    http://17sixnetwork.com/about/
    http://willmcraney.com/about/

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  22. Brian: Just curious, would holding Bible study outside of and not connected to the church a person attends, help fill the gaps?

    I know people who go to small groups of other churches who attend elsewhere. I know my good friend goes to a small group run by a mega because there’s no one her age in her church (which she loves). Another friend of mine goes to a Bible Study Fellowship group, which almost sounds to me like a campus ministry for adults. They don’t have churches, as far as I know, but they run Bible studies all over.

    I had been attending a church, but around here, churches are filled with retired people, so most of their activities happen during the weekdays. Because there’s nothing for working folks, they just don’t attend at all. Not real useful for someone like me who works…

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  23. Brian: Just curious, would holding Bible study outside of and not connected to the church a person attends, help fill the gaps?

    There is only one true Church – the Body of Christ – which meets under various expressions of faith. It is a free church, which does not hold its members to signed contracts. As a believer, you are free to attend wherever you wish … here for one meeting, there the next.

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  24. “So, walk me through this. At the end of three years of intense, life-draining labor, you were able to acquire how many members? 20? 30? Are you aware that our average Sunday attendance is over 20,000?
    “I’m sorry, sir, but your resume says that after three years of ministry you were abandoned by your followers? Thank you for coming in, but that’s not exactly the sort of motivational vision we’re hoping will secure the present and future strength of this ministry.”
    -courtesy of our ex-pastor son

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  25. Ken F (aka Tweed): Thw other ironic factor is how it attracts selfish people by catering to people who want their needs met. The SBC church we left is becoming a mini mega, but they cannot find enough volunteers to meet the demands of the environment they created. We basically aged out, being in one of the age groups that is required to meet the needs of others in the church but not allowed to have any needs of our own.

    We’re all human not robots and have needs.
    There’s nothing wrong with wanting to get your own needs met. The Bible assumes that you will do so. You have to get your own needs met before you can help others get theirs met.

    I was raised in a family that taught me that Complementarianism is biblical, and hand in hand with that, was that it was considered “selfish” for a woman to get her own needs met.
    So, I was taught to always put me last, only look out for how I can cater to others. That messed me up in many ways, and I’m having to un-learn this in adulthood.

    It set me up to be taken advantage of financially and emotionally, for one thing. I’ve had “nice” Church people, secular bosses, co-workers, siblings, etc, all take advantage of me – they loved I was willing to meet their needs, but they never cared to meet mine.

    I was definitely programmed to think by Christian culture that having my own needs met and having boundaries was “selfish” and to be avoided.

    I no longer go by that play book and am much happier as a result.

    And most churches, of course, only care about the married people who have children.
    If you’re over 30, single, and childless, they won’t even think to address your needs.

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  26. The guy that wrote “A Case for Christ”, did Willow Creek bring him into the fold like JMac brought in Mancow? Or did Willow Creek help guide him along the EIC?

    His first book I read it, thought it was great. I last read he was teaching at a Bible college.

    Having listened to what others have found or experienced, once you’re brought into the fold, you’re fast tracked.

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  27. Daisy: There’s nothing wrong with wanting to get your own needs met. The Bible assumes that you will do so. You have to get your own needs met before you can help others get theirs met.

    I think you’re right, but I don’t even think megas meet many needs. I think they give the illusion of doing so without offering anything substantial. They make people feel good for a couple of hours, make them feel like they checked off their basic “appease God” requirement, they might offer times for parents to leave the kids and get a break, but they really don’t want to cater to actual needs. They don’t want to give out money, which would be a requirement for a lot of need-based ministries. They want people to drop some money on them without feeling obligated to do anything else. Everything else is tied up in bringing more people in, not helping the ones they already have.

    Now, the New Cal and 9 Marks churches are a bit different, because they employ more cultish tactics of control over members. But I still don’t think they are interested in meeting any needs, only their own to increase their offerings and keep people from leaving and telling everyone how controlling they really are.

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  28. Daisy: I’ve had “nice” Church people, secular bosses, co-workers, siblings, etc, all take advantage of me – they loved I was willing to meet their needs, but they never cared to meet mine.

    In addition to other issues, the SBC church we left started sipping from New-Calvinism. They have not yet fully gone there, but it appears to be just a matter of time before they do (all of the children/youth programs are now using The Gospel Project). One Sunday morning our Sunday school class was told it was our last Sunday because the space was needed for youth ministry. We were basically accused of being leeches for taking up precious space needed for the youth, and we should be volunteering with the youth rather than wasting time discussing theology. I eventually quit after the pastor channeled Piper one week, which was not long after my wife was asked by the pastor to quit singing so loud (this from a church with a loud rock band). My wife was not happy that I quit so abruptly. But after I quit we were both politely shunned – not an outright shunning, but none of the friendships developed over the years seemed to matter anymore. It feels like we were valued only for what we contributed, which was not ever enough.

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  29. Re having our “needs met” at church. Spoiler alert, trigger alert, but that makes me cringe when I hear it. When I go to church tomorrow I go to hear the real (not trademarked)gospel preached, receive the sacraments, worship the Lord, and learn the Bible better.

