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After modeling a seeker-sensitive approach to church growth for three decades, Willow Creek Community Church now plans to gear its weekend services toward mature believers seeking to grow in their faith.

The change comes on the heels of an ongoing four-year ...

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Displaying 1–60 of 60 comments

Tasha

May 28, 2008  10:11am

They should be targeting and audience of One - the Lord is the audience of our worship. That kind of sincere honest worship is what blesses people, nomatter how long they have been walking with the Lord and what draws people who truly desire to know the Lord. Maybe a drop in numbers would be a good thing. If the focus is redirected to the word of God and to Christ's sacrifice for sin, and that results in people leaving the church.... Christ said many would be offended by him. Let the tares separate from the wheat!

Fran

May 27, 2008  8:41pm

So many churches are "missing it" by trying to be seeker friendly. Sold out Christians gain more strength from people like Brother Yun and the late Richard Wurmbrand, both of whom give more meaningful views of radical Christians. I'm not advocating "flaky" Christianity. It's just that it seems that so many of the mega-churches are unbalanced in their teaching by neglecting lessons on carrying the cross and Christian persecution. I would like to see more pastors "taking it to the streets" and doing what Jesus told us to do. I'm tired of listening to conference speakers who concentrate on signs and miracles and the coming revival. I am tired of slick presentations and power point sermons. Let's keep it simple and get back to the Book of Acts. I hear very few sermons or teachings that really challenge me in my walk. Or that focus on repentance and holiness and the power to achieve those ends. Something is truly missing. The revival preachers speak of today is not like past reviva

Billy Mack Smith

May 27, 2008  10:37am

It's not a matter of EITHER churches are "seeker~friendly" OR "spiritual growth" oriented. The church is commanded to be BOTH. While it's TRUE that the church cannot be "all things to all people", it is also true that the church CAN BE what we are commanded and empowered to be...called to "go and tell", "baptize, accepting & inclusive in our fellowship" & "make disciples who make disciples who make disciples." In point of fact, the Lord's church cannot afford to be about anything else. How does anyone miss that message?

Erin

May 23, 2008  2:57pm

I believe that that Willow is leading the way with actually taking a look at the amazing things Christ has done in the church and is humbly trying follow the leadings of Christ. I have been deeply rooted 4 churches (Willow being the 4th) from a small presbyterian to a large assemblies of God. Willow is the epitome of the Acts 2 church. The actual changes the church has made are not that drastic...Christ, the Cross, and meeting the needs of others are still at the center like they always have been. People who disagree have not taken a step towards maturity in their faith and gotten involved, Or as in the case in churches across the world are lacking in their personal devotion to prayer and Bible reading. We need to take account for our own actions. My prayer is that others who are tempted to take what they hear and begin a chain of gossip just take a trip to South Barrington and hear the word of God through his servent Bill for themselves.

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Linda

May 23, 2008  1:54pm

This article points out why so many of us are feeling unfilled spiritually by our "made with hands" church experience and therefore leave: it is led by men instituting various programs to bring in/keep people in-between the walls of the hand made church instead of letting the Holy Spirit lead. Instead of Christ being the head, a man or group of men are the head. Christ is the only head and the Holy Spirit is the only teacher. My suggestion: "leaders", get on your knees with the congregation and seek God and his will instead of forcing your will upon the congregation in the form of programs/ministries etc. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you". Abandon your institution/human taught methodologies and seek God above all!

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Lynn

May 22, 2008  10:17pm

I became a Christian at Willow Creek in the mid 80's. Willow gave me a sound footing in the basics of Christianity and ALSO a desire to go deeper into the word via small groups and Wednesday night services. I learned how to worship God with all of my heart at Willow Creek. After an illness that took me out of the "game" for about 20 years, my life is still today fully devoted to Jesus Christ because I was taught how to "feed" myself from the Bible at Willow. I am currently working with other believers to establish a new church in Florida. Without Willow Creek's devotion to seekers, and an invite from a friend, I believe I'd be far from God today. Bill Hybels and the team I volunteered with in the 1980's lived a life for God, and until I hear otherwise, I choose to believe they are still hearing and obeying God's voice.

