Willow Creek is imploding, due primarily to a #MeToo sex scandal involving its influential celebrity pastor Bill Hybel. Willow Creek was one of the pioneering megachurches, whose church growth tactics were emulated by countless congregations. Including some in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.
My fellow Patheos blogger Jonathan Aigner at Ponder Anew hails the demise of Willow Creek and takes the occasion to post some theses on the church growth movement.
Caution: Mr. Aigner pulls no punches. Kind of like another theses poster that I know of. But if you are committed to that movement, you might be offended. I’m curious, though, if any of you used to buy into the Willow Creek model, only to change after you saw some of these problems.
I’ll give you just a sample. Go to the post to read the more bitter, harsher criticisms. (The bold type is the author’s.)
From Jonathan Aigner, Farewell, Willow Creek: Where the “Regular” Churches Can Go From Here:
Celebrity pastors cannot possibly be good shepherds to their people.
Attractional worship is only entertainment, nothing more.
A fast food version of Jesus can never be the real version of Jesus.The church growth movement leads to a bloated, unhealthy body of people who don’t really understand what they’ve signed up for.
Capitalism does not hold the keys to evangelism.
The Pastor as CEO idea will always fail, often with far-reaching, disastrous results.
Big churches are not good role models for the rest of our churches. In fact, their methods will ruin us, too, if we’re not careful. . . .
Adding more campuses is not discipleship.
Hiring more staff is not church growth.
Getting more butts in the seats is not evangelism. . . .
Remove the [obsession with church] growth.
Free yourselves from what your Americanized gospel thinks of as success, because if you don’t, you may just end up in the same boat as this giant.
Resist the temptation to use worship as a hook, a holy bait-and-switch. Because your message is sounding more and more like an unwanted, confrontational Amway spiel. It sounds like you want people in your services because you’ve got some property for sale somewhere that’s too good to be true.
Free yourselves for the higher calling of the Gospel of Christ. Be who you are called to be. Stop counting. Stop strategizing. Jesus promises that he is engaging enough, even though the most numerically successful churches claim otherwise.
Maybe it’s time we stop trying to top him, and just take him at his word.
Photo of Willow Creek worship by Glenndavis – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31433699