Willow Creek is Waking Up …

Please allow me to preface the reprinting of "Guitar Priest’s" incredibly encouraging blog post by saying that, for many who know me personally and who are readers of the Wind Farm, I know one of the most difficult things for you to do is to reconcile who you’ve known me to be with the things I am presently researching and exploring at the leading of God. How is it that an otherwise gregarious prophet could be exploring monastic wisdom, principles and values, for example? It doesn’t make sense .. or does it?

You see, underlying all of this "research" and "exploration" has been a hunger in my heart for a deeper, richer and more authentic experience in my relationship with God; the same God who founded the Christian faith some 2000 years ago. I have longed to find spiritual practices that I could maintain on a daily basis that would develop consistent fruit in my life; practices that were more fulfilling than just a quiet time squeezed into the busyness of the day that left no other time for regular encounters with God.

The Apostle Paul said in {bible }Colossians 1:9-10{/bible} (as translated in the New Century Version):

We pray that you’ll have great wisdom and understanding in spiritual things so that you’ll live the kind of life that honours and pleases the Lord in every way…

I have been desperate to find the kind of relationship with God that so many of the ancients knew, but that seems to have become so elusive to many 21st century Christians. Put simply, I need to at least have an awareness of God in a moment-by-moment, day-by-day experience. But more than that. I need to encounter and know God in such a way that my relationship with Him is deepened every day of what’s left of my life, because I feel as though I have wasted so much of my life to this point with involvement in useless things, such as a multitude of programs, services and conferences that generally do not produce fruit.

Please be clear, I love the church; spiritual Israel; the mystical body of Christ, but I do not love much of what we as Pentecostals and Charismatics presently call church. As leaders, no matter how hard we try to convince ourselves otherwise, programs will never satisfy. Volunteering (or being conscripted) on a work crew in the church will never cause ongoing spiritual growth. And attendance of services will never be sufficient to produce anything more than spectators.

We are not teaching our people how to pray .. and we ought to be. We are not teaching them how to read the Bible so that they have a vital encounter with the living Word of God, that is, the person of Jesus Christ .. and we really ought to be. We’re not teaching our people how to order their lives according to Kingdom values .. and we absolutely ought to be.

By way of illustration, the mere mention of the word "poverty" causes us as leaders to kick and squeal. But, to the ancients, the idea of poverty had nothing to do with being a pauper. Rather, it was and is a matter of being willing to lay aside everything in order that, together with my brother, we might live a common life in Christ. That’s what Jesus was trying to say to the rich, young ruler. "Unless you lay aside everything that is presently important to you, sure you’ll come and follow me, but you’ll still be the rich, young ruler .. not a true disciple."

So, whether we like it or not, we must be willing to see that much of what we "Pente-matics" here in Australia (and in many parts of the world) call the Christian church, is in fact an adoption of American church culture which only seems capable of producing a vicarious faith rather than the vital faith of our apostolic fathers. And, whether you agree with these statements or not is irrelevant. The fact is, I believe they’re true.

But my hope in these past few months has been that those who know me might have picked up on a prophetic principle at work here. Could it be that Kerry, as a prophetic ministry, might have been communicating the word of the Lord to us, even though he never "said" so? Think about Ezekial and Isaiah and remember that they lived what they had heard long before they proclaimed the word of the Lord. One of my mentors taught me long ago that "the prophets of old always put legs on what they believed before they spoke what they heard".

Truth be told, I have been researching, exploring and endeavouring to live what I believe I am hearing the Holy Spirit saying to the church at this time. The trouble is, He’s saying it in such an emphatic whisper that few, in the busyness of their schedules, seem able to hear it. Now, I’m sure He’s saying plenty of other things, but I am convicted that this is at least my "part" of a prophetic whole that God is trying to communicate to us. But sadly, in so many cases, we are failing to hear. Even worse, we are not wanting to hear, because what is being said by the Holy Spirit is so "outside our box".

Regardless, it seems that at least one church is starting to pick up on what God is saying, even though they’ve heard it from an unlikely source. I just thank God that their response to what they’ve learned seems so wise, at least at this point in the game. The church I’m talking about is Willow Creek Community Church. Yep, Bill Hybels’ church.

So, as mentioned earlier the following is a reprint of a post written by Peter Matthews, the Vicar of St Patrick’s Anglican Church in Lexington, Kentucky, better known as "Guitar Priest".

PLEASE, read on. I believe you’ll be glad you did.

Willow Creek Moves from Programs to Practices

Something has happened at Willow Creek Community Church that will shake the Church world. Willow Creek has discovered after 3 years of research that programs do not develop fully devoted disciples of Jesus Christ.


Here is what they say:

…increasing levels of participation in these sets of activities [church programs] does NOT predict whether someone’s becoming more of a disciple of Christ. It does NOT predict whether they love God more or they love people more.

Chuck Warnock at Confessions of a Small Church Pastor writes:

Here’s the backstory: Greg Hawkins, exec pastor at Willow Creek, surveyed Willow Creek members to determine the effectiveness of WC’s programs — small groups, worship, service groups, etc. Participants had four choices to describe their spiritual lives:

Exploring — not yet Christians, but interested.
Growing — new Christians and growing in faith.
Close to Christ.
Centered in Christ.

The survey results produced what Bill Hybels calls “the wake up call of my adult life” –
Survey Says: After a person left Stages 1 & 2, church programs did not help them love God or love people more. And, to make matters worse, people in Stages 3 & 4 said they wanted to “be fed.” Some even left Willow Creek altogether.

Conclusion: Church programs are helpful initially for new and growing Christians, but as people mature in their faith church programs are inadequate and ineffective. (Watch the videos and look at Willow Creek’s new REVEAL website for their next move.)

Watch the entire 13-minute segment with Greg Hawkins here, and Bill Hybels comments here

You have got to watch these videos.

BTW — the key thing Willow Creek is implementing is personal spiritual plans that help each person identify a set of practices that move them forward in their spiritual lives. Hmm…



A Final Note from Kerry:
This is truly one of the single most encouraging stories I have read in the last five years of my journey. Upon watching the full 13 minute version of Greg Hawkins’ presentation, I was moved to tears to think that the very things I have seen in the Spirit and have been believing for God to change in the contemporary church, are finally happening .. and on such a grand scale. Pray for Willow Creek! They’ll need all the help and protection they can get to make this transition complete and intact.


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