October 18, 2007

Seismic Activity In The Christian Church

I'll wade into the waters here, but I can promise you this is going to become big news over the upcoming months and have HUGE ramifications for the American church. You can also find out more info about what the article is talking about here.

So let's take a look and talk about this shall we. Essentially, what has happened is Willow Creek has looked at their methods and their philosophies of the last 30 years and said "Oops"…

Directly or indirectly, this philosophy of ministry—church should be a big box with programs for people at every level of spiritual maturity to consume and engage—has impacted every evangelical church in the country. So what happens when leaders of Willow Creek stand up and say, "We made a mistake"?

It's going to be interesting to see how that question gets answered. But there's a lot of unwinding to do. And a lot of changing course about to happen. There will also be some serious post-mortems at all the churches who have spent collective BILLIONS building facilities so they could be the big box church they thought they should be.

  • To hear Greg Hawkins say that attendance at services is not an indicator of growth in spiritual maturity should send shockwaves to the mega-church upstarts out there. For all of those people who have invested millions in their Sunday service because they thought THAT was the way to change the community, you have just been told differently by the godfather of your movement.
  • To the folks who have publicly ridiculed churches who wanted to pour heavily into teaching, equipping, and maturing their own – you have just been rebuked.
  • To the evangelistic zealots who believed that their program would hurdle the church over the top – you have just had your hopes dashed.
  • But to those who have said all along that we must teach and equip our people to learn how to read their Bible, to learn how to pray, to learn how to practice solitude and meditation, to engage in missional living right here at home, to give their life away to their fellow church members, to give sacrificially to each as they had need. To those – you have just seen another church (albeit a big one and a flagship one) understand at least a little of what you've been talking about all along.
  • To the pastor of a small church in rural America whose been told he matters nothing because he's not reaching thousands, you have just learned that your little flock of 50 has pleased God more than the masses of thousands who came to be entertained.

And to all of us in ministry who labor for the Gospel – we have just learned the value of admitting when you're wrong. This is a big step for Willow to admit they blew it from a philosophy standpoint. And what they have done is start something I hope every local church and para-church ministry does starting now and that is honestly evaluate the true difference you are making in people's lives. Quit using numbers as your justification for your rightness and start listening to the people you think you are reaching. Get involved with your people and find out what they truly think and who they truly are.

This truly is a stunning turn of events. How God will use this should be interesting. But with the rise of The Gospel Coalition, Redeemer Presbyterian, Bethlehem Baptist, Desiring God, Acts 29, and in general the resurgence of a focus back on the Gospel – this truly is a remarkable moment in the life of the American church. I'll be interested to read what other bloggers have to say.


UPDATE: Read more about this at the following locations (I'll update as I find them):

Justin Taylor
Grace Fellowship Of South Forsyth
Expository Thoughts
The Heidelblog
The Gospel Driven Church - Jared
The Centurion
Phil Johnson
Todd Rhoades

1 comment:

Sherry and Ryan said...

Interesting... I have not read any of the articles, only your commentary on it. This new realization doesnt surprise me very much. I, like you, have always believed that programs are fine but growth is the ultimate goal. Get off the milk already and start chewing on some meat - right? So if the programs arent cultivating strong real believers, then they are no good. I do think that can happen in large churches. The challenge there is to create groups small enough to encourage and hold each other accountable.

Anyway, keep that mind open and keep writing bro. Hope yall are doing well! Tell the fam I said Hi.