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Phil Walker, MD

May 22, 2008  8:42am

"Relevance is exciting." There. I said it. Now you can start quoting me.

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Nicole Macaluso

May 22, 2008  8:03am

Being a newly reborn person of six years, I think it's really interesting how our society struggles with Faith. Whether Traditional or super contemporary... Why have we (the church) caved into to catering to people as God is here to "serve us?" Being involved with 2 churches as well as working for one, this is what I see is hurting both the message of Christ as well as the future of Christianity. Whether Lutheran, UCC or non-denominational & so on, we need the community of the church to understand life not in selfish terms but in very other worldly terms. As stated in the Gospel of John: "You are in the world, not of the world." Jesus wanted us to think of "church" as community, action & humility, if we lived in this way our faith would become profound!

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Randy Haglund

May 22, 2008  5:51am

I have found it very interesting over the years since my wife and I moved away from the NW Chicago suburbs, ending our 12-13 years as members of Willow that the vast majority of naysayers have never set foot inside the doors of Willow. If those that speak so eloquently and speak so dogmatically from their KJV have visited it sure wasn't for very long. If those that are so clearly against what Willow was and is doing, paused for even an instant to take off their self-righteous blinders, I would pray that they would see that the really don't know what they don't know. As one couple that was changed from church-goers to Christ-followers, we lived for over 10 years in small groups as leaders and overseers, in little communities where discipleship, accountability, love, and care multiplied itself to birth new communities where pre-Christians and religious pagans discovered what a personal relationship with Jesus Christ was all about. I'm out of space,"repent YE prideful, self-righteous.

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Jon

May 21, 2008  10:49pm

What a poor "story" - first of all, it's not true. Willow is as committed to non-Christians as ever (just like Jesus). Second of all, it doesn't quote any actual sources but makes a statement of fact vs. opinion. CT should be ashamed of itself for such shoddy "journalism." Trying to cash in on the unfortunate uninformed craze in the "christian" sub-culture to see all things Willow bashed. I used to respect CT, but will now put them in the same camp as TMZ...

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June

May 21, 2008  10:43pm

As a Christian,I believed a church exist because God and God alone cause it to exist and people who were made true recipients of the grace of God, were used by our Lord to handle all matters pertaining church management. But if everyone in the church fails to recognize true worship, true prayers in the Spirit, true meaningful Bible reading, everyday true seeking the face of God, the church would go nowhere even if people were richly gifted,,as it was expressed by Paul in 1 Corinthians chapter one verses 18 to 31 on the wisdom of God. And in the Psalms that says,Unless the Lord builds,the workers labor in vain. To God be the Glory.

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Johann

May 21, 2008  6:48am

Just because a "church" decides not to pander to "seekers", it doesn't mean it won't pander to the "Christ-centered", with ear-tickling doctrine and entertainment marketed as worship. Must keep the fannies in the seats!

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Ranerocizm

May 20, 2008  3:54pm

A friend in seminary gave me his take on willow creeks reluctance to become more comprehensive in their approach to preaching the gospel and he said that they had no reference point so they had no incentive to go in a different direction. I however am a big believer in the doctrine of total depravity, the only incentive they had was avarice. Why should they take the narrow way when their success was ensured and life was going real good? If they are truly Christians they know that if you don't put the emphasis on making disciples you set them up for failure, but they chose to keep the gravy train going because to do so otherwise jepodizes all that money coming in. I could be wrong though. I wasn't there on sundays so maybe they did preach the gospel but they just liked playing a little rock music before they brought forth the word. lol!!

