Willow Creek is not a Fortune 500 company, although its sleek, glasswalled building, winding lake, and carefully manicured landscape might suggest it. Nor is it a civic center, although its 5,000-seat auditorium and state-of-the-art audio-visual trappings would provide the perfect setting for a symphony performance or Broadway show. Instead, Willow Creek is a church. In fact, with 15,000 people attending its services each week, the South Barrington, Illinois, congregation has become the second-largest Protestant church in America.
Many attribute Willow Creek's success to the fact that it does not look or feel like a traditional church. They call this approach seeker sensitive.
Bill Hybels, 42, Willow Creek's senior pastor, also goes against pastoral stereotype. His high-energy style and entrepreneurial spirit give him the air of a corporate CEO. His youthful demeanor and fresh tan make him look more like a veteran California surfer than a spiritual leader. But upon meeting him, it does not take long to realize that his heart is set on catching far more than waves.
What Hybels has been catching recently is the ire of several Christian leaders who question the legitimacy of the seeker-sensitive/megachurch movement—of which Willow Creek Community Church is the undisputed prototype. Books such as John MacArthur's Ashamed of the Gospel, Douglas Webster's Selling Jesus, Os Guinness's Dining with the Devil, and John Seel's Evangelical Forfeit all portray the seeker-sensitive movement (and sometimes Willow Creek in particular) as a negative force within the church that needs to be combated.
CHRISTIANITY TODAY contacted these authors to gather their assessments. The overarching concern, common to almost all the critics, is that ...1