We live in a world that measures success by size. Bigger, we're told, is better. Willow Creek Community Church certainly fits the model. Every weekend 17,000-plus people attend six services (two exclusively designed for Gen-Xers) programmed with cutting-edge music, drama, and teaching to reach the unchurched. The services' "wow" factor is aided by 50 vocalists, a 75-piece choir, seven rhythm bands, a 65-piece orchestra, 41 actors, a video production department, and an arts center with 200 students that serves as a farm club for future talent.

But what if size is not the goal? What if you wanted to create the kind of intimate spiritual community in Acts 2, which describes early Christians caring for each other as if they were family? Can you create that kind of environment with thousands of people? Willow has spent 25 years figuring out how.

"The original concept of Willow was a kind of grand experiment," says Senior Pastor Bill Hybels. "It was based on the belief that it might be possible, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to build an Acts 2, biblically functioning community on the northwest suburbs of Chicago in the 1970s."

Hybels caught the vision from Gilbert Bilezikian, one of his instructors at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and still his mentor and close friend.

Bilezikian repeatedly shared his dream with Hybels for a contemporary Acts 2 church.

Hybels had been leading a youth ministry called Son City that in three years had mushroomed from 25 to 1,200 attenders. The loud, cutting-edge Christian music, the gritty realism of dramatic skits, and the use of multimedia were wrapped around Bible studies delivered without Christian jargon on topics that young people could relate to. The church's more traditional leaders ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

May
Subscribe to CT and get one year free.
Read These Next
Also in this Issue
Willow Creek's Place in History Subscriber Access Only
It turns out that the church that made seeker-sensitive a part of our vocabulary is not as revolutionary as its critics have said.
Current IssueWhy the Church Needs the Infertile Couple
Why the Church Needs the Infertile Couple Subscriber Access Only
We're missing a broader scope of familial love.
RecommendedFranklin Graham’s Global Fallout, from Canada to Japan
Franklin Graham’s Global Fallout, from Canada to Japan
Vancouver pastor: How the church can model civil discourse amid controversy.
TrendingForgiveness: Muslims Moved as Coptic Christians Do the Unimaginable
Forgiveness: Muslims Moved as Coptic Christians Do the Unimaginable
Amid ISIS attacks, faithful response inspires Egyptian society.
Editor's PickWhat to Make of Donald Trump’s Soul
What to Make of Donald Trump’s Soul
And how that might shape our response to his presidency.
Christianity Today
Community Is Their Middle Name
hide thisNovember 13 November 13

In the Magazine

November 13, 2000

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.