Interviewing people at the center of controversy poses problems for fairness. How do you make sure the critics are fairly represented when the journalist stands between them and the criticized?
One way is to listen carefully. In preparing to interview megachurch pastor Bill Hybels, who has been accused of subordinating the gospel to marketing concerns in growing churches, managing editor Michael Maudlin and project editor Ed Gilbreath spent a lot of time on the telephone listening to the critics.
Ed was impressed with the sober judgment and concern of those he talked to, and in particular with theologian David Wells, whom he singles out for his thoughtful sincerity.
Just before the interview, Mickey and Ed had lunch at an upscale restaurant filled with the kind of dark-suited power-lunchers that Hybels's Willow Creek Community Church attracts. Their server asked in a friendly manner what they were going to do that afternoon.
When they told her, she replied with delight, "I go to Willow Creek," and told them that what attracted her was the wide variety of ministries, especially the "great" fitness center.
Later Bill Hybels, with typical humility, played down the significance of the fitness center, the capacity of the church, and the size of the budget.
Is Hybels really humble? Our editors sensed the humility was real—as was his sensitivity to criticism and the hurt that he tried to disguise.
Is the house that Bill built about marketing? Or is it really about soul-winning? Read Hybels's defense, in this issue.
Copyright © 1994 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.