Willow Creek Community Church has released the results of a multi-year study on the effectiveness of their programs and philosophy of ministry. The study’s findings are in a new book titled “Reveal: Where Are You?,” co-authored by Cally Parkinson and Greg Hawkins, executive pastor of Willow Creek. Hybels himself called the findings “ground breaking,” “earth shaking” and “mind blowing.” And no wonder: It seems that the “experts” were wrong.

If you’d like to get a synopsis of the research you can watch a video with Greg Hawkins here. And Bill Hybels’ reactions, recorded at last summer’s Leadership Summit, can be seen here. Both videos are worth watching in their entirety, but below are few highlights.

The report reveals that most of what they have been doing for these many years and what they have taught millions of others to do is not producing solid disciples of Jesus Christ. Numbers yes, but not disciples. It gets worse. Hybels laments:

“Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back it wasn’t helping people that much. Other things that we didn’t put that much money into and didn’t put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for.”

Having spent thirty years creating and promoting a multi-million dollar organization driven by programs and measuring participation, and convincing other church leaders to do the same, you can see why Hybels called this research “the wake up call” of his adult life.

If you simply want a crowd, the “seeker-sensitive” model produces results. If you want solid, sincere, mature followers of Christ, it’s a bust. In a shocking confession, Hybels states:

“We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between service, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.”

In other words, spiritual growth doesn’t happen best by becoming dependent on elaborate church programs but through the age old spiritual practices of prayer, bible reading, and relationships. And, ironically, these basic disciplines do not require multi-million dollar facilities and hundreds of staff to manage. Incredibly, the guru of church growth now tells us that people need to be reading their Bibles and taking responsibility for their spiritual growth.

Willow Creek Repents? – Article by Christianity Today (18 Oct 2007)
http://blog.christianitytoday.com/outofur/archives/2007/10/willow_creek_re.html

First-person: A shocking confession from Willow Creek Community Church leaders – Article by Baptist Press (6 Nov 2007)
http://www.baptistpress.com/BPnews.asp?ID=26768

A summary of the book
http://chrisfreeland.blogspot.com/2007/10/reveal.html

A review of the book
http://brewright.blogspot.com/2007/11/review-of-reveal-where-are-you-by-greg.html

Exploring the Megachurch Phenomena: Their characteristics & cultural context (Scott Thumma, PhD)
http://hirr.hartsem.edu/bookshelf/thumma_article2.html

Does Size Matter?
http://www.blogpastor.net/2007/11/26/does-size-matter/
http://www.blogpastor.net/2007/12/06/does-size-matter-2/

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