Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Making the Gospel Relevant

Willow Creek Community Church is the evangelical megachurch located in the Chicago suburb of South Barrington, Illinois. Senior Pastor Bill Hybels has literally written the book on the Seeker Sensitive Church Growth Movement, influencing a generation of the world's pastors. G. A. Pritchard spent 2 1/2 years behind the scenes at Willow Creek, studying it for his doctoral dissertation. Part of that process resulted in the eventual writing of his book Willow Creek Seeker Services: Evaluating a New Way of Doing Church. The following quotes are taken from his book:

"The point behind this history? I did not want to write this book. I did not come to the study of Willow creek with a strong motivation to defend or attack Willow Creek. Although I am an evangelical, I did not come to my study of Willow Creek primarily as an advocate or critic, but as a researcher. This may have been my greatest advantage. My lack of an agenda has helped me describe the church more fairly." (p. 15)

...making the gospel relevant can easily compromise it. The unintended consequences of this approach are that Hybels incorporates large chunks of the American psychological worldview into his basic teaching and teaches that fulfillment is a consequence of the Christian life. There is a lack of critical evaluation to Willow Creek’s approach to relevance. This felt-need approach to relevance ultimately distorts their Christianity.
A more biblical approach to the current American fixation with fulfillment is to call it the idolatry that it is. Jesus does not guarantee that to follow him will make one fulfilled. In fact, at several points, the direct opposite is communicated: "I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you" (John 15:19); "I did not come to bring peace but a sword" (Matt. 10:34); "If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also" (John 15:20). The temptation to say that Christianity will meet all one’s felt needs and provide fulfillment is not true to biblical Christianity. (p. 200)

G. A. Pritchard, Willow Creek Seeker Services: Evaluating a New Way of Doing Church (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996).

No comments: