Willow Creek church-growth concepts are gaining ground among German Protestants despite a choir of traditionalists who say a watered-down gospel is being marketed.

Attendance at the Oldenburg's Free Christian Church has tripled since 1993, when pastor Lothar Krauss first heard Willow Creek's founder, Bill Hybels, speak in Germany. The local church now draws 200 adults and 90 children.

Willow Creek ideas, adapted to meet local cultural needs, helped spark that growth, says Krauss. "The regard for and contact with non-Christians and church outsiders has grown enormously," he says. Church leaders and many members have been motivated to be creative and evangelistic; the preaching now emphasizes biblical principles in everyday life, and many members have attended Willow Creek conferences or seminars.

Other churches have followed in Willow Creek's footsteps in offering worship services tailored to nonbelievers and the creation of small groups. Manfred Kreis, preacher at the Protestant community church in Augsburg, says his church organizes two types of "guest" services, similar to Willow Creek's seeker services. His congregation has identified clear goals for small groups and is working on a "mentoring structure" for its workers.

Modern live music, drama, and multimedia presentations are being implemented in other congregations, such as in the "C-Point" church in Glauchau. Pastor Michael Piertzik says that with new styles of preaching and worship based on Willow Creek's philosophy, the quality of services at his church has "clearly improved."

"Willow Creek is theologically conservative; it is engaged in serious church growth on biblical principles; yet its methods are progressive," says Bernd Kanwischer, pastor of a Free Evangelical ...

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