The Bishop’s Mistake

Systemic Problem #2: Institutional World View

HEADS. Bishop Kenneth Carder, who leads the church’s Mississippi Area, shared with

members of the Board of Discipleship the story of a once-prominent, 100-year-old United Methodist Church in his state. The church had dwindled in size from 1,000 to 17 members, despite its location in a neighborhood full of people and in a town with a population of 50,000. Now it was closing.

            Noting that the church used official United Methodist resources, rituals and curriculum, had won an award for evangelism and was Methodist to the core, the bishop wondered why it was closing and what it had missed. The answer, he said, was that the church was in a neighborhood in transition and had not reached out to the people around it.[1]

TAILS. Willow Creek Community Church is likewise shifting their focus to create community in the neighborhoods of members.[2] Ministries take place in neighborhoods where Christians live and are personally known; their influence grows in relationships with the unchurched on their own turf grow. Willow Creek’s sanctuary is now divided into zones where you can find seats with your neighbors and visit with an area pastor assigned to your geographical neighborhood.





[1] The quote is a selection from David O. Kueker’s Fuller Seminary Doctor of Ministry project submitted in September, 2007, entitled Diagnosis, Dialogue, and Decision: A Threefold Process of Revitalization For the Illinois Great Rivers Conference.
It is shared here in recognition of its 12th Anniversary along with comments to update and provide perspective on the material. The original project was a Training Manual/Study Guide of three Seminars supported by three chapters of research and an Introduction. The material is available for download at In 2009 it was provided for purchase as a softcover book entitled Designing Discipleship Systems: Christian Disciple Making For Any Size Church, Any Theology through

[2][3] [4][5] [6][7] [8]

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Please review the page How and Why We Use Quotes.

[1]United Methodist News Service,

“Making disciples means changing hearts, bishop says,” (accessed June 15, 2007). Bishop Carder’s speech is referenced in the United Methodist Newscope vol 30, no 13, March 29, 2002.

[2]Willow Creek Community Church, Neighborhood Life Home, (accessed June 15, 2007). Cf. Willow Creek Community Church, “Frequently Asked Questions,” Neighborhood Life, http://www7.willowcreek.

org/neighborhoods/storypage.asp?pageID=7 (accessed June 15, 2007).

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