    Which means I will not be focused on meeting the needs of those with “needs.” Now, let me state up front I believe Christians (not “the church”) should be all about meeting needs. To that end I do make it a priority to reach out and do what I can first for my family, then my neighbors, then people in general and all over the world. Exactly as we were told. Christians should be the busiest people around taking care of the true needs of others.

    To that end I will probably again be inviting the lonely for holiday meals, raising money for the homeless shelter, reaching out to offer time and friendship to people, etc.

    But when I attend a church service I simply confess I do not see the purpose of that specific meeting to be meeting the emotional needs of anyone. Or physical needs or monetary needs or romance needs or being family for those without one. (Please note again I DO believe Christians should be doing all those things!)

    I DO NOT believe church should be a social center for lonely singles, a free baby sitter for overworked married with kids folks, a dating service, a job service, or any other social program WHEN MEETING FOR WORSHIP. Now, of course, we may band together as individual Christians to do all those things and more through the auspices of the church and at the church building at times other than the worship service.

    My personal belief is that if we could just lay aside our “felt needs” and focus on Jesus for one hour a week, and then as individuals strive to live out our faith the rest of the week, those needs would be met. I’ve watched Christians do free daycare for single moms, take in pregnant homeless teens and their babies so moms could finish school, provide money/clothing/food/assistance to those in need. I am not advocating churches and the people in them close their eyes to those needs.

    I am asking those with needs to understand that at least once a week, for at least one hour, we need to stop obsessing about our needs (and every single one of us has needs) and focus on Jesus. And I am asking those focused on “their needs” to realize EVERYBODY has “felt needs”! What meets one person’s needs might miss another’s.

    I believe if we enter the door of the church wanting any need save “more Jesus” met AT THE WORSHIP HOUR we come with the wrong motive. Plain and simple.

    But I was blessed once with a gifted pastor who would meet folks at the door both entering and leaving the church. He cared about people and genuinely listened to what their needs were and could move mountains to get them help. Lonely? He could offer you opportunities to serve others that would have you soon surrounded by wonderful friends. Estranged from your family? He could introduce you to folks who would be your family and as much as was healthy help you heal the estrangement. (Once in a while that isn’t safe, and once in a while the person with the “felt need” is the one in the family that needs to change. Might be estranged for the sake of the sanity of the others,lol.) Monetary or physical needs? He knew everyone in town and if you needed work, he could find it. Have work but suffered some financial setback? He knew gifted people who would love to help.

    But when you came to church you were encouraged–strongly–to simply come in and receive from Jesus mercy, forgiveness, and whatever your spiritual need was. You were encouraged to focus on Jesus, give Him all attention, glory, honor (not yourself and your needs) and just refuel.

    I need to refuel. The church as a whole should be refueling at least once a week. Let us lift the needs in prayer but DURING THE SERVICE let us all mentally lay all our “felt needs” at the feet of Jesus and focus on Him, not them.

    And THEN refueled we can move mountains.

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  30. Brian:
    Wild Honey:

    When you attended HBÇ, were you allowed to associate with any other groups of Christians from outside the church?

    (Just to clarify, I was at an HBC plant that later became part of the GCC, not the mothership in Chicago.)

    I think it was less a question of whether we were “allowed” and more an attitude of “why bother with an inferior product when you can have the best right here.” For example:

    ~ Psychology was viewed with heavy skepticism, and Biblical counseling / Soul Care was strongly emphasized.

    ~ When the church announced they were relocating to a building more than twice the distance outside the original search radius, members who expressed discontent were characterized as “unwilling” to move instead of “unable.” The oft-cited expression was “A church alive is worth the drive.”

    ~ In their weekly newsletter, one of the pastors would usually do a short video. Right after we left, the senior pastor used this to answer a question that had been submitted, along the lines of “Why does the church brag so much about preaching the gospel, why can’t it just preach the gospel like other churches do?” The response boiled down to “Because we’re the bestest!”

    ~ From what we could tell of the budget, no money went to outside organizations other than the GCC (Great Commission Collective) network. No local soup kitchens, college ministries, international missions/ministries, etc.

    ishy: I don’t even think megas meet many needs. I think they give the illusion of doing so without offering anything substantial. They make people feel good for a couple of hours, make them feel like they checked off their basic “appease God” requirement, they might offer times for parents to leave the kids and get a break, but they really don’t want to cater to actual needs. They don’t want to give out money, which would be a requirement for a lot of need-based ministries. They want people to drop some money on them without feeling obligated to do anything else. Everything else is tied up in bringing more people in, not helping the ones they already have.

    Brian, I think this description from ishy is a fair description of our former church.

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  31. Eurgh, that bit about wanting those entrepreneurs etc who’ve ‘outwardly made it in life but are seeking significance’…just Christian doublespeak for those who are financially successful or famous that they can brag about converting, who will fly the brand flag. They’ll look great in all the magazines & the promo stuff. Shame about the rest of humanity.

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  32. TS00: I used to think it was absurd when I heard of Calvinist takeovers . . . no more.