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Martin

May 20, 2008  9:56am

Much could be said... The desire to gain maturity of the faith will be continuous. A "shift" is necessary. In addition, the invasion of psychology into theology ought to be curbed...for many it will be or is a deadend. Lately, I have taken a "vacation from the church". In so doing, I have expressed concern that the traffic on the church parking lot is going in the wrong direction. Churhces seem to overwhelm themselves with "programs". The "programs" ought not to in the church building but out in the community in meeting the needs of others. Perhaps we ought to have signs on the back of our vehicles inviting people to: "Quit going to church, and start being the church." I am not angry, but disappointed. Much could be said...much could be prayed about.

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Val

May 19, 2008  6:53pm

Still waiting for an explanation from Hybels about why Brian McLaren, an emerging heretic, was allowed on his stage at Willow Creek teaching youth leaders in April, when McLaren denies a literal hell, the substitutionary atonement of Christ and the Second Coming. His "Shift Experience" certainly was a shift, right into spiritual error, and nobody even cares. The apostasy in the church these days is frightening.

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Stephen Paine

May 18, 2008  12:00pm

I have attended a Willow Creek church for the past 14 years. While the church has experienced challenges in discipling the people that it has led to Christ, there remains one irrefutable fact. God has been front and center in all of the planning and executing of programs at the church. We have diligently sought God's will at each turn, and I feel that God has been in the mix throughout. Yes, people have left the church, but my three sons, 22,24, and 28 years of age are vibrant Christians because of the relationship they have developed with Christ through this church. The two married sons have married Godly women who are also actively involved in ministry through the church. They wouldn't miss a Sunday. Are there holes in the Willow Creek mission? Sure there are, but the mission, while imperfect is daily leading new souls to Christ. They key has not been in what the church could bring to our family, but what our family could bring to the church.

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Carl R Smith

May 18, 2008  7:59am

'Seeker friendly' churches are little more than religious entertainment centers for those who want a little emotional self-satisfaction on Sunday morning (or whenever). "Repent and believe the gospel" is replaced by lattes, ear-splitting music and insipid preaching! Yikes!

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Jay

May 17, 2008  8:08pm

As far as I am concerned, this research revealed what many have said for years. It baffles me that it surprised otherwise brilliant and faithful men of God. Neither Jesus nor the Apostles tailored the gospel based on opinion surveys. We are called to make desciples, who will go on to lay down their lives (if need be). You want a house to last you build a strong foundation from the beginning, not after the house is half built or reinforce it once its done. I venture to say (no revelation) that the new move will bring Willow in line with the struggles and frustration of all the other churches in trying to raise up mature believers.

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Ephrem Hagos

May 17, 2008  10:15am

Biblically, there is no need whatsoever to make a shift from seeker-sensitive to growth-in-faith services. As explained in The Parable of the Growing Seed, "A man scatters seed in his field. He sleeps at night, is up and about during the day, and all the while the seeds are sprouting and growing. Yet he does not know how it happens. The soil itself makes the plants grow and bear fruit; first the tender stalk appears, then the ear, and finally the ear full of corn. When the corn is ripe, the man starts cutting it with his sickle, because harvest time has come" (Mark 4: 26-29). One wonders if such "shifts" in service are the only area of substance and method the churches are busy reinventing? God help us!

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Anonymous

May 16, 2008  2:46pm

To len in westland: I have to disagree with you, because is IS also about us. According to your thinking, what happens to those who have not yet met Jesus, after they become of os "us"? Leave them alone and move on to the next crowd? This is precisely the reason, why so many people in megachurches are hanging by a thread. Is our goal to simply get them saved? What about the rest of their journey in Christ? Who will disciple them? What are the spiritual fathers and mothers and mentors for? The enemy will come against those who committed their lives to Jesus, who will uphold them while he ties to saw thorns among the good seed of Gospel? We are supposed to care about each other if we are the Body of Christ. I do not say we forget the unbelievers, but reaching the unbelievers does not automatically mean forsaking the believers. We need each other to grow in the Lord.

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Paul

May 16, 2008  9:49am

Willow Creek leaders admit in their study that, "suggested... evangelistic impact was greater from those who self-reported as "close to Christ" or "Christ-centered" than from new church attendees." Isn't that what we want to see....believers translating the gospel of deliverance to those who need it? Then, why be critical of those believers who report a lack of biblical grounding? Willow Creek is moving in the right direction, for the time being.

