Unit 5.7 the so-called “apology” that Willow Creek delivered in the fall of 2007.


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On my last visit to Willow Creek on a Saturday night, the thrust of Bill Hybels= message was that all of those present – at a seeker service – needed for their own spiritual benefit to find a place to serve Christ in the community. (This duty laid on people at a seeker service would have been unthinkable a decade earlier.) I then walked out of the auditorium into a Saddleback style Ministry Fair – twice as large, but the same model. This image more than anything reinforced my understanding that Willow Creek will do whatever it takes to turn irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

That understanding has been reinforced with the so-called Aapology@ that Willow Creek delivered in the fall of 2007. Using my terminology, internal research that began in 2003 showed that Willow Creek was excellent at helping people Across the line of faith@ and become spiritual newborns; they were also excellent at helping newborns begin learning the faith through New Community, their extensive system of small groups and publishing excellent resources. Despite the widespread use of Network, however, which helps people discover their spiritual gifts, calling and beginning planning a ministry involvement, research showed that few people comparatively were entering the teenage and parental stages of spiritual maturity. One frequent term used is that they were Anot learning to feed themselves spiritually.@

This research was extended to 500 other congregations and preliminary results were published in book form later that fall as REVEAL: Where Are You? by Greg L. Hawkins and Cally Parkinson.[1] In the January 2008 issue of Charisma (also in the Workshop Materials folder), executive pastor Greg Hawkins notes: Willow Creek has nothing to repent for, but the “seeker obsessed” church will re‑engineer itself from within. “Repenting, in my mind, deals with confessing sin,” he said. “There is absolutely no sin involved in this deal, just good, old‑fashioned learning. This is nothing new for us here at Willow. We are passionately committed to learning.”

One key concept of the Reveal study is the spiritual continuum which is another form of discipleship system functioning in the four layers that have already been mentioned: Exploring Christianity (newborn), Growing in Christ (child), Close to Christ (teen) and Christ-centered (fully matured, i.e. parent/grandparent). This sort of multi-stage equipping track is very established in the cell church understanding and they have worked with it for decades.

[1]An entire folder is devoted to this issue in your Workshop Materials section.

NOTE (my response)



The quote is from Major League Disciple Making: An Overview of the Best Research on the Cell Church, an online course developed for the Institute for Discipleship at www.BeADisciple.com in 2009. Course materials, including these lectures, can be downloaded here: http://www.disciplewalk.com/IFD_MLD_Class_Links.html

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.

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