    It was not a Calvinst takeover at our old church, but more of a drift toward it. I talked with the senior pastor about it and he claims he is not a Calvinist and the church is not becoming Calvinist. He has been there for more than 12 years, so he is likely telling the truth. Still, he quoted extensively from Calvinists. One of the elders tried to take me down the Matt 18 discipline path, but I blew a gasket on the elder board and it never happened. So I don’t have much to complain out other than the loss of friends and fellowship.

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  33. TS00: I used to think it was absurd when I heard of Calvinist takeovers . . . no more.

    Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a “Calvinist” takeover of a church … but I have heard of a LOT of “New Calvinist” takeovers of churches, including an entire denomination (SBC).

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  34. ishy: I don’t even think megas meet many needs. I think they give the illusion of doing so without offering anything substantial. They make people feel good for a couple of hours

    Gateway, for one, seems to achieve both the mega feel-good and the cultish oppression, as when Robert Morris preached that series about demons entering members who did not sufficiently tithe. They seem to have the approval of 9Marks… I can’t keep the affiliations straight, alas.

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  35. linda: I need to refuel. The church as a whole should be refueling at least once a week. Let us lift the needs in prayer but DURING THE SERVICE let us all mentally lay all our “felt needs” at the feet of Jesus and focus on Him, not them.

    And THEN refueled we can move mountains.

    Thank you for your thought-provoking comment. Have you attended a church that tried to meet needs during worship, or where people expected needs to be met during worship? How has that come across? Through emotion in worship, putting people to work outside the sanctuary, or in some other way?

    I have mainly attended churches where worship is the time to learn and recharge. My only need at worship is to know that some of the people around me care about me. I do consider it an obligation to show more warmth in a congregation than, say, at a lecture. Apart from that, needs are met and services offered (fellowship groups, feeding and literacy programs, etc.) at other times. Is that different from your experience?

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  36. Friend:
    Am I the only one who associates “high-capacity” with rifles rather than “men and women”?

    I had a pastor once who was excellent at motivating and inspiring high-capacity people to use their gifts to further his vision. Unfortunately, he was not so good at recognizing reasonable limits and boundaries and helping people avoid burnout.

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  37. Worship is about God, not us. If we go to a “worship meeting” to get our perceived needs met, than we simply have a wrong motive. Self-centeredness is a sin we all need to be delivered of. Going to an 501c3 to feed that is to look for an anti-church and anti-Christ. God is the center, not us, or the leaders, or their programs. What we call worship is rarely that. You do not need the band nor the building or even all the other people to actually worship God. That worship comes from the heart not from a performance. The idea that spending .3 percent of our week singing songs with others is worship is simply absurd. Worship is what you choose to do with the other 99.7 percent of your week.

    Church is not about getting what we want from a religious service. It is about being a part of what God wants. It is having faith, believing in Him and being able to hear His voice and follow it, especially when it takes you to places that are not comfortable, and it certainly does. So much of this discussion about what church should be is centered on our thoughts, feelings and wants. What is ignored is that God is a Person, even THE PERSON and He knows better than all of us and our Phd’s, Masters and whatever else combined. Let me suggest something radical. Let Him tell you what He wants and follow it. Do not trust the professionals. Most do not even know what God actually wants for them let alone anyone else. God is dressing this week. This week will be holy.

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  38. Mark R: never join, and when and if things go wrong, they can leave without anyone noticing or caring. I fit the latter category.

    While helping my aged mother in hospital I found in her mail a flier from the latest mega church start up in her area. It said, “lights are low, band is great, slip out anytime you start to feel uncomfortable.” Christianity lite indeed. How could such a person attracted to that situation ever believe they are following Jesus who said, “if they hated me they will hate you. If they persecuted me they will persecute you. ”

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  39. Brian: “The Deeper Dimension of Vision Casting”

    From Auxano: “Pastor, when was the last time you revisited the vision for your ministry?”

    Whose ministry? This is the problem with Auxano. All the problems in my last church started when they consulted Auxano. It ruined the church.

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  40. Sowre-sweet Dayes: “Will Mancini’s Auxano church consultation service” – messaging, branding, self-help & peter ducker management.

    The problem with all these various consultants and ministry/discipleship programs are they are so good and effective that God is not needed. A church can now thrive without the Holy Spirit’s direction.

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  41. Sòpwith: Willow Creek, like all churches who indeed desire to follow Jesus Christ’s great commission, requires a senior pastor who’s words and deeds are one and the same.

    You know, that shouldn’t be too much to ask. Unfortunately …

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  42. Friend: Gateway, for one, seems to achieve both the mega feel-good and the cultish oppression, as when Robert Morris preached that series about demons entering members who did not sufficiently tithe.

    Remember when Morris chastised his congregation for “gossiping” on the internet? He even warned them that blogs were “Satan’s hit list.” What is it that he doesn’t want them to know?

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  43. Ken F (aka Tweed): Thw other ironic factor is how it attracts selfish people by catering to people who want their needs met. …We basically aged out, being in one of the age groups that is required to meet the needs of others in the church but not allowed to have any needs of our own.

    This is an interesting comment.

    The problem is not that people want to get their needs met. Needs are needs!! You are allowed to want to get them met, although you cannot dictate who meets them obviously. It sounds like the real problem is that some people were getting needs met and some were not. We see this often in the families verses single people conversations as well. All the resources flow one direction, and that’s not really a healthy church.

