Willow Creek Repents? (Part 2)
Greg Hawkins responds with the truth about REVEAL.

Last week's post about Willow Creek sparked a lot of conversation. It all flowed from comments made by the church's leaders following a three year self-evaluation of Willow Creek's ministry effectiveness. Your comments caught the attention of Greg Hawkins, Willow's executive pastor. Below Hawkins reponds to your thoughts, clarifies what Willow has learned, and discusses the church's future.


I'm thrilled to see the high level of interest and energy behind the blogosphere comments about REVEAL. But I've read enough postings to think that it might be helpful to provide a few facts on three issues that keep coming up. Trust me. I'm not into "spin control" here. I just want to fill in some gaps.

1. It's Not About Willow

? REVEAL's findings are based on thirty churches besides Willow. In all thirty churches, we've found the six segments of REVEAL's spiritual continuum, including the Stalled and Dissatisfied segments. And these churches aren't all Willow clones. We've surveyed traditional Bible churches, mainline denominations, African-American churches and churches representing a wide range of geographies and sizes. Right now we're fielding the survey to 500 additional churches, including 100 international churches. So, while REVEAL was born out of a Willow research project in 2004, the findings are not exclusive to Willow Creek.

2. Willow Repents?

? The first blog started with this question, and the answer is "yes". But repenting is not a new experience for us. We've made a number of major course corrections over the years ? like adding a big small group ministry for the thousands of new Christians coming to faith at Willow, and adding a mid-week service for our Christ-followers. We've always been a church in motion and REVEAL is just another example of Willow trying to be open to God's design for this local church.

3. Is Willow Re-thinking its Seeker Focus?

? Simple answer ? no. My boss would say that Willow is not just seeker-focused. We are seeker-obsessed. The power of REVEAL's insights for our seeker strategy is the evangelistic strength uncovered in the more mature segments. If we can serve them better, the evangelistic potential is enormous, based on our findings.

I hope this was helpful. In any event, I'm enjoying following the dialogue. Keep it up! And let me know if you have any questions you'd like me to address.

Greg Hawkins

October 26, 2007

Displaying 1–10 of 55 comments


January 17, 2008  4:30pm

I am curious - Greg Hawkins and others wrote the book, they're promoting the book, creating a lot of buzz... This is undoubtedly generating a sizable amount of revenue. Where is the money going?

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January 13, 2008  11:37pm

Anthony, Church is not necessarily where we get "fed," it's where we worship God. Sometimes we have a good feeling, which is great, but it's not the main thing. The best place to find God for yourself is with your Bible open–"Father-God, what do You have for me today in Your Word?" "How can I be who You designed me to be?" Journaling can help too–it's easier to be honest on paper! As for God taking control, could it be He'd rather restore to us the control of ourselves? We submit to Him (which protecting us from the enemy who would hi-jack us!), He returns our wills to us, strengthened and empowered to follow through on our choices. In fact, the last descriptor of the Fruit of the Spirit is "self-control" (Gal. 5:23): when the Spirit is "in control," I am more truly myself, more really my own master, than any other way. God takes us more seriously than we take ourselves. He accepts our choices as though they were our reality (a description of "justification"), then He works with us to *make* our choices reality ("sanctification"). It's that simple and beautiful. We are called to freedom (Gal. 5:13.) which is the foundation of God's government in the universe! He could have created us to operate by instinct like the creatures; instead He gave us conscience and as much freedom as possible and the Holy Spirit to empower us. The "wider view" helps everything to be more significant! Keep studying the Bible and follow where God leads you through its teaching. You'll be glad forever!

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David Grant

December 14, 2007  9:40pm

When a son works at being a son their is always going to be a sense of failure. Creating programs and performances is a strange way to embrace being a son. The question of what can I do, is a venomous poison seeking to snuff out the heart of who Jesus is. The son of God. He died that we might be like Him, sons, not performers on a stage.