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Mike

May 16, 2008  9:40am

I left a seeker church for the same reason - the one who was formally trained in the word of God and doctrine (pastor) reduced his message to fluff and expeced his flock to be fed by those that had no training (Sunday school teachers and home study leaders). We worked our hearts out to teach the Word but the overall concept just seemed a little backwards to me. The goal is not to draw a crowd, there are plenty of secular institutions if you want to feel good about being in a room full of people. I hope Willow Creek will maintain their courage to build people up in God's word in spite of the possibility of a few more open parking spaces. Hopefully the other mega-seeker churches will listen and learn from Willow Creek and "begin [again] with Moses and all the prophets, interpret to them the things written about [Christ] in all the scriptures."

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Paul

May 16, 2008  9:23am

The study confirms my suspicions about the seeker service mentality. It's "church lite" without the uncomfortable notion of being held accountable for anything. It gains many followers who are attracted to the rock stars of contemporary religiousity, but produces few committed disciples who are evangelizing and planting seeds of hope. It also neglects those who are faithful and diligent in following Christ's desire to be lights of hope in the midst of darkness. We forget that though we as members of the Body of Christ are responsible for carrying on the work of the Church, it is through the power of the Holy Spirit that we are transformed and able to grow and mature in our relationship with Jesus Christ and it is through His work that people find what they are looking for. My hope is this is what Willow Creek is serious about, that it's not about us and that any productive outcome is not of our own doing.

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Deborah Solomon

May 16, 2008  8:44am

I think we all have to stop and pause intermittently and reassess what we have accomplished. As a professor reminded me that just because a person is busy working obviously doesn't mean that is the particular answer or assignment that was being asked for. We can give an enormous amount of time and resources for the cause of Christ and if we are not actually achieving the desired results we can't be afraid to reassess and chart a new direction. A person can keep a pleasant, cheerful and happy countenance in life, however we are called to be salt and light in the world. If the pornography industry, which the USA is the world leader in producing, is expected to continue to greatly multiply, if present trends continue, and the prisons are still filled we obviously have to spend more time striving to be salt and light in the culture and less time nit picking amongst ourselves. Should Jesus tarry his return it is never too late to turn the tide for the next generation!

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Jeff R.

May 16, 2008  8:05am

Anyone who does even the least amount of homework will instantly learn that the great majority of this story is entirely without merit.

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SP

May 16, 2008  7:01am

Hi...am a christian from a Hindu background...I am passionate about Jesus and those that were passionate about Jesus were the ones that got my attention...the truth in tension is that both fanning the "inward" flame is proportional to the outworking of that flame...so sorry to dissapoint I am not a fat christian...I thrive on the presence of God which means I get closer to His heartbeat which means I outwork it much more effectively outside of church meetings......peace

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SP

May 16, 2008  7:01am

Hi...am a christian from a Hindu background...I am passionate about Jesus and those that were passionate about Jesus were the ones that got my attention...the truth in tension is that both fanning the "inward" flame is proportional to the outworking of that flame...so sorry to dissapoint I am not a fat christian...I thrive on the presence of God which means I get closer to His heartbeat which means I outwork it much more effectively outside of church meetings......peace

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SP

May 16, 2008  7:01am

Hi...am a christian from a Hindu background...I am passionate about Jesus and those that were passionate about Jesus were the ones that got my attention...the truth in tension is that both fanning the "inward" flame is proportional to the outworking of that flame...so sorry to dissapoint I am not a fat christian...I thrive on the presence of God which means I get closer to His heartbeat which means I outwork it much more effectively outside of church meetings......peace

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SP

May 16, 2008  7:01am

Hi...am a christian from a Hindu background...I am passionate about Jesus and those that were passionate about Jesus were the ones that got my attention...the truth in tension is that both fanning the "inward" flame is proportional to the outworking of that flame...so sorry to dissapoint I am not a fat christian...I thrive on the presence of God which means I get closer to His heartbeat which means I outwork it much more effectively outside of church meetings......peace

