Willow Creek Shake-Up

Time for a little shop talk. Unless you're into evangelical church conversation, this post might be boring. But I find this fascinating and needed to note it. During the past few years Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago, one of the largest and most influential evangelical churches in the nation, has developed a dream team of teaching pastors to take them into the future. Founder and Senior Pastor Bill Hybles went out and got some of the best communicators in the nation to join his staff so he could devote more time to overseeing national and international interests. Two of the three men he added came from my movement of churches, so I was very interested in these moves. Now, a little more than three years later, all three have resigned within a nine-week span, and one of those did so without having future employment lined up.

All the men said the right things in their resignation letters, something to the effect that "God was leading them to another place." This might indeed be true, but whenever three people get the same message, I tend to think something is up. I don't think it an unspiritual endeavor to read between the lines.

All the men left incredibly successful churches to go to Willow Creek. As Willow is known as one of the leading churches among evangelical congregations, I could see why these men thought that the jump to the "ultra-big" time was a good idea. But apparently the grass was greener on the other side. I'm not saying that Willow Creek is a bad place, but it definitely has its own culture that is more results driven than many churches. It's gotta be tough adjusting to a new role in that environment. Perhaps that's what led to these departures: when the new car smell wears off, you're still driving the same streets [my weak attempt at a deep metaphor].

I'm not sure what can be learned from this, as the true story here will most likely never surface. That said, I opine that this situation will become the norm in the years to come with many megachurches. Each leader wants to enact change on their institutions and turning them around is like maneuvering a cruise liner. That's why many ministers [um, I guess like me] choose, rather, to start their own churches. With Echo, I've been able to lead at my speed and according to my strengths. I don't have to fight an established church culture.  Of course, some guys going this route don't have the skills to start their own church and I imagine the new church failure rate will skyrocket in the years to come.

Churches are a funny thing, eh?