December 2, 2020

Riffs: 10:25:07: Willow Creek and the Non-Secrets of Discipleship

business-men-drinking-coffee.jpgUPDATE II: David Head at Ponder Anew has an excellent post on this development.

UPDATE: The classy Amy Welborn gives a Catholic perspective.

One of the things I like about being an evangelical is that we can just stop, no matter how big and successful we are, and say, “We’re wrong,” and it doesn’t threaten a thing in our faith.

Willow Creek Community Church is making news with its announcement that the programs weren’t working. The formerly largest church in America is going to help its members design individual paths of spiritual practices that produce discipleship. Guitar Priest and others are excited about the news and its implications for pursuing real discipleship rather than church, program and facility growth.

Many years ago, I was trained in one of Southern Baptist’s most intensive discipleship programs: Masterlife. I spent most of three years taking approximately 50 people through one of the best designed intentional discipleship processes I’ve ever seen. Designed by an SBC missionary using insights from the mission field, Masterlife was an impressive combination of methodologies designed to produce disciples with spiritual disciplines, evangelism skills and the ability to begin meaningful discipleship ministries of their own.

I learned much in those three years. I certainly agree that discipleship is not a church program, and to the extent that Masterlife functioned as another church program, it fell short of its goal.

For example, my discipleship group members memorized and practiced evangelism skills, but they didn’t know any unbelievers. The larger church-dominated culture had reinforced the same message for years: invite unbelievers to church. Otherwise, don’t have anything to do with them socially.

My group members benefited from the demands and expectations in the spiritual disciplines of scripture memory, prayer, Bible study and meeting with a partner for accountability. But many of my group members struggled with where these disciplines would fit into their lives apart from the Masterlife group. For example, one group member came to see me and left the group because he said we were doing things that “preachers” ought to do, but which didn’t have any place in the day-to-day life of an ordinary Christian. This was an expression of a deep misunderstanding of discipleship that persisted in many of my group members: the Christian life was church centered, and their role was to support the church and its programs.

I’ve spent many years pondering the lessons of that experience. It seemed to me that there was no real secret to discipleship. Our church could have outlined what produced and defined disciples in a single sermon. Many of our members and most of our leaders were full of information about discipleship. The “right answers” to the basic question ‘What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus?” were certainly available.

What was the problem? What questions weren’t answered? From my perspective as a church staff member, the questions sounded something like this:

What is the value of discipleship? Why are the sacrifices and investments of being a follower of Jesus worthwhile?

Does discipleship mean losing “stock” in the eyes of the culture? Will it affect my business? My social life? My parenting? My economics? My time? My leisure and recreation? My popularity? Why should I make these sacrifices and investments if I “lose” in the process? If it doesn’t make my life better, why should I do it?

How does discipleship relate to the church? Is participating in church programs the way a person expresses discipleship? If I am a serious follower of Jesus, will I be spending more time at church? Will church activities be the measurement of discipleship?

Are church programs the place where disciples are formed? What are the true place and value of spiritual disciplines? If a person is saved and going to heaven, why do things like prayer and Bible study matter?

My experience taught me that it was questions like these, questions about the value and place of discipleship, that remained unanswered for many people. Their involvement in the church not only did not further the practices that fostered discipleship, it often replaced those practices, or provided a context for conceiving of a kind of discipleship that was removed from the world.

One other observation. I believe that discipleship occurs as much in the unstructured and informal as in the structured and planned. Efforts to “produce” or “create” mentoring relationships via sign up lists and programs are effective only as much as they create an atmosphere where the informal and spontaneous work of the Spirit can occur.

For example, an AA meeting does not have a formal process for finding a sponsor. The meeting itself fosters to atmosphere and establishes the value of the sponsoring relationship, but the actual “chemistry” of a good relationship between a member and a sponsor is “lightning in a jar,” so to speak.

This creates particular kinds of problems for those who do not function well in informal settings, but it also should cause us to reconsider the evaluative propaganda most churches use to demonstrate, through numbers, that discipleship is occurring.

Disciples should be producing disciples. One of the things I most enjoyed about Masterlife was this emphasis on an intentional disciple-making ministry as a core vision of anyone who is a disciple. At almost every point in the process of growth as a Christian, other Christians make a contribution. Being intentional about that involvement in that process should be as much a part of every Christian’s life as evangelism, supporting missions and prayer.