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  44. Lea: The problem is not that people want to get their needs met. Needs are needs!! You are allowed to want to get them met, although you cannot dictate who meets them obviously.

    In our church it was not so much the case that people came to church needy. Instead, it was the church leadership who kept emphasizing all the needs in the church. But most of those needs were self-imposed by them creating an overly complex ministry model. The church needed 400 volunteers per weekend to support an attendance of around 1200 people. The vast majority were needed in “next generation” ministry. So they set up a situation were certain people had recognized needs for the others to meet, while ignoring whether or not those others had needs of their own. I got in trouble for questioning the complexity of it. The message was “shut up and color.”

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  45. Friend: Gateway, for one, seems to achieve both the mega feel-good and the cultish oppression, as when Robert Morris preached that series about demons entering members who did not sufficiently tithe. They seem to have the approval of 9Marks… I can’t keep the affiliations straight, alas.

    They’re part of New Apostolic Reformation.

    And Gateway is an interesting case. Morris has no theological degree but his personal testimony draws people: he didn’t get saved until 19 even though he was in ministry, and his 2018 near death experience made headlines even in the secular media.

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  46. Mr. Jesperson,

    “What is ignored is that God is a Person, even THE PERSON and He knows better than all of us and our Phd’s, Masters and whatever else combined.

    Let me suggest something radical. Let Him tell you what He wants and follow it. Do not trust the professionals. Most do not even know what God actually wants for them let alone anyone else.”
    +++++++++++++++++++++

    lot’s to ruminate on, and think out loud in this blog conversation. here’s for starters:

    i observe that the business of churches is ‘faith management’… ‘faith consultants’. because it creates jobs.

    when you let someone else manages your faith for you, you create their job. you also end up being saddled with

    *unnecessary have-to’s

    *manufactured procedures packaged as “what God wants” or “God’s will”

    *manufactured fears and pressures (you might not be a christian unless you do such&such, and subscribe to such&such. and God will certainly be displeased with his hot displeasure.)

    *…all of which have been previously decided on by shadowy entities on the Madison Avenues and political campaigns of the evangelical industrial complex.

    *…and which benefit and build up the church organization for its own sake, and those in power in the shadowy entities.
    ———-

    ….blexchh (my best phonetic spelling)

    i now manage my own faith. no waste. no longer a pawn.

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  47. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    “But most of those needs were self-imposed by them creating an overly complex ministry model. The church needed 400 volunteers per weekend to support an attendance of around 1200 people. The vast majority were needed in “next generation” ministry.”
    +++++++++++++++++

    i reckon the real need was nickels and noses.

    to fund the enterprise, fund the salaries and benefits packages of the staff. and make their jobs easier as well as more fun & interesting.

    a hungry machine that needs to be fed. and in some cases is accustomed to being fed generous portions of sumptuous things.

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  48. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    “The problem with all these various consultants and ministry/discipleship programs are they are so good and effective that God is not needed. A church can now thrive without the Holy Spirit’s direction.”
    ++++++++++++++++

    well, as they say, “church is a business.”

    all too often in my estimation, it is only a business. (that prays, sings, talks about God, marriage…)

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  49. With the seeker sensitive movement in retreated abeyance and a media castigated discredited, identified as fradulent founder Bill Hybills, the Willow Creek religious non profit organization has no choice but to reinvent itself, and to recast its branding. Question is, —is anyone going to buy it?

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  50. elastigirl: no longer a pawn.

    Re: Leaders, cults, pawns:

    MOD: Removed a reference to an article that was about current US politics. GBTC

    Hassan was deprogrammed after nearly driven to his death in the Moonies. He writes of cult leadership & deprogramming – what he experienced.

    Perhaps Willow Creekers could benefit from deprogramming.

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  51. elastigirl: ….blexchh (my best phonetic spelling)

    i now manage my own faith. no waste. no longer a pawn.

    I get tangled up on Twitter with people who try to use the Bible to get me to go back to church. I ask them (and never, ever get an answer) why I should attend churches that treat women as second class, hide child sex abuse and don’t disclose where the money’s spent. Those who think the post-churched like me need to go back to church and expose ourselves yet again to organizations who treat elite men as the only ones who matter, well, nope.

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  52. Mark R,

    I watched Mr. Morris in TBN a few years ago. He did mention when he started ministry and he was saved. I thought I must have misunderstood him because the timeline was messed up. At least I know now I wasn’t wrong.

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  53. Muslin, fka Dee Holmes: I ask them (and never, ever get an answer) why I should attend churches that treat women as second class, hide child sex abuse and don’t disclose where the money’s spent.

    I am absolutely not trying to get you back to church with this comment, however there are denominations that do a much better job on all of this. I have chosen one of those, but I would feel the exact same way as you about going back to say, the SBC. Anyone who doesn’t treat women as equals is off the list, which at least has the benefit of being obvious when entering. (you may not know a church will hide child abuse till it happens unfortunately, although you can try to go places that look like they have good processes at least).