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SP

May 16, 2008  7:01am

Hi...am a christian from a Hindu background...I am passionate about Jesus and those that were passionate about Jesus were the ones that got my attention...the truth in tension is that both fanning the "inward" flame is proportional to the outworking of that flame...so sorry to dissapoint I am not a fat christian...I thrive on the presence of God which means I get closer to His heartbeat which means I outwork it much more effectively outside of church meetings......peace

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SP

May 16, 2008  7:01am

Hi...am a christian from a Hindu background...I am passionate about Jesus and those that were passionate about Jesus were the ones that got my attention...the truth in tension is that both fanning the "inward" flame is proportional to the outworking of that flame...so sorry to dissapoint I am not a fat christian...I thrive on the presence of God which means I get closer to His heartbeat which means I outwork it much more effectively outside of church meetings......peace

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Kevin

May 16, 2008  6:33am

Christ established His church 2000 years ago, and Western evangelicalism still thinks its job is to re-invent and re-imagine church. This is postmodern relativism, and theology and morality can only be maintained without an epistemic basis. I think that whoever it was is right when they predicted a coming split in evangelicalism: one faction regressing into fundamentalism and the other faction following the same path as liberalism but a generation or two behind. It's almost enough to make one become Catholic.

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Ed

May 16, 2008  6:18am

Let's read the textbook on church building: Mark 4:1-9 The Parable of the Sower Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water's edge. He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: "Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times." Then Jesus said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear... Wow!

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Del

May 16, 2008  5:05am

I've been interested by the debate around Willow Creek and it's methods. They've been chastised for their foray into the seeker sensitive arena, yet the fact remains that traditional methods of teaching and outreach were also missing their mark when Willow Creek began being seeker sensitive. Everyone who has looked down their noses at Willow Creek has been shallow with an answer to a better way. Quick to find fault, yet who has given the solution. Some believe that you stick with old fashioned failed methods. Some believe you've got to cut your losses because you'll never reach all the unsaved. And sadly too many simply belong to the perpetually peeved Christian club. They aren't happy unless they are angry. I'm not sure what the answer is. Some suggest prayer, yet prayer often yields a silent response. Or maybe the answer is to keep looking, tweaking, modifying and crafting a way to deliver the depth needed with the outreach that doesn't push the unchurched away.

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Brent Vermillion

May 16, 2008  4:12am

They have done well, would like to do better and are trying to make the changes that will lead to a more mature and more evangelistic church. This is good leadership and good decision making by them.

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Charlie R. Soal

May 16, 2008  12:22am

It is quite telling that Willow has to have a market amalysis before it changes course. This move was not prompted by engagement with Scripture or theological reflection or seeking the mind of God thru' listening prayer . The REVEAL-driven shift is market driven!??!

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Discerning believer

May 15, 2008  8:08pm

Willow Creek continues its poor judgment. I saw this posting on the Web: “I have been sent numerous links to the various stories regarding the supposed “repentance” of Willow Creek over its seeker methods. I will make this short and to the point. No pastor, truly repentant for his spiritual malpractice over the course of the last 30 years, would be bringing emerging heretic Brian McLaren to speak to his youth and youth leaders from around the country. Hybels claims that he wants to go forward, “rooted in Scripture” is fascinating, in that he’s bringing someone to address the young people of his church who accepts homosexuality, denies the doctrine of the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ, denies a literal hell, and calls hell and the cross “false advertising for God.” Willow Creek is bringing this fountainhead of theological and spiritual poison to teach the most vulnerable in the flock, the young people, at the April, 2008, “Everything Must Change” Conference.”

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Jim Sparks

May 15, 2008  8:07pm

I am concerned about one thing. They had surveys, test results, feedback, and they have analyzed and scrutinized. But I haven't read that they have prayed and been led by the Spririt of God. No doubt they have been, but it is a concern when people appeart to make decisions based only on surveys. I would ask - and I trust that they have - "where is God in all of this? What is God saying, doing, leading, etc."