At the core of the failure of most discipleship programs is the notion that the program produces disciples. Wrong. No church, no program, no process can produce a disciple. The Holy Spirit produces a disciple. We need to be available to the Holy Spirit to be disciple-makers. That means opening our homes, going to places where people talk about life, building informal relationships…..and, of course, being discipled ourselves through mentoring relationships and involvement in the classical spiritual practices.


  1. Nicholas Anton says

    Jesus said;
    Luk 9:23;
    “… If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”
    In order to follow Him we must know Him. This can only be accomplished by learning of and walking with Him. The contemporary church programs place more emphasis on training leaders than making followers of Jesus Christ.

    The author to the Hebrews gives us the source of this information;
    Heb 2:3-3;
    “… salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?”

    Obviously the author of Hebrews is speaking of the testimony of those who heard Jesus, and not psycho/spiritual/intuitive knowledge.

    That source is the Bible, the Word of God.

  2. Wow – I had forgotten about Masterlife. It was a good program. Sort of The Navigators meets the SBC.

  3. Comparing something to “The Navigators” isn’t a complement in my book. The Navigators were one of the big-name Christian groups on campus during my college days; their reputation there and then was for producing Bible-reciting Worship Bots with a high burnout rate.

    The other big name was Campus Crusade, which was OK but had a one-track mind about “soul-winning” that made them resemble a pyramid scheme.

    This was also the heyday of Hal Lindsay, so most Christian groups of the day also had a BAD case of End Time Prophecy Tunnel Vision, which cranked up the Wretched Urgency to a literally insane level; as in The World WAS Ending, The Rapture Was Tomorrow At The Latest, it was all over but the screaming, and all that mattered was to Save a few more Souls before The End. (This was 1977. It is now 2007.)

    Some of the other local splinter groups were worse. “Discipleship” as in high-pressure Wretched Urgency indoctrination, i.e. Room 101 until you “snap” and Love Big Brother. I know because that almost happened to me with a splinter-church “Fellowship” in junior college. If I hadn’t discovered D&D it would have sucked me in beyond its Christian event horizon forever.

  4. Probably the best model of Discipleship I’ve ever experienced, and practice to this day, is the one set forth by Carl Wilson in his, sadly excessively exegetical book, “With Christ in the School of Discipleship” -it’s hard to find, and hard to read, but the content is incredible.

  5. Dolan McKnight says

    I had to leave my church of twenty-five years because the new pastor was a Hybels wannabe and was forcing Willow Creek concepts on the congregation. Reverend Hybels should be given credit for discovering what most of us knew all along; that the church growth movement could attract the crowds, but was not good at deepening their Christian lives.

    I have to give credit to the Saddlebacks and Willow Creeks introducing seekers to Christ, although it probably didn’t always take, but if a church does not offer ways to deepen the faith it will soon see its more dedicated members leave.

    As you say, this deepening is not dependent on slick new canned studies, but on Christians confronting real situations through small groups, mission activities, witnessing, acts of charity,committed worship, etc.

    I believe the era of the mega-church and its satellite church offshoots is waning because it simply is too impersonal. It will be interesting to see how Bill Hybels confronts his problems.

  6. As a United Methodist, I’d say “Back to Wesley!”

  7. I’m going to have to take exception on criticizing the Navigators. A man from this wonderful group from Colorado Springs came to my Army base, Ft Carson, and witnessed to soldiers. I was discharged from the service shortly after I met him but he planted good seeds. He didn’t just get the convert and move on with another notch in his belt; he came to my barracks and had Bible studies. Thank God for these people. I owe them a lot.

  8. I’ll ditto. Every college ministry has some bad examples, but the Navigators are, overall, the good guys. Solid on the gospel. Great ministry to soldiers who need encouragement, and Navpress does good things like Chasing Francis.

  9. We’re working among a people group in North Africa and we’re starting to see people come to faith. So now we’re asking the question “How do we disciple them?” In asking the question I relaized I’ve never truly been discipled. So how do you disciple someone? Is it possible without resources? 80% of our people can’t read and there are only 2 books of the bible in their language. So how do we discple people through conversation and relationships? Any advice?

  10. Ken wrote: Love Big Brother? “Discipleship” as in high-pressure Wretched Urgency indoctrination, i.e. Room 101 until you “snap” and Love Big Brother. I know because that [high-pressure indoctrination, a la “Room 101”] almost happened to me with a splinter-church “Fellowship” in junior college. If I hadn’t discovered D&D it would have sucked me in beyond its Christian event horizon forever.

