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The Church’s Need to Look in the Mirror

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.


I greatly admire Bill Hybels and what God has done through his life. I also find it refreshing that this man of God has been so open about this apparent weakness in the "seeker movement." I am amazed to meet pastors who talk as if the church was hardly invented before they graced the spiritual scene. The balance between evangelism and discipleship has been a struggle since the Book of Acts. It isn't as simple as the latest church growth book often depicts it.

Dear Chuck, my wife has been going to the weekly womens bible group and has met multiple women that are really devout to you as their pastor and the church ministry. Yet there seems to be something wrong here. They speak openly about their sin that my wife sees occur weekly and then they take a smoke break only to continue to speak of grace. Please explain.

Hey, John-- I'm not sure I understand the problem you mention. Do you mean people shouldn't speak of grace while smoking? If it's a matter of immaturity on their part, what better place than the church for them to find the grace that all of us sinners need! And what a blessing that your wife is there to help them grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus.

Another great post by Chuck on this very issue:

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