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  54. Lea: I am absolutely not trying to get you back to church with this comment, however there are denominations that do a much better job on all of this. I have chosen one of those, but I would feel the exact same way as you about going back to say, the SBC. Anyone who doesn’t treat women as equals is off the list, which at least has the benefit of being obvious when entering. (you may not know a church will hide child abuse till it happens unfortunately, although you can try to go places that look like they have good processes at least).

    I’m aware of that. I’m also having to deal with being badly burned by involvement with a non-profit (not religious, just an educational non-profit). Right now, I pretty much want to know what their books say, if they have processes in place to screen volunteers, that sort of thing. Of course, if women aren’t preaching, it’s not even on the map as far as a possible church.

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  55. Muslin, fka Dee Holmes,

    I had a chance encounter with a stranger – who talked with me for 20 minutes. She mentioned her sister was a nun, and that she did not even consider herself a ‘christian’ any longer. She mentioned abuse, divorce, a local church humiliating her 4 adopted children who wanted to be baptized by calling them a ‘strange’ situation in front of the entire congregation. She most missed the music of church, as do I (the kind of music churches once had). She told me of her beloved opera singer mother, who was diagnosed with cancer, and died two weeks later.

    I did my best to listen, to encourage, to be kind. I helped her load some heavy things in her truck, as she has had 4 back surgeries. She was so surprised that I would offer to help her. I tried to express that, whether or not I, or anyone else, consider me a ‘christian’ anymore, I consider myself a child of God with a call to love Him and others. She seemed so happy to hear that.

    Loving God and others is not the same as doing church. They can, perhaps, intersect at times, but they are not one and the same. If we choose to interact with the institutions of men, it is our choice, and our right to withdraw when it no longer appears safe or productive.

    God bless you, Muslin, whatever way you choose to live out your faith. Scripture urges us to help one another, encourage one another, challenge one another and love one another. There are a lot of people in this world; one does not need to go to church to find them.

    I feel like those few minutes I spent trying to sprinkle a little love on a needy stranger this Sunday morning – outside of church – were spent doing what God wants us to do. Or I could have been at church, listening to a great band.

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  56. Lea: I am absolutely not trying to get you back to church with this comment, however there are denominations that do a much better job on all of this. I have chosen one of those, but I would feel the exact same way as you about going back to say, the SBC.

    I’m about a hair’s breadth from going back to the liberal wing of Lutheranism (ELCA).
    I could never swim the Tiber or go EO (eastern orthodox), I’m too much the free-spirit and free-thinker. Don’t get me wrong, both of them are fine traditions which I have oceans of respect for.

    Regardless of where one goes (except for the totalitarian fear-pits), there are gonna’ be great people, which is what I need, humans are designed for community.

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  57. GMFS

    Just a very quick yin here afore ah heid aff tae ma work. But if My Hybels was so good at training leadership leading leaders of leadership, why is there nobody within Willow Creek who can accede to the proverbial iron throne? Could a group of them not pool their talents, and their willingness and ability to put others before themselves, and form a collective leadership team like the early church tried in Jerusalem?

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  58. Beakerj: Eurgh, that bit about wanting those entrepreneurs etc who’ve ‘outwardly made it in life but are seeking significance’…just Christian doublespeak for those who are financially successful or famous that they can brag about converting, who will fly the brand flag. They’ll look great in all the magazines & the promo stuff. Shame about the rest of humanity.

    And they are not rich in wisdom or solidly grounded- on the contrary, they are “seeking significance” ! I have no words.

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  59. Ken F (aka Tweed): The problem with all these various consultants and ministry/discipleship programs are they are so good and effective that God is not needed. A church can now thrive without the Holy Spirit’s direction.

    or, at least it puts up a good appearance of thriving. But appearances can be so deceiving.

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  60. Ken F (aka Tweed): Thw other ironic factor is how it attracts selfish people by catering to people who want their needs met. The SBC church we left is becoming a mini mega, but they cannot find enough volunteers to meet the demands of the environment they created. We basically aged out, being in one of the age groups that is required to meet the needs of others in the church but not allowed to have any needs of our own.

    My husband always pointed out that churches suck people in by promising their needs will be met, but once you are in you discover that only the people outside the group are allowed to have needs; members are considered selfish if they have needs, they are there to work, to be cogs in the wheel without complaining. The message changes from ‘God cares about you, God will meet your needs here’ to ‘sacrifice, give, work harder, be here whenever the doors are open, church is more important than family, people are going to die and go to hell because YOU didn’t work hard enough!’

    We actually had a pastor once who taught that it is impossible for Christians to get burned out because God is supplying their strength and his power is limitless. So, if they are tired and weary, they’re just being selfish and lazy. Yes, people were very burned out at that church but they couldn’t stop to care for themselves and so it was a very passive aggressive environment behind the love bombing.

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  61. Mr. Jesperson: Worship is about God, not us. If we go to a “worship meeting” to get our perceived needs met, than we simply have a wrong motive.

    I kind of disagree with you. The whole point of church is to worship in community. That in itself is a need. Personally, I think that was the reason the Bible said not to forsake meeting together. We need one another. If you go to church without feeling any need to spend time with God, to recenter yourself, and to connect with other fellow believers, receiving support and encouragement to live in faith in this troubling world, then what are you going with? If you feel no need, why not stay in bed and sleep in?