    See, there’s a great argument in favor of RPGs, right there.

    I’d love to see a blogger I read and respect (such as iMonk or Brant Hansen) offer thoughts on role-playing games and their effects on Christian youth.

  11. I simply do not believe that discipleship is a process that can be separated out from Christian community and relationships among Christians. I live and work in a place where people are discipled, but it is not a program. It is the result of living, belonging, relating, learning, mentoring, etc.

    Discipleship occurs as Christians come to resemble Christ. That happens primarily in relationships and community. From that point on, what happens is not going to be programed. It is going to be a combination of personal growth, emulation, imitation, learning, the work of the Holy Spirit, etc. For me, discipleship is not a class or a book. It is a process that happens when persons grow into Christ-likeness in the context of community and relationships.

    I am not denying the “classroom” component, or the importance of learning, etc., but many people think that, for example, learning reformed theology = discipleship. Or memorizing verses, or attending Christian events. Whether these activities are parts of discipleship depends on many other things.

    Where I see a failure in discipleship is in the failure of Christians to put forward viable communities or to invest in relationships where discipleship can occur, both intentionally and spontaneously.

  12. N.T. Wright said this, which I think pertains.

    ““According to the early Christians, the church doesn’t exist in order to provide a place where people can pursue their private spiritual agendas and develop their own spiritual potential. Nor does it exist in order to provide a safe haven in which people can hide from the wicked world and ensure that they themselves arrive safely at an otherworldly destination. Private spiritual growth and ultimate salvation come rather as the byproducts of the main, central, overarching purpose for which God has called and is calling us. The purpose is clearly stated in various places in the New Testament: that through the church God will announce to the wider world that he is indeed its wise, loving, and just creator: that through Jesus he has defeated the powers that corrupt and enslave it; and that by his Spirit he is at work to heal and renew it.”

  13. “I simply do not believe that discipleship is a process that can be separated out from Christian community and relationships among Christians. I live and work in a place where people are discipled, but it is not a program. It is the result of living, belonging, relating, learning, mentoring, etc.”

    Well put. I agree.

    BTW — my comparison of Masterlife to Navigators was meant as a complement to Masterlife. I think very highly of the Navigators and of Masterlife.

  14. (Yes, I realize that WCCC was not the main thrust of this post, but since this is being discussed somewhere other than blogs where it’s being said that “Bill Hybels is going to hell and here’s proof”, I have a question for you more rational people)

    In Hybels’ announcement, he stated that WCCC was one of the few evangelical churches in the country that had a mid-week service with full-blown Bible study. This statement struck me as odd, because either:

    1) it’s extremely ignorant
    2) it’s extremely arrogant
    3) I am the luckiest man (man, man) on the face (face, face) of the earth (earth, earth) to have spent 35 of my 40 years in churches that do have full-blown Bible study in mid-week services.

    So, what’s your experience? Should I be out buying lottery tickets right now?

  15. Every SBC I’ve ever been a member of had an adult Bible study on Wen night. The majority of SBC churches I’ve known- maybe 75%- did the same.

  16. I couldn’t help but think of the five dimensions of discipleship that Willard talks about in The Divine Conspiracy:
    1. Confidence in and reliance upon Jesus as the one who saves us. Romans 10:9-10 ; John 3:15

    2. Desire to be Jesus’ apprentice. John 8:31 ; Luke 9:23

    3. Obedience. John 14:6; 21

    4. Pervasive inner transformation of heart and soul.
    Galatians 5:22-23 ; 2 Peter 1:2-11

    5. Power to work the works of the Kingdom. John 5:19; 14:12John 5:19; John 14:12

    The Divine Conspiracy p 367

  17. From personal experience, I can assure you Hybels is consumed with his own ministry and probably has little time to explore other churches. After all, Willow’s the pinnacle, so why should they look elsewhere?

  18. Okay, so let me get this straight. Willow Creek was founded on the concept of “rediscovering church”, right? Now after thirty years they’ve decided to take out a clean sheet of paper and rethink all of their old assumptions. Does that mean they are now re-rediscovering church? I’m just sayin’.

