In late 2007, Pastor Bill Hybels and the leadership team of the Willow Creek Community Church shared the startling results of a study they conducted of their own church—as well as other so-called “seeker churches.”
The results, Hybels said, were “the greatest wake-up call of my adult life.” Among other findings, they discovered that their ministry to “seekers” was very effective for introducing Christ to those who were new to church. No big surprise.
But they had not been as successful in fulfilling their mission statement to turn “irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Christ.” That is, they had not been as strong in developing the spiritual lives of those who had trusted Christ. As a result of a conversation Hybels had with his executive pastor, Greg Hawkins, they realized:
We should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become self-feeders. . . . We should have taught people how to read their Bible between services, how to do the spiritual practices. . . . What’s happening to these people [is that] the older they get, the more they’re expecting the church to feed them, when, in fact, the more mature a Christian becomes, a Christian should become more of a self-feeder. . . . We’re going to up the level of responsibility we put on the people themselves so that they can grow even if the church doesn’t meet all their needs.”1
I admire Bill for his vulnerability and candor. I applaud any church that takes spiritual growth seriously enough to evaluate its effectiveness and to modify its methods of discipleship to the biblical model. Would that all churches would periodically take a long look into the mirror of God’s Word!
In fact, if evaluation is not done on a regular basis, erosion will occur. It can happen anywhere. I know that for a fact.
1 Quote taken from videos accessed at Reveal.