    It’s a moot point for me because I’ve had so many abysmal experiences with church and I have no illusions of what it’s about, and I now find myself better able to worship outside of a church. But I think this is what church was meant to be about.

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  62. Friend: Am I the only one who associates “high-capacity” with rifles rather than “men and women”?

    It’s such a shallow way of looking at people and what about not making “distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?”

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  63. SiteSeer: My husband always pointed out that churches suck people in by promising their needs will be met, but once you are in…

    Your husand nailed it. It’s one thing for a church to be outward focused on the needs of the community. In that case, it makes sense for a church to emphasize the importance of serving others. But when most of the need for service is overhead to keep the church “services” going, it’s time for some serious self-assessment.

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  64. SiteSeer: The whole point of church is to worship in community. That in itself is a need.

    Right? The whole idea that you are supposed to cease to have needs the moment you step into worship is silly. I stayed away from church for a while back and I came, in part, because it met a need for me. We have been told that needs are selfish, when they just *are*. The bible never tells us that wanting community, or safety, or shelter is selfish. It’s only in hurting other people to get those needs met that it becomes a problem.

    There is nothing wrong with having needs and seeking to meet them. Just be kind and help others along the way. There is something really odd about the way some churches address this – i particularly thought linda’s comment about only helping people you don’t worship with was a strange concept? Why? If my literal neighbor, or the person who sits next to me in worship, needs an ear, or hand up or a meal I should want to help them as much as I wish to help my neighbor I don’t know. Indeed, by virtue of actually being near people, you are better situated to know what they might need and help them. [and yes, burnout is a thing and we can’t all give endlessly without recharging or having someone give to us. It’s a circle, ideally]

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  65. Beakerj: Eurgh, that bit about wanting those entrepreneurs etc who’ve ‘outwardly made it in life but are seeking significance’…just Christian doublespeak for those who are financially successful or famous that they can brag about converting, who will fly the brand flag.

    And who can TITHE $ix or $even Figure$.

    And have enough Influence (money talks!) to cover for Pastor in case Pastor has any trouble with the authorities.

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  66. Friend: as when Robert Morris preached that series about demons entering members who did not sufficiently tithe.

    Both PA Dutch lore and Manly Wade Wellman fiction are full of Witch-Men extorting money from people by Hexing them using their familiar spirits.

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  67. Mark R: Morris has no theological degree but his personal testimony draws people: he didn’t get saved until 19 even though he was in ministry, and his 2018 near death experience made headlines even in the secular media.

    Near Death Experience — a close call or a full-honk “Beyond and Back” Testimony?

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  68. Max: If the Holy Spirit was lifted out of the American church, 95% of the stuff would still go on.

    If you substituted Ayn Rand or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, 95% of church stuff would still go on.

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  69. Lea: The whole idea that you are supposed to cease to have needs the moment you step into worship is silly. I stayed away from church for a while back and I came, in part, because it met a need for me. We have been told that needs are selfish, when they just *are*.

    I think there’s an inherent problem with how modern Western Christians look at the purpose of church and churches like Willow Creek are the ones that have perpetuated that.

    Willow Creek made the “seeker sensitive” model popular. Church became all about attracting people outside the church. But then those inside the church really have nowhere to grow, because everything is done to attract those who are new or unfamiliar with the church. Sermons are evangelistic and framed as entertainment, not teaching-based.

    I spent years in a church like this and they made it clear that anyone who had been there for awhile should be constantly giving and giving to attract new people. But where are they getting filled up so they have to give? They aren’t.

    I don’t think that was ever the intention of Jesus. We, as individuals, were to be the way new believers are made. The church’s purpose is not just to worship, but to be a place where believers learn and are encouraged to grow. Where we encourage other believers and are in turn, encouraged by others. Where we find people with similar life struggles and can help each other in those.

    I think it’s even darker than that, though. I think many of us have come to realize that these churches are not wanting a lot of new people for their sake. They want more money. They want more fame. They want an automatic sales base for their new books. These grand statements about finding the lost is really more about selfish gain.

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  70. ishy: I think it’s even darker than that, though. I think many of us have come to realize that these churches are not wanting a lot of new people for their sake. They want more money. They want more fame. They want an automatic sales base for their new books. These grand statements about finding the lost is really more about selfish gain.

    I’ll be one of the last persons around to pine for the ‘good old days’, but in some ways I think they had it right.
    Before the world had moved on, church was just something you did on Sundays, you went, you did your thing, and that was that.
    It (church) was never meant to be an end all and a be all in people’s lives.

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  71. One of the things Willow Creek did and does is have a Global Leadership Summit every year. A friend of mine (and he picketed Driscoll’s church with me when he came in from Australia) has taken it upon himself to let churches know that when they sponsor/buy a GLS from Willow Creek, they’re still supporting the same system that allowed Bill Hybels to run rampant for years.

    Yesterday, Benjamin and his 15 YO daughter went out to demonstrate in front of the New Hope Baptist Church, in Melbourne, Australia. They put duct tape over their mouths, they dressed (over their regular clothes) in sackcloth and covered themselves in ashes. Their signs read:

    “New Hope:

    Because your leadership are participating in systematic silence about the sexual abuse and sexual harassment perpetrated by Bill Hybels, we are here mourning for women who have been sexually abused.

