I’ve been trying to absorb the impact of the “Out of Ur” article entitled “Willow Creek Repents.” (http://blog.christianitytoday.com/outofur/archives/2007/10/
Yes, it is commendable that Willow Creek performed the evaluation and considered its findings carefully. And it is also commendable that the admission was made public. But the scope of this mistake is huge. It applies not merely to one man’s ministry, or to just one local church’s operation. The mistake has been perpetuated throughout a whole network of imitators, many of whom have been trained and resourced by Willow Creek ministries. This is no personal and private mistake. It has been confidently exported using the most efficient means possible.
And why is it so damaging? I think for at least two reasons. One is because of the spiritual effect on people. Many were drawn through the power of programs to participate in religious activity. Many people got a taste of religion, of church, even of the gospel. But when the program did not produce the kind of life change offered in the pure gospel, they are then inoculated against the truth of the gospel. They can never hear it for the first time again. Their hearing has been tainted by an approach that was “a mistake.” Just as taking a poor, unsuitable antibiotic that is not fit to fight the disease can actually build resistance against the proper medicine, should it be administered in the future, so I fear that a mistaken approach to introduciing people to Christ may have a similar effect.
Secondly, I don’t believe that the Bible is being taken seriously. “We made a mistake” is an admission that was made, not because they saw that their actions were not in keeping with Scripture, but because they found that they were not producing the desired results. And so they are now concocting an approach that they are sure will produce better results. And I am sure that they are confident that their new methods will accomplish what they desire, though they were formerly quite confident in the old methods.
Ironically, the very Scripture to which they are paying insufficient attention describes what seems to be going on. Jeremiah 5:31 (NAS) seems to me to apply (rather prophetically): a) “The prophets prophesy falsely, b) And the priests rule on their own authority; c) And My people love it so! d) But what will you do at the end of it?” A) They make confident assertions. B) They design their own model for doing church. C) They are affirmed by the responses of many people. D) And they are surprised that it doesn’t work out the way they projected.
I began this article with a couple of positive statements, and let me end with a couple more. I believe that these people desire to serve God in the best way possible. They have found ways to minister to more people in a week then I may in a lifetime. But, following 1 Corinthians 3, we must be very carefully to build with gold, silver, and precious stones as opposed to wood, hay, and stubble.