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This comprehensive study of the worship service style that is influencing thousands of churches and their leaders worldwide addresses controversies and draws lessons for the church today.



Publié par
Date de parution 01 décembre 1995
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781441215239
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0806€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


© 1996 by G. A. Pritchard
Published by Baker Books a division of Baker Publishing Group P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287 www.bakerbooks.com
Ebook edition created 2011
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means for example, electronic, photocopy, recording without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.
ISBN 978-1-4412-1523-9
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Scripture is taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®. NIV ®. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.© Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com
This is the definitive study of the most influential church in North America. Lyle E. Schaller Author One of America’s leading church consultants
Willow Creek Seeker Services is a penetrating critique of the most talked about church in America. I found the first two-thirds of this study to be eminently fair in presenting Willow Creek’s program and the last third to be devastating in its critique.
James Montgomery Boice Author and senior pastor Tenth Presbyterian Church Philadelphia
To Skipp and Bob Pritchard
Mom and Dad, Thank you for your love and wisdom; By your words and deeds, Your children have seen how to live.
To honor you.


Title Page

Copyright Page





Part 1
Understanding the Willow Creek Way of Doing Church
A New Way of Doing Church
Willow Creek’s History
Understanding Unchurched Harry
Profile of Unchurched Harry
Weekend Service Programming
The Use of the Arts
The Programming Principles of Persuasion
The Credibility of the Speaker
Identifying with Harry
Christianity Is Relevant
Christianity 101
Christianity Is True
Willow Creek’s Gospel
Part 2
Evaluating the Willow Creek Way of Doing Church
Learning from Willow Creek
The Christian Worldview and Culture
The Temptation of Image
The Quagmire of Psychology
The Allure of Marketing
The Mirror of God’s Face
The Loss of Truth





About the Author

Other Books by Author
Many individuals have contributed in significant ways in the preparation of this book.
The first life of this project was as a Ph.D. dissertation at Northwestern University. Several of my academic teachers and colleagues provided insightful and wise comments. I want to particularly thank Alan Schnaiberg, Richard Tholin, and R. Stephen Warner.
Occasionally in the text I refer to the number of times a particular word was used during a year of Willow Creek’s messages. I was able to create this computer concordance with the gracious effort of my good friend David Gorman.
In the metamorphosis of changing a dissertation into its second life as book, several friends and family members were particularly helpful. At different times the following readers provided astute and discerning observations: Eric Bobbitt, Os Guinness, Brian Heller, Bill Helm, Sandy Jaffe, Jay Pinney, and Skipp Pritchard. The book is much better because of their insights, and I want to thank them for their gracious help and friendship.
I also want to thank my wife, Lori, for her discernment and suggestions. Many of the ideas presented grew out of long discussions between us. Some of the best insights originally came from her comments and observations.
Although I borrowed many insights and suggestions from these individuals, this book is solely my responsibility.
Lastly, and most of all, I want to thank the Lord Jesus Christ. He has provided strength in weak times, light in dark times, and hope in bleak times. Soli Deo gloria!
Why are you reading this book?
As I researched and wrote this volume, I wondered about those who would eventually read it. What made them interested in the strategy of a church that they would probably never attend? What was their motivation and objective?
I realized that the majority of readers would be my fellow evangelicals: A book about an evangelical church, even a fast-growing and influential church like Willow Creek, would have less appeal to those without an evangelical commitment. The majority of these readers are probably coming to the topic with some preconceived ideas and opinions; in effect, they are already Willow Creek advocates or critics. A word should probably be said to each.
I also recognized that there would probably be a significant group of readers who are interested observers outside of the evangelical community. These individuals may be curious about the Willow Creek phenomenon, interested in church growth generally, or be my colleagues in the academic study of religion. I will also make a brief comment to this group of readers.

To evangelicals who agree with Willow Creek:
If you agree with Willow Creek, you may be reading this book to gain useful principles and ideas to apply to your local situation. I believe that you will be able to sift through this material and collect some helpful ideas.
And, yet, this is a rare opportunity for you to take a long, honest look at what you are doing and why you are doing it. The writer of Proverbs counsels us that wisdom comes to those who “search for it” (2:4). I would encourage you to have the attitude that I found in a Willow Creek staff member: When I began this study, he responded that this type of inquiry was “very important,” as it was an opportunity to get an outside perspective. “We’re not going to like everything people say about us,” he said, “but if we stop listening, that’s a dangerous sign.”

To evangelicals who disagree with Willow Creek:
If you disagree with Willow Creek, you may be reading this to gain a critical perspective of Willow Creek. I believe that you will be able to sift through this material and find some ways to criticize Willow Creek.
And, yet, if you are an evangelical, you realize that our human hearts are “deceitful above all things” (Jer. 17:9). As Bible believers, you believe that human beings are innately prone to lie to themselves in order to justify their behavior. Genesis records Adam’s attempt at this dishonesty as he simultaneously blamed his failure on both Eve and God: “The woman you put here with me ” (Gen. 3:12). The first step of an evangelical critical of Willow Creek should be to question his or her own motivation. The second step should be to be willing to learn whatever he or she can from Willow Creek.

To interested observers:
As should already be clear, Willow Creek, at present, is a highly contentious topic in the evangelical community. And yet this dispute pales in comparison to the cultural wars that America is currently in the throes of. There are few political topics that will get a more heated response than asking what someone thinks of the “religious right.” Thus it is likely that you are not a merely neutral interested observer.
A temptation of individuals who are involved in political disputes is to vilify their opponents and uncritically praise their allies. For example, it is very difficult to find anyone involved in politics who describes Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill with anything other than admiration or condemnation. Yet this politicizing distorts how one sees reality. Complexity and a myriad of colors become black and white cartoonish characters.
A normal human response in political conflict is to ridicule one’s opponents. One should be wary of the temptation to mock others. It is true that anyone who is a student of human nature often finds himself tickled by the absurdities of other people’s behavior. And we evangelicals are often a particularly humorous bunch. But there is significance to sarcasm’s root meaning, “eating flesh.” For embedded in a scornful smirk is the tooth decay of a rancid pride. The cynicism of a superior attitude is blind to simple truths, as when Jesus said, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3).

It seems I do not have a different thing to say to each group. In fact, I am merely repeating what I have been saying to myself as I worked on this study. As human beings, each of us is tempted to see that which reinforces our own beliefs and lifestyles. We need to be wary of our pride and biases and commit ourselves to search for the truth in humility and honesty. The doorway to truth is very low. We must humbly bend our necks to enter.
Why Study Willow Creek?
Willow Creek is leading a worldwide movement. Attending a recent Willow Creek training conference in South Barrington, Illinois, were over 2,300 church leaders from Australia, the Bahamas, Canada, England, Holland, Honduras, India, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Norway, Scotland, Sweden, the United States, and Venezuela. Since 1988 Willow Creek has sponsored Christian Leadership conferences in the United States, England, Wales, France, Australia, and New Zealand with an attendance of more than 50,000 individuals. Willow Creek is currently shaping how church is “done” for thousands of churches.
In a recent interview, Willow Creek’s senior pastor, Bill Hybels, explained that he does not think denominations are “the wave of the future.” This raises the obvious question, What is the wave of the future? Hybels and Willow Creek’s answer is found in the logo of the Willow Creek Association (the organization that Hybels founded to spread the Willow Creek vision), a picture of a series of waves. We can understand Willow Creek’s influence on the worldwide evangelical church through these waves of the future. [1]
The First Wave
Willow Creek’s first wave of influence is through the bas

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