    Please join us by writing the initials of yourself or a loved one who has been sexually abused.”

    They got about a dozen pairs of initials in the four hours they knelt on the grass in front of New Hope Baptist Church. Yes, knelt. In silence. For four hours. Oh, and Ben’s an atheist. But he feels so very strongly about the way Willow Creek has handled this (not well at all) that he does this.

    I know some people on Twitter think Ben Wheeler is a pain, but the guy walks the walk.

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  72. Headless Unicorn Guy: Both PA Dutch lore and Manly Wade Wellman fiction are full of Witch-Men extorting money from people by Hexing them using their familiar spirits.

    I don’t think we have moved far beyond that way of thinking, although the Pennsylvania Dutch have learned to sell their own hex-symbol culture instead of paying protection money. It’s a win-win!

    A friend of mine used to set out two cups of tea, one for herself and one for Jesus, when she wanted to hang out with Him. Folks thought this was faithful and committed, real evidence of her relationship with Jesus—but it’s not that different from setting up a shrine with a food offering. Both things are harmless, but we would do well to admit we use our imaginations or have folk beliefs.

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  73. ishy: Willow Creek made the “seeker sensitive” model popular. Church became all about attracting people outside the church. But then those inside the church really have nowhere to grow, because everything is done to attract those who are new or unfamiliar with the church.

    A variant of the Prosletyzing Pyramid — Sheep whose only purpose is to Save More Sheep whose only purpose is to Save More Sheep…

    Except in this variant, Megapastor Wolf at the top of the Pyramid does all the Saving.

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  74. ishy,

    An addition to Ishy’s comment:

    In 1865, an African American went up to the communion table during a church service, also attended by Robert E. Lee. The church was shocked. Robert E. Lee arose and knelt down to partake of the communion, not far from the African American. We’re all equal in God’s eyes, Today, the hard core indigent, the alcoholic, the drug abuser, the single mom, the elderly poor, the disabled poor aren’t taking communion with the large independent business owner, the famous person because the system that designs and build churches don’t account for it. We all hurt and cry in the same way. We all need that fellowship with other believers as much as we need to help the hurting nonbelievers, introduce them to Jesus.

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  75. Headless Unicorn Guy: Near Death Experience — a close call or a full-honk “Beyond and Back” Testimony?

    He was in a helicopter ambulance for 45 minutes. Both the paramedics (the one who came to his house and the other on the helicopter) have been recognized by Gateway. During the ride he had no sense of time; his younger son believed he had an out of body experience.

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  76. Ken F (aka Tweed): The church needed 400 volunteers per weekend to support an attendance of around 1200 people.

    That is flirting with the Heresy of Clericalism.

    My church (RCC) had to rein back the use of lay Eucharistic Ministers many years ago in the first flush of Vatican II before it turned into more people “behind the altar rail” than in the pews. Many of the lay positions which became common after Vatican II went to the lay ministers’ heads and they thought of themselves as “pseudo-Priests”. I think we’ve established a balance by now.

    The vast majority were needed in “next generation” ministry.

    What’s “next generation” ministry?

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  77. Mark R: He was in a helicopter ambulance for 45 minutes. Both the paramedics (the one who came to his house and the other on the helicopter) have been recognized by Gateway. During the ride he had no sense of time; his younger son believed he had an out of body experience.

    Could have been something supernatural/paranormal, or more likely he was in such bad shape that his memory “gapped”. Like he may have been slipping in and out of consciousness or been in a semi-conscious state which messed with his perception of time.

    I’ve had my memory “gap” like that without any drugs or medical condition; like once when I was driving 101 and could not remember ANYTHING between Gilroy and the outskirts of San Jose. Literally a “jump cut” between the two; what the alien abductee crowd calls “missing time”. Locally we call that phenomenon “going on autopilot”.

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  78. Headless Unicorn Guy: Could have been something supernatural/paranormal, or more likely he was in such bad shape that his memory “gapped”.

    I have night terrors, but I’ve never blamed them on anything but an overactive imagination. But if you don’t remember anything, that’s totally normal in an emergency health situation. I hardly remember the night I spent in the hospital this past summer with a bad allergic reaction. It feels to me like a scam…

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  79. Back to the article up top:
    Scot McKnight wants to know what a pastor is?
    Well gentle reader, here’s a brief apocryphal vignette:

    Long, long ago when I was a little tyke, the Great Lakes region had one of the worst blizzards on record. It barreled down out of Canada with a vengeance, and the city snow plows could not keep up with what it dumped and what the wind sculpted into drifts, some of which obscured the street signs.

    There was an old Lutheran saint in her 90s in hospital who wouldn’t last the night and asked for a Lutheran pastor to administer communion one last time. Pastor Sorensen and a guy from his Parish (a WW2 vet who survived the Ardennes at a place called Bastogne in 1944) set out on snowshoes , and they got there just in time before she passed.

    That, dear and constant reader, is a pastor, a breed virtually extinct at present, and a far cry from the fops and dandies of today.