    I will grant you that Willow has been a pioneer in small group ministry. I’ve personally made use of their small group Bible study curriculum numerous times. The thing I find so disconcerting, though, is that after all these years of being a so-called authority on “rediscovering church” it turns out that to a large degree, what they were rediscovering wasn’t really church at all.

    It also highlights the “suckling pig” mentality that permeates America’s program driven church’s today. This is a problem that Willow’s ministry strategies have helped to foster in many ways. For me this issue has become one of my greatest pet peeves. If we’re really serious about “rediscovering church” I think the first thing that we need to rediscover is that church is not a product to be consumed.

  19. Michael’s experience makes sense to me, as 25 of the aforementioned 40 years were spent in SBC churches or churches with SBC roots.

    So, anyone else want to chime in who’s not an attendee/member of an SBC church or doesn’t live down here in God’s country? 😉

  20. Nicholas Anton says

    It seems to me that the Willow Creek experiment was essentially an attempt at dumbing down the rational aspects of the Gospel, and attempting to access God’s Truth via experience and emotions (Wagner, Warren and Willow Creek etc.). That simply does not work. While it may take some time to get people back to thinking, that process is neither impossible nor futile. However, to continue on as in the recent past is. Therefore, why not teach the whole counsel of God to reach the lost and disciple young believers, especially when Jesus commanded it, and humankind is capable.
    Mat 28:19;
    Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: TEACHING THEM TO OBSERVE ALL THINGS WHATSOEVER I HAVE COMMANDED YOU: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”?

  21. Perhaps I am telling my age, and maybe something more, but I was surprised NOT to see anything about Juan Carlos Ortiz and his book on discipleship in this discussion. It seems to me that the approach of Ortiz was closer to the approach of Jesus than most of these others that ARE being discussed.

    Of course discipleship is relational and informal, as well as congregational and formal. What hapens congregationally must be informed by what is happening individually. Anything less falls short of what Jesus did with the 12.

    Perhaps we are now suffering the backlash of all the church growth studies and bigger and better church programs and less and less interpersonal involvement. More than perhaps. The truth is that we NEED accountability with humility and mercy and grace in a loving relationship of ‘iron upon iron’ that gets past all the facades and masks of ‘polite’ society. Is this a surprise?

    Discipleship is along-the-way Christianity in the everyday. Until it is everyday, it is commonplace programs only. Until it is along the way, it is just a footnote to another push by another leadership group.

    I don’t want to sound overly cynical, but when we get past selling the next book or study series and get back into living the deeper life that seeks out God’s presence in every waking moment of life it will surprise some what is there. And until WE who lead are there, we can in NO way take anyone else there.

    Begin with the word itself – disciple. It forms the root of what it means to be disciplined in the ways of your master. And who cares what it costs? What is there in this life that isn’t worth less (worthless) compared to the glory of knowing Jesus in the everyday – every single day? Did you think you were agreeing to be part of something else? Did you think Jesus died for the latest programming fad at the mega-church nearest you? He died for you to walk with him and the Father. No more and no less. And it costs everything about you – and especially you.

    One of my personal mentors used to put it this way: “you can’t re-kill a dead man. When you come to Christ, you become a dead man on furlough, expected to make your furloughed life count.” Thanks for your blog-thoughts, Michael. But I have to admit that combined with the responses, it almost felt like I was reading the musings of folks who have a “three dollars worth of God” (have you read that book?) brand of Christianity instead of the real thing.

    Thankfully, my love compels me to disregard those feelings – unless they have something to say to inform my walk with Jesus. Today such thoughts are telling me to pray…and so I will.

  22. Every SBC I’ve ever been a member of had an adult Bible study on Wen night. The majority of SBC churches I’ve known- maybe 75%- did the same.

    According to a United Brethren preacher bud of mine from rural PA, the tradition of Wed Night services began in rural agricultural areas, as farmers would be more likely to attend. Since then, it’s become an established tradition.

    As for the Navigators, at Cal Poly Pomona in the late Seventies they were not anything to brag about. (We had three main Christian groups on-campus — Campus Crusade, Navigators, and an independent third called “Studies in the Word of God” or something similar. All three were seriously affected by Hal Lindsay (Christian Celebrity Syndrome of the period) and Wretched Urgency; this was also a time period where the Jesus People (Counterculture Christian) movement of the Sixties had aged enough to go sour with fads of the time but before the resulting problems burned themselves out.)

