Vital Signs

Goin’ Places

Willow Creek Community Church belongs in the suburbs, its massive campus sprawling across a stretch of drained swampland in greater Chicago.  The members of Willow Creek are, by and large, suburbanites, and the “programming” behind the “services” at Willow is custom-made for them.  The attendants wear polo shirts; the messages are relevant; and all of the members of the band and the drama team are committed to excellence.

“And He gave some apostles, some prophets, some lead guitarists . . . ”  This is most certainly true, because, as Bill Hybels, the founder and “lead pastor” of Willow discovered, “lost people matter to God.”  Unbelievers—the “unchurched,” in Willow parlance—are turned off by poor-quality musicianship and acting in church; ergo, if we care about lost people, we simply will not set before them thespians or adult-contemporary artists who are not appropriately gifted.  We will, however, provide them with a food court (a “safe place” for “meaningful dialogue”), group therapy (a “small group” in which to become a “fully devoted follower of Christ”), and lots and lots of community.  The midweek services at Willow—designed for members (averaging 7,000 in attendance), as opposed to the weekend “Seeker Services” (averaging...

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