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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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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!


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?


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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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