  23. The obvious and the veiled critical/cynical remarks leveled at Hybels and Willow under the disguise of a conversation about discipleship deserved at least one response of gratitude toward Hybels and WCC.

    Thank you Bill Hybels! Thank you for your constant transparency and authenticity that keeps the armchair quarterbacks of pastoral ministry second-guessing your signal calling as they invest more time in critiquing your honest admissions than performing the same kind of self-evaluation in their own ministries. May we be as vigilant and honest as we study, analyze and critique the effectiveness of our own churches!

    Thank you Pastor Hybels for offering a warning or disclaimer in every talk, every book and every conference you lead, asking leaders to use what they can from your church and your ministry, but to focus first and foremost on being who God wants us to be within our unique context. Thank you for repeatedly cautioning us not to go back and try to replicate what you are doing in Chicago, or to try and become one of your clones in ministry.

    Thank you Bill for the many times I’ve sat in your sanctuary and at Moody Bible Insititute when you have bared your soul, and made impassioned pleas for men and women in ministry not to “cut and run” or “bail” when things get tough because time is too short, the Kingdom of God too near and the urgency of the Gospel to great to have any more of God’s called ones jump ship! Thank you for your sense of humor that often laughs at something you’ve done.

    Thank you for planting churches around the world and devoting a significant amount of your church budget to training pastors and leaders in the 3rd World countries. Thank you for the global difference you are making in AIDS, poverty and world hunger.

    Thank you for the thousands of people you have reached for Christ and the overhwelming percentage of your church membership who came to Christ through Willow Creek (even some of your programs) as adults when most of us were growing, but mainly through transfer growth of members from other churches, instead of new Christ-followers.

    Thank you Bill for the passion in your voice, the quivering lip and the tears from your eyes when you plead that those of us in pastoral ministry will have a “Holy Discontent” and not be comfortable until we have exercised it for the sake of Christ, while never losing hope and realizing that the local church is God’s plan to reveal the hope of the world, Jesus to the world.

    Thank you Bill for your books, talks, and sermons that always challenge, engage and teach me timeless truths rooted in Scripture. I may not always agree with everything you say ( I don’t 100% with Peterson and Piper either!), I certainly don’t employ everything WC does, and we aren’t even on the same radar in terms of size, cultural and geographic context, but you never make me feel that I’m “just a small church pastor”.

    Thank you Bill for baring your soul in 1991 or ’92 at Moody Pastor’s Conference before 1,500 pastors telling your own story of workaholism and burnout as you cautioned all of us not to let doing the work of God, “kill God’s work in you.” Your words challenged a very young, second-career pastor who was already recovering from workaholism in my first career. It seems I also remember you smiling and singing without a hymnal to the words of a traditional hymn supported by that massive organ in R.A. Torrey auditorium. And back then you were being tarred and feathered for leading the way with all that “contemporary” music and drama, ha!

    Bill, my church membership is not at Willow Creek, my tithes, offerings, spiritual gifts, talents, and time are not invested there either. So I really have no right to criticize what you do or do not do. You answer to the same One we all answer to in pastoral ministry and as Christ-followers. I have enough trouble of my own just trying to stay on my knees for my own mistakes, failures, imperfections and leadership in pastoral ministry. But in the paraphrased words of Pastor Jim Cymbala, “I do have to pray for you because if we profess the Lordship of Christ, we are ALL on the same team. We all wear the same uniform and we need each other. One Lord, one faith, one baptism.”

    And Bill, as an adult PK who is soooooooooo tired of the all too ready cynicism, judgment and criticism coming from those in pastoral ministry toward those in pastoral ministry, I’m having some difficulty seeing how it’s any different than the criticism many shepherds receive from their own flock and bristle over. I’ve come to realize how much we need each other. Those of us in smaller contexts need those of you in larger and mega contexts to be faithful, authentic and strong. And you need us to be faithful, authentic and strong. You lose, we all lose. Thanks Bill for simply being you.

  24. I think a congregation where the leaders stand up and say that they made a mistake is practically unheard of. It’s just plain scary…:-)

    I think when the church looks around we will not find a lot of mature believers that can disciple other people. It will be interesting to see how Willow Creek talkles the problem. Perhaps a program on how to mature…:-) Discipleship is a lifetime, everyday, practical walk with Jesus. It is slow, almost mundane process.