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Sam

May 15, 2008  7:31pm

Exactly! Willow's problem is methodological, in that they have a deficient ecclesiology. I have found that anemic ecclesiologies which structure themselves for annonymity and "consumer friendliness" cannot preach a robust, deep, and textured biblical theology because it will fly in the face of the ecclesial practices that constitute their church. Willow's problem is structural. Until people begin to realize that if you understand church as primarily something you "go to" and "leave" when your "off the campus" then you will always have trouble reading the Scriptures and certainly Jesus. In contrast, I think Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, is able to be massive and yet the opposite because it was founded with a "minimalist" strip down structure and a deep and challenging biblical theology. So the mass of people there expect to get sand papered and they expect that is where one meets Jesus and then they flesh it out in house churches...that is rare though.

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Jeri

May 15, 2008  7:19pm

Doesn't the Bible teach that there will be "a great falling away" in the last days? Could this be what is happening? I find myself wondering if there is anyone else who is hungering for a real revival in our nation? My prayer for the church - beginning with me - is that self-professing Christians of all denominations will wholeheartedly turn back to God, genuinely repenting of our grevious sins of indifference, idolatry, unbelief, selfishness, materialism, neglect of God's Word, failure to pray, apostasy- and any and all other offenses that have led to the present state of the church in this present day. I fear for our nation and the church if we fail to recognize our great need and refuse to get deadly serious about renewing our vows to God.

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Jason Cascio

May 15, 2008  7:11pm

I think that the TRUTH of the Word of God is enough! I understand how and why many, many churches have gone the way of "seeker-friendly", but I believe that ultimately people will be drawn to the Lord by the TRUTH and POWER of His WORD. When I see words like "marketing", "trend", and "research" I think more of the business world. What the Lord does in people's lives is SUPERNATURAL, and the Holy Spirit does the work in the heart of the believer, regardless of how polished the music or spectacular the multimedia. I believe we should just preach the Word with authority and let the Lord work. Shouldn't we lay down the "marketing methodology" and get back to basics? Ten years ago I attended a seeker-friendly church and loved it and I still love it, but after moving a lot in the military and maturing in Christ and in this life, I think dancing around the complete truth(s) of what we believe in as Christians for the sake of the seeker does more damage than good.

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gene

May 15, 2008  6:46pm

if you check your local tv listings you will see Charmed --about 3 young attratctive witches....Medium abot a woman with psychic powers....The Ghost Whisperer --a woman who talks to dead people....John Edwards a psychic/channeler....and just for kids on Disney That's So Raven about a kid psychic. Many people/seekers are watching these shows. Seekers want a real spiritual experience and the church has failed to give it to them. Seeker churches should stop focusing on seekers and focus on the Word and the Holy Spirit and it will be relevent to the seekers.

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Dr.bill

May 15, 2008  6:30pm

Neesha says it's "perspective". Sounds right to me. I'm impressed with the genuine concern I hear in so many of the comments. As a pastor of over 35 years, including active/reserve in AF/Army Chaplaincy (22 yrs.) LtCol., it's a real struggle to get it "right". Yes, "Virginia, there is a.... " devil. Megachurch runs the same risks as the papacy of Rome; power and adulation. Richard and Galen, for example, sense something is wrong. Honest, I'm not preaching, but that old verse came to mind about losing the "first love." Success is such a dangerous thing. Isn't that so true of us all? As Udo Middelmann ("The Innocence Of God") it is a fallen world. And it's not so obvious as we think. We forget it's a constant and personal warfare. It's too easy to think we're doing great as long as we're having "great success"; growing, etc. God must be blessing, right? Not so fast!! (faithswork.blogspot.com)

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Richard

May 15, 2008  5:01pm

"Behold," says the Scripture, "the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people; but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee." Isa. 60:2. It is the darkness of misapprehension of God that is enshrouding the world. Men are losing their knowledge of His character. It has been misunderstood and misinterpreted. At this time a message from God is to be proclaimed, a message illuminating in its influence and saving in its power. His character is to be made known. Into the darkness of the world is to be shed the light of His glory, the light of His goodness, mercy, and truth. Let’s get back to calling SIN by its right name and stop trying to make sinners comfortable in their transgressions. In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus said to those who addressed Him as Lord, Lord, "I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" Iniquity is sin. Sin is Christianity's GREAT problem today.

