By Don Ruhl
Have you heard of the Willow Creek Church and if so, what do you know? Wikipedia says,
Willow Creek Community Church (or simply Willow Creek Church) is an American, evangelical Christian, nondenominational megachurch located in the Chicago suburb of South Barrington, Illinois. It was founded on October 12, 1975 by Bill Hybels, who is currently the Senior Pastor. The church has three weekend services with approximately 20,000 attendees, making it the second largest church in America after Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. The church has been listed as the most influential church in America the last several years in a national poll of pastors…On October 12, 1975, the church met for the first time, renting Willow Creek Theater in Palatine, Illinois. In 1977, the church purchased 90 acres in South Barrington to build its own building. The first service was held in the new building in February of 1981. Since then, the building has been doubled in size and the property expanded to 155 acres. There are now nearly 100 ministries that are designed to serve a variety of needs for different age and people groups…Willow Creek Community Church states that its mission is to, “Turn irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.” The church bases its belief on the Bible, asserting it to be inspired by God, infallible, and the final authority on matters which it covers.
A church that large would seem to have it all together. Yet, the “executive pastor” wondered if the church truly did have it all together. Something was missing. They conducted a huge survey and presented the results to Bill Hybels, who had the wake up call of his life. He could not believe what they discovered. Let’s take a look at something in the Bible first.
Second Kings 22.1–13 They Discovered a Book
This passage reveals an interesting discovery. King Josiah did the right thing, seeking to restore the true religion among God’s people. They did many things right. However, they were missing something. Therefore, they could not know everything to do nor what they had done wrong. As they went about repairing the temple, the high priest, of all people, made a fascinating discovery, “Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe, ‘I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD’…Then Shaphan the scribe showed the king, saying, ‘Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.’ And Shaphan read it before the king. Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, that he tore his clothes” (2Ki 22.1–13).
How had they functioned without the Book of the Law? Some traditions would have been in place. Their hearts were right. Some among them could have instructed them on what to do and so on. Yet, when they discovered the Book and started reading it, they made huge discoveries.
That happens to people who previously had been without God’s word, but have good hearts and then discover His word. Their reactions are strong.
Willow Creek Had a Similar Experience
The church had been using the Bible, but not as they should have been and the members told them they had not. The church wanted more meat. They said that they were not being fed and many of them were considering leaving.
However, the church realized that is not all the responsibility of the church. There is self-responsibility involved and the church should encourage that.
The leadership discovered the Bible in ways they had not before. Yes, they read it and preached and taught it, but their emphasis was upon programs.
What Makes Christians Grow?
Ephesians 4.11–16 shows that Jesus did indeed give the church various leaders, who help the members grow (vv. 11–15), but Paul also wrote, “from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”
Hebrews 5.12–14 rebukes Christians for not taking personal responsibility for their own growth.
First Peter 2.1–3 urges us to seek the word as babies seek their mother’s milk, but that only happens when Christians “have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1Pe 2.3), and so they want more. Church leaders must be presenting the Lord to the people in such a way that they want more of Him and His word.
What are you doing to grow as a Christian? Are you taking advantage of everything the church offers?