    I will be praying for WC. The pressures from our modern way of doing things are stacked against discipleship and disciplemaking. I think the fruit of this will only be seen in about 10 to 15 years and we are not good at waiting. Immediate results is in demand…:-)

  25. Christian M. says

    Just a passing and parting contrarian thought, that likely no one will read at this point, about this thing we have come to call “discipleship.” Full disclosure: I became a Christian in college through Campus Crusade in the 1970s and was on staff for several years before going into other ministry.

    When Christ said, “Go and make disciples,” he was speaking as a Rabbi to his own disciples. The rabbinical model was to gather followers, to be “with them,” and to teach them everything you knew. The followers followed in order to be become like the Rabbi. Jesus was not instituting a new program for building the church in Matt 28:18f; he was commissioning his followers to continue what he had already taught them to do–to become rabbis like him who would go out and make new disciples. It was the completion of Jesus’ words in Lk 6:40–“A pupil [lit: disciple] is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.”

    But here’s what I have always found interesting. The term “disciple” is used only in the gospels and the book of Acts, and disappears from the biblical text after about Acts 12. It is never used by any of the other New Testament writers. I think there are a couple of reasons. First, the idea of a rabbi and his disciples was a uniquely Jewish construct, at least in terms of religious culture. It would not have the same currency in the “nations” to which they were taking the gospel as it would in Israel. Second, in the theology of the church, Jesus is still present and is the “head of the church,” so he is still the head rabbi, so to speak, and we are still all followers, not really rabbis as such. I do not have my own disciples; rather, I make disciples of Jesus, who is present in the “body of Christ.” Let me repeat that: I do not make my own disciples.

    The concept of “discipleship” is entirely extra-biblical. It is not even a biblical term, and I wonder if, because of the individualization of Christianity that it has helped foster over the past fifty years, it has done more harm than good to the biblical concept of the body of Christ. There are terms in Scripture for a “disciple, student, learner, follower” and for “make one of those,” but not for “a process or program for making those.” I see that idea embodied only in the body of Christ, the church. And, I think a good argument can be made that the language of discipleship was replaced after Acts 12 by the language of “koinonia,” or “fellowship, partnership, community.”

    Biblical discipleship, then (IMHO), is simply the process of being the church, the body of Christ. It is Christians within the body helping others become more like Jesus. Sure, we can and will create programs to help facilitate and foster that process of maturation (which is really what becoming like Christ is all about), but the program is NOT discipleship. The practices we learn are NOT discipleship. The procedures we institutionalize are NOT discipleship. Discipleship IS the personal relationship in which one believer pours his or her life out for the benefit of another to help them become more like Jesus. Different people do that in different ways based on different spiritual gifts, but the end result, and the real goal of koinonia, is that the body of Christ (not just individuals) grows in unity, maturity and diversity as we help one another become better disciples of Christ, our Head. I wonder if we have so lost the concept of the “corporate” nature of body life and worship, though, that such a true expression of “discipleship” is rarely found now.

  26. I grew up in the bus ministry crazed days of the 1970’s, so I never considered Willow Creek/Saddle Back church growth to be much more than “Bus Ministry for the 90’s.” About 10 years ago I read Hybels’ memoir about starting Willow Creek, Rediscovering Church, co-written with his wife Lynne. I found it remarkable that at that point, after 20 years of existence, Willow Creek was just starting to talk about ministry in Chicago’s inner city. And that after 20 years everyone on the church staff seemed to be in therapy. If anyone was paying attention, those should have been two very large red flags.

  27. Reading this series of links leaves me wondering a few things.

    Could I get a reference to where Hybels says his “one of the few evangelical churches in the country that had a mid-week service with full-blown Bible study”? That doesn’t sound like him. (Though I have sat in those “new community” services and been touched by their depth.

    Why is it so surprising to hear WC do serious evaluation of life change in their congregation. Why don’t others critically evaluate how they can do better? That’s no shock, it’s refreshing to see Willow take the lead again in integrity/transparency. Other are failing to reach goals, but just don’t admit it.

    With all the criticism of evangelicalism, I can’t wait for someone to point to the church(es) that are our models for the future. Do they exist? Are they a balance of evangelism and discipleship? Please… someone list them as I want to visit them soon. Hmmm…

    I seldom get answers to these types of questions from critics.

    PS. I see the faults of WC, Saddleback, etc. but like someone said “I like what they are doing more than I like what I’m not doing”.