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Galen

May 15, 2008  4:53pm

With 42 years in the Lord, reading Gk & Hb, and having started scores of churches in a dozen countries, I suppose I fit in the hard-to-please crowd. For several years, US churches proved shallow, predictable, even boring, and overly rationalist. Presently, I "attend church" neither for its shallow teaching nor for its cheap glitter, certainly not for its denial of spiritual reality, but to enter, for a few minutes, into an experience of spiritual joy during the praises before the cleric starts his monologue. To stay excited about Jesus, and to keep growing in understanding, power and love, I know of no better activity that to get together a small Body that seeks to rescue souls and societies from Satan by obeying Jesus together.

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Dale Fincher

May 15, 2008  4:44pm

This article didn't say anything that we haven't heard already... I'm still surprised that it took Willow so long to reach those conclusions and that it is considered news. As a GenXer, I always found the 'seeker' stuff as a 'switch & bait' tactic to grab converts as a short-lived strategy reaping long-term casualties. What's more, regardless if these changes at Willow are better or worse is pretty much beside the point. That Willow always feels the need to export whatever they are doing is part of the problem. Let Willow reach Chicago and let our little churches in our little towns find strategic ways to reach out own people. Let local leaders not be discouraged into mimmicking the larger churches and be more empowered to let the Spirit move locally with local creativity and local ideas and local gifts.

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Dr. Wallace Alcorn

May 15, 2008  4:25pm

I admire Willow Creek for its forthrightness and courage in its self-assessment, but I still feel some sense of betrayal by its implied denigration of traditional churches. WC has committed the same error as such as Jack Hyles did, but used different devices. I encourage such honesty by those traditional churches that have excused non-productivity by claims of orthodoxy. What the Savior expects is not as much a soul-winning church but a church of soul-winners, the base of this evangelism is the demonstration of convincingly wholesome lives.

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Neesha

May 15, 2008  3:51pm

I agree that it will take more than a shift of target, it will take a shift of perspective. I appreciate Willow Creek's willingness to go to extremes to reach the lost however Jesus' teaching was never to go and invite them to the synagogue- although salvation does come forth from this. On the other hand inviting people to the house of God in the States does not cost us anything. It's too easy. A focus on discipleship is necessary so that hundreds will live their lives like Christ did- having answers, being approachable for questions, loving unconditionally- so then the people of God become seeker-friendly instead of compromising the purpose of the church- the building and edifying of believers. This is a shift of perspective that results in a change of method.

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vern

May 15, 2008  2:32pm

If the cross is done away with, there is no power for conversion or growth. The cross is the power and wisdom of God. Our best evangelisitic efforts and our best music and speakings are nothing if we have done away with the cross.

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Matt Stephens

May 15, 2008  2:03pm

Glad Willow's shifting course in this way. Writing it off as "changing target audiences" oversimplifies the situation as well as makes false assumptions. Every church must target groups of people. The Great Commandment implicitly mandates two target populations: the lost, who must be evangelized, and the saved, who must be discipled. The crux of the debate of where to place emphasis lies in the astounding, yet ironic, fact that only a church of maturing disciples can be either (a) effective evangelistically, or (b) successful biblically. Time and time again I hear lost people admit that the primary deterrent to "giving God a change" is an untransformed Church. The most effective evangelism 'strategy' is facilitating an environment conducive to rigorous discipleship and to the magnification of the glory of God. All other strategies lead to internally-focused cesspools of stagnant, "baby Christians". www.theincarnate.blogspot.com