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  80. Muff Potter,

    “That, dear and constant reader, is a pastor, a breed virtually extinct at present, and a far cry from the fops and dandies of today.”
    ++++++++++++++

    awesome story. yes, a pastor, indeed.

    fops and dandies…. what good words those are! overly concerned about their appearance, walking around town like a celebrity as if to say, “yes, i really am all that.”

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  81. Nick Bulbeck: How about “lead generation ministry”?

    I think you made a typo. It’s called “Leech” Generation Ministry. It’s main point is to get the older generations to 1) open their wallets, 2) volinter for the myriad of Next Generation Ministry requirements, and 3) don’t ask questions.

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  82. ishy: The church’s purpose is not just to worship, but to be a place where believers learn and are encouraged to grow. Where we encourage other believers and are in turn, encouraged by others. Where we find people with similar life struggles and can help each other in those.

    I think it’s even darker than that, though. I think many of us have come to realize that these churches are not wanting a lot of new people for their sake. They want more money.

    Absolutely yes. To both points.

    There is a certain amount of replacing your current church body that is required for a church to sustain itself, because people are constantly moving in and out (deaths, moving, births, etc) but the need to constantly bring in new people and constantly grow is not a sign of health imo.

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  83. Muff Potter: “It (church) was never meant to be an end all and a be all in people’s lives.”

    No, but I do think that it can have a place in people’s lives and that churches are meant to be supporting each other to some extent, widows and orphans being specifically mentioned. I also think we are supposed to be learning things and thinking and praying, even if it is once a week. All the things ishy mentioned really, and that can certainly extend outside of sunday morning. The problem with these megas and controlling churches is that they try to make things happen in an unnatural way that doesn’t really meet any needs.

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  84. Friend: A friend of mine used to set out two cups of tea, one for herself and one for Jesus, when she wanted to hang out with Him. Folks thought this was faithful and committed, real evidence of her relationship with Jesus—but it’s not that different from setting up a shrine with a food offering.

    This just makes me think of old books I used to read where they pour water/wine out ‘for the gods’. And on the counter hex, how interesting!

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  85. Headless Unicorn Guy: What’s “next generation” ministry?

    “NextGen Pastor” is a new catchy title for SBC’s New Calvinist youth pastors. Essentially, it refers to someone who is focused on indoctrinating the next generation of Southern Baptists with reformed theology to ensure that they are fully immersed and engaged in the new reformation. You know, train them in the way they should go and they won’t depart from it. The New Calvinists don’t really give a big whoop about 50+ traditional Southern Baptists – by targeting young folks, they can change SBC belief and practice in a single generation.

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  86. Max: Willow Creek members should have an out of church experience for a few months, praying and searching the Scriptures daily, to get their spiritual bearings aligned with true North.

    HA!
    No argument here Max, no argument here.

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  87. Friend,

    “Both things are harmless, but we would do well to admit we use our imaginations or have folk beliefs.”
    +++++++++++++++

    interesting discussion.

    isn’t imagination the starting point for “faith” of any kind? to faith in an invisible God?

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  88. Max,

    I would extend that to all church goers. When we step outside of what we know as ‘how to do church’ we find ourselves thinking and questioning a lot of things. I now view it as a healthy process, even if, in my case, unsought.

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  89. TS00: When we step outside of what we know as ‘how to do church’ we find ourselves thinking and questioning a lot of things.

    Agreed. All church goers should experience that for a season … leave church for a while and get alone with God. Hudson Taylor, early missionary to China, said there has always been the Church within the church … he found himself having to get away from the structure of it all to hear God.

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  90. Fisher: While helping my aged mother in hospital I found in her mail a flier from the latest mega church start up in her area. It said, “lights are low, band is great, slip out anytime you start to feel uncomfortable.” Christianity lite indeed

    The Wiccan term for these are “Fluffbunnies”.

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  91. Max: Hudson Taylor, early missionary to China, said there has always been the Church within the church … he found himself having to get away from the structure of it all to hear God.

    Interesting comment about Hudson Taylor, whose story I am familiar with. I have personally taken time away from the structured church to be alone with my God-Friend Jesus during some seasons。 It was helpful in purifying my mind and settling my heart. I am participating in a local church again.

    But I think Watchman Nee said, faith also needs to be lived out in the body of Christ, for prayer, for fellowship, for the release of the Holy Spirit among believers, and exercising of spiritual gifts to edify the body. Maybe it’s part of the kingdom work?

    I realize that healthy churches are hard to find these days. Perhaps it’s still possible to find the small church within the church.

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  92. birdoftheair: I think Watchman Nee said, faith also needs to be lived out in the body of Christ, for prayer, for fellowship, for the release of the Holy Spirit among believers, and exercising of spiritual gifts to edify the body.

    Agreed. Blessed indeed is the believer who can find such a church! The true Church of the Living God is in the business of reaching lost folks for Christ, equipping believers to do the work of the ministry, and engaging them to fulfill the Great Commission together. Meanwhile, you might have to dig your own well and minister with your unique spiritual gifting as God leads. Jesus had to get alone to pray, the prophets went into the wilderness alone to hear God, Paul spent three years alone in the desert to get a word from the Lord to prepare him for ministry. Aloneness ain’t a bad thing if God is with you … it can help blow the religious dust out of your ears.

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