Bill Hybels Responds to REVEAL
Willow Creek tries to set the record straight about their changes.

In a video released on June 5, Bill Hybels discusses the "unfortunate" reporting that has revolved around Willow Creek's REVEAL survey. The video refers to a recent Christianity Today article and Out of Ur posts as examples of "misinformation." You can watch Hybels' full interview with Jim Mellado, the president of the Willow Creek Association, here.

After watching the video you may want to read the articles in question and post your feedback:

Willow Creek Repents?: Why the most influential church in America now says "We made a mistake."

Willow Implements REVEAL: Greg Hawkins tells about the big changes Willow Creek is making.

Willow Creek's 'Huge Shift': Influential megachurch moves away from seeker-sensitive services.

June 06, 2008

Displaying 1–10 of 17 comments


June 19, 2008  3:31pm

Thou doth protest too much maybe?! It is fascinating to me that Willow Creek did such Horrible PR on this issue! For a church that wants to act like a corporation that's rule number one! Know your influencers (journalists and bloggers) and get out and talk to them! And the above video has serious credability issues, he isn't even interviewed by a third party! Most of the video is more damning than helpful for the church, just read the comments section of this post!

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Paul Atwater

June 17, 2008  2:04pm

Bravo, Bill! It is great to hear Bill explain that Willow's mission is still the same, even if it's methods continue to change along the way. Since I was one of the pastors quoted by the CT article about Willow's Shift, I want to add that I was rather stunned to see my words re-shaped to say something I did not say. When CT interviewed me, I did say that I saw Willow's current move as another step in the direction of getting deeper. Several years ago, Bill told a group of us pastors (not at the Summit) that in the early years Willow was "a mile wide and an inch deep." When they chose to do more vertical teaching and less relational theology, many people left. Then, a few years later, they aimed to go deeper again by adding teachers like John Ortberg to the staff. The CT article took pieces of those two statements (which were in support of Willow) and put them together, making it seem like my claim was that adding Ortberg cause the church to decrease in size. That's just sloppy journalism. Silly me, I thought CT would get it right. My mistake was in not insisting that the writer read back his notes on my conversation before ending the call, in order to be sure of accuracy.

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June 12, 2008  9:38pm

Nathan said "As a former coworker of youse guys, I really don't believe CTI has an axe to grind." That's fair. CT/Ur isn't about making a point, it's about generating pageviews. They're not going after Willow as such, they're just trying to draw traffic to their site. This whole thing is ironically hilarious. It would be an understatement to say I'm not the biggest Willow fan in the world, but I'd bet money nobody in this thread has actually read REVEAL. REVEAL said that seeker stuff works incredibly well (better than they expected, actually) for growing people who don't know Jesus or are young in their faith. What REVEAL also said was that *NO* front-stage programmatic approach was sufficient for continued growth, which is highly dependent on personal disciplines and is relatively unaffected by what's taught at the front. Teach verse-by-verse through the New Testament, it doesn't matter unless people get into their Bibles on their own. So Willow's radical shift wasn't to cut their seeker service, it was to cut their believer's service and blend it back into the seeker service. Instead of having New Community every week, they're spending all of that energy focusing on personal disciplines. We'll see if it works for them. I'm skeptical, but at least I'm informed.

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Gerry S

June 10, 2008  5:34pm

Gotta love the "big is bad" generalization. Some of the mega churches are doing great things and growing because of it. It is easy to sit in a small church and pretend you are small because you are being "true to the gospel". Growth is not everything but, if we are true to the gospel, we cannot help but grow.

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June 10, 2008  12:39pm

I think that what is going on here is that, taken alone the reporting on the REVEAL study probably isn't biased. However, in the context of the sort of criticism Willow has long been subjected to, the way it was reported made it seem like Willow Creek was finally admitting to what critics had long claimed - that it diluted the message of Christ, pandered to seekers, and taught a "feel good" theology that didn't challenge or grow people. Anyone who attended Willow for any length of time knows that this is a load of dung. So, I think that Hybel's response is best understood in the context of the sort of criticism Willow has long been subjected to. There are some who saw REVEAL as an admission of wrongdoing (requiring repentance?) and Willow's changes as a repudiation of what they had been doing for 30 years. Hybels is saying, "uh-uh. Not so fast." Which is a good thing. Although Willow is not perfect and their approach has been somewhat incomplete, they have brought a lot of people to Christ and done some really good work in the world and in the church. I'm glad to see that they are changing, but I'm also glad they aren't simply repudiating what they've done to this point as well.

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June 10, 2008  8:28am

Yeah, it totally misses the point. I mean the 3 years of Jesus' teaching and ministry–i.e. service to others–was just a lovely prologue to supply us with Sunday School lessons for children. Please don't assume that a serious appropriation of the whole ministry of Christ is somehow a denegration or denial of the work of the Cross.

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June 10, 2008  8:11am

I was at the Willow Summit last year when Bill said the REVEAL study "rocked his world" and they showed a video that said "Willow is taking out a clean sheet of paper" and doing ministry in a whole new way and "these are the biggest changes in 30 years." Now they're talking "continuity" and "a few strategic adjustments"? Wow. What changed?

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Richard Dennis Miller

June 09, 2008  5:35pm

To describe the works of Christ when he walked the earth as sensitive or seeker sensitive or meeting felt needs is to marginalize, minimalize, and belittle His person and work. In other words, it is to totally miss the point.

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Rich Tatum

June 09, 2008  3:52pm

As a former coworker of youse guys, I really don't believe CTI has an axe to grind. If Willow or Hybels are upset about the reportage (or the bloggage) it's more than likely because their own heads are still spinning over the results of this study and what to do about it – it's no wonder they're maybe not doing the best job at explaining what's going on in the wake of this tectonic worldview shift. For my own part, I think Willow should heed Warren's advice: "It's not [all] about you." What Willow has doine (and is doing) through this study is a service to the Body of Christ. Maybe a sometimes painful servie, but healthy nonetheless. See my own reaction to CT's article: What Willow Creek's 'Reveal' study really tells us... Regards, Rich BlogRodent

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June 09, 2008  9:12am

Yeah, that Jesus. He sure was unbiblical when he showed sensitivity to the adulterous woman, or the bleeding woman, raised the young man at Nain, healed demon possessed people, and taught us to love our enemies. Sheeesh. That sermon on the mount was just so unsound.

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