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Jason

May 15, 2008  1:45pm

Being a Christian who grew up in church but switched from church to church for many years (due to various circumstances), I've seen a lot of different approaches, from liturgical to simplified to contemporary to organic. Honestly, there are two things that are most important: Jesus and joy. And it isn't a matter of sacrificing one for the other. I've been to services where they have an enjoyable time (with humor, good singing, active participation, meeting other people) as well as depth and devotion. It doesn't have to be shallow to be interesting to non-believers; and, as Willow Creek is finding out, depth and discipleship are important and necessary for all people, including "seekers" (however you wish to define that). I believe that discipleship goes beyond the "Sunday service." But the point isn't to decide whether Willow Creek was right or wrong - they were trying. And that's something all churches need to be doing - constantly reevaluating and always proclaiming Jesus.

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michael wade

May 15, 2008  1:22pm

Was it Saint Francis of Assisi who wrote, "Wherever you find yourself, well, there you are."? Willow Creek has done much for the cause of Christianity as has Billy Graham. Yet both are routinely and roundly criticized and condemned. And usually by those who haven't done much in the very areas that they are most critical of others. We live in a fast changing culture - what works this year probably won't work as well next year. While the message never changes the language does and if the storyteller doesn't adapt he'll find himself in that mausoleum for God that Nietzsche wrote of. Part of the vibrancy of Christianity is that it is a living organism and as such is in a constant state of change. That Willow Creek is willing and able to change speaks well of it. It shows maturity. How many churches launch a "church plant" or ministry with much fanfare about God's perfect will and then just keep quiet when it fails? Or have an actual plan on how to disciple new believers? You go Bill.

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Y. P.

May 15, 2008  1:13pm

I have used some of their children's material from Promised Land and it was quite good. Their children's material had a surprising amount of biblical, spiritual depth to it. I also used their "Leading Kids to Jesus" material and thought it was very insightful and grounded biblically. Based on that success, I used their Living Beyond Yourself material Church wide. Very little depth. Found the same to be true of most of the adult resources from them that I used. It seems to me that they coddle the adults while pushing the children. Christians need Spirit-inspired speaking- not inspiriational speaking. But no church is perfect.

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len in westland

May 15, 2008  1:11pm

youre kidding, right? the people thinking about leaving should be gently excused. theyve lost the vision. its not about us, its about those who have not yet met jesus. every good economics and business model will show that corporations that shift doing what they began doing in order to grow begin the demise. its a comfort issue. feed me says the fat christian. sorry folks, but its time we stop wanting more and start giving more. too bad that willow finally subcombed to the masses. next...

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Lee

May 15, 2008  1:00pm

For years I've wondered what happens in Seeker churches when they find themselves full of Finders.

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mike

May 15, 2008  12:50pm

Have you read Pagan Christianity yet? Food for thought anyway.

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Peter

May 15, 2008  12:27pm

Once I heard a quotation, I thought attributable to Chesterton: "Relevance is boring." Apparently Chesterton did not say this. Still, as an aphorism it holds weight. Churches should take note.

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Doug

May 15, 2008  12:05pm

I have found "seekers" want to hear the Bible explained in clear and relevant ways. I have been an expository teacher for 25 years and have had many non believers come to church and stay. In fact when they become Christians they already have a good body of knowledge about what it means to be a Christian and about Christian theology. Seekers don't want a show they want truth. But real evangelism has to go to the streets, the shops, and the homes. We have to stop expecting that unbelievers will walk into churches. Most of the "seekers" that have come to church have been cultivated by other evangelistic efforts the congregation is making. I never felt seeker oriented services were anything but a fad that couldn't be reproduced.

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THe G

May 15, 2008  12:04pm

Thanks Willow Creek for trying to lead the churches across the globe astray with egocentricism for a quarter of a century.

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Anonymous

May 15, 2008  12:00pm

you wrote an article about Willow without interviewing the key people there. Willow's teaching hopefully isn't as shallow as the author's journalism.

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