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Anthony Eppolito

December 09, 2007  11:52am

I am a living breathing example of a person who has attended Willowcreek for twenty years, has utilized many of the programs, attended the weekend service and New Community, served faithfully, and has never felt I reached the status of fully devoted follower or the level of maturity I have longed for in my spiritual walk. For years I have been telling my mentors at Willowcreek that I didnt feel fed spiritually, that many of the messages didnt have enough substance and a number of messages seemed like reruns to me. While attending Willow I have gone from having a GED education to a Masters Degree so I dont think Im unteachable, yet something isnt right in that my life has never reached that point of spiritual faith that as Hybels puts it I became a "Self Feeder". I was reading the bible daily, serving weekly, making myself transparent to the people who were leading me, being accountable, making every attempt to submit to Jesus, and it seems like I never accomplished the second step of the twelve steps in being able to turn my life and mind over to God no matter how many years I prayed that God would take control of my mind and life. Now I sit here lost in feeling that the church said oops, but what do I do with this new information? Do I start over at Willow and hope for the best this time around? Do I start over somewhere else? Do I just give up on the church altogether? I feel like a failure and dont know what to do. Where do I go from here?

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Spring Stillman

December 07, 2007  1:34pm

In the midst of all the buzz about church effectiveness, I did try to take time to be STILL and HEAR GOD. I share with you the following: 1. What does God require of us? Justice, mercy, and a humble walk with Him. 2. When fishermen and tax collectors followed Jesus, people see a difference and they say "They have been with Jesus..." 3. Do we look more like Jesus now that we have done many glorious ministries? Perhaps our leaders enjoy LEADING too much... Perhaps the average seeker or Christian needs to learn to BE LED by JESUS HIMSELF! What is God's calling for you, for me, in His greater world in need of light and life? He will show us and guide us if we stop long enough to listen and obey with a passion. This much ado about REVEAL will also pass. May we catch the real train with Jesus as the captain.

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Ed McCasland

December 06, 2007  12:47pm

Hmmm. I anticipate a series of books, DVD's and costly seminars and conferences that are all designed to help churches interpret this new "data".

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Dave Childers

November 22, 2007  9:47am

Our society has become increasingly narcissistic and self-centered. It isn't surprising that many people in our society confuse entertainment with the true gospel. Unchurched "Harry" and "Mary" seem more like fickle surburbanites rather than the people of the general population that Christ wanted to reach. We have no indication that Jesus and His disciples used popular music to win over the crowds. When the rich young ruler chose to hang on to his wealth rather than follow Jesus, Jesus didn't yell "Wait - we can negotiate!". Jesus didn't launch into a popular song and dance to convince him. The heavy use of drama in the seeker sensitive setting is ironic. Jesus was quite familiar with dramas and theatre in his day. One of the most frequently used terms by Jesus was "hypocrite" - which means "actor".

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November 20, 2007  8:46pm

Dear Greg and Bill, I have watched both of the videos that were posted from article "Willow Creek Repents?" and I and others are wondering - what scripture has provide insight on a new direction? If the Church leadership does not find Scripture useful for correct, how can we expect those in the pew (or stadium seats) to do the same?

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Ed Wilbur

November 19, 2007  11:19am

"The Leadership Journal blog started with this question, and the answer is NO. Repenting, in my mind, deals with confessing sin. There is absolutely no sin involved in this deal. Just good, old fashion learning. What you are seeing is a set of leaders coming to grips with some new facts and deciding to do something about it. This is nothing new for us here at Willow." I really don't know what to make of this. After however long Willow Creek has been in existence, 30 years (?), people haven't learned to read their Bibles and it's not a sin?

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November 18, 2007  7:27pm

Greg Hawkins sings a different tune about his stance on repentance on his own blog http://blog.revealnow.com/reveal/2007/10/the-truth-about.html He says Willow Creek is not repenting because to do so would be to admit sin and there is no sin here just continuous learning. Has anyone else found that comment. And if so, why the change in response?

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