Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Bill Hybels: We Were Wrong!

Bill Hybels is finally realizing what many have known all along: Having megachurches doesn't mean the flock are getting fed. From Christianity Today's blog:

Not long ago Willow released its findings from a multiple year qualitative study of its ministry. Basically, they wanted to know what programs and activities of the church were actually helping people mature spiritually and which were not. The results were published in a book, Reveal: Where Are You?, co-authored by Greg Hawkins, executive pastor of Willow Creek. Hybels called the findings “earth shaking,” “ground breaking,” and “mind blowing.”

If you’d like to get a synopsis of the research you can watch a video with Greg Hawkins here. And Bill Hybels’ reactions, recorded at last summer’s Leadership Summit, can be seen here. Both videos are worth watching in their entirety, but below are few highlights.

In the Hawkins’ video he says, “Participation is a big deal. We believe the more people participating in these sets of activities, with higher levels of frequency, it will produce disciples of Christ.” This has been Willow’s philosophy of ministry in a nutshell. The church creates programs/activities. People participate in these activities. The outcome is spiritual maturity. In a moment of stinging honesty Hawkins says, “I know it might sound crazy but that’s how we do it in churches. We measure levels of participation.”

Having put all of their eggs into the program-driven church basket you can understand their shock when the research revealed that “Increasing levels of participation in these sets of activities 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.”

Speaking at the Leadership Summit, Hybels summarized the findings this way:

Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back it wasn’t helping people that much. Other things that we didn’t put that much money into and didn’t put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for.

Having spent thirty years creating and promoting a multi-million dollar organization driven by programs and measuring participation, and convincing other church leaders to do the same, you can see why Hybels called this research “the wake up call” of his adult life.

Hybels confesses:

We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between service, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.
Self-feeders? While we should all be in God's Word, in prayer, etc., what happened to the idea of the pastor feeding the flock? Are they still not willing to do that, preferring to continue entertaining the congregation instead?

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At January 09, 2008 11:05 AM, Blogger FoByC is said...

Yes! self feeders... No one can survive on one meal a week. Especially if that one meal is a verse or two of scripture and someone's personal interpretation shot with a scatter gun over a congregation that is as diverse as any healthy church would be...

A Healthy church (beit of 50 or 50 000) is going to have children, and teens and adults, parents, seniors, various socio-economic groups and hopefully various ethnic groups - the Word is going to be applied differently (by the Holy Spirit). "God loves a cheerful giver" is not going to be applied the same by a starving african as a wealthy business man.

Too few Christians are self-feeders... few even bring their Bibles to ...BIBLE-studies or services and wouldn't know whether or not they were being taught truth or a recent scientific discovery.

Absolutely self-feeders! ...not exclusively but it is critical


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