(by Paul Proctor, Aug 11, 2009, News With Views)
Well, another Leadership Summit has come and gone at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois – a yearly conference led by its senior pastor and Willow Creek Association’s Chairman of the Board, Bill Hybels. They reportedly drew over 6000 attendees this year with some 60,000 watching a live broadcast of the event. They’ve been holding these annual gatherings for 13 years.
In a recent Christian Post article, Hybels once again revealed the humanist nature of the infamous seeker-sensitive church growth movement by posing the question:
“Do we still believe the local church is the hope of the world?”
You see, many Christians might look at that and not realize they’ve been subjected to a dialectic question designed to alter their spiritual priorities and get them on board an alternative agenda. This is what trained facilitators do under the radar in many churches today.
But I would ask: Is that where your hope lies – in the local church?
Do you believe your church can save the world?
Did it save you?
There are a lot of misguided Christians today who have a misplaced faith and hope in their church. This makes them easy targets for church growth consultants who know all too well how to play on the egos, ambitions and insecurities of both laymen and staff wanting their church to be bigger and better than the one across town.
When we covet the “success” of others, we make ourselves vulnerable to smooth-talking opportunists who will gladly step in and exploit our weaknesses and shortcomings upon invitation. The result is that we end up depending on them and their programs, techniques, strategies and surveys instead of God and His Word.
But the Church cannot save.
The Church is the saved.
Did the members of your local congregation live perfect lives, heal the sick, raise the dead and die on a cross for your sins and mine and then rise from the grave three days later? Did they also ascend into Heaven and sit at the right hand of God the Father to make intercession for you and me there?
Does John 3:16 read: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Church, that whosoever believeth in them should not perish, but have everlasting life?”
If not, then, why should you and I rest our hope in a local church – especially in the compromised, corrupt and declining state that many of them now find themselves? If you haven’t been keeping up – more folks are leaving churches now than are joining. That tells me they aren’t finding much hope in them anymore.
With one little question, Bill Hybels took his audience’s attention and focus off of Jesus Christ – a lost world’s only real hope – and placed it on a group of mere mortals calling them the “hope of the world.”
Shall we give honor, glory and praise to the Bridegroom or the bride?
Will we follow the Good Shepherd or His sheep?
Am I suggesting that the local church is no place for Christians?
They are the Christians! Or at least they are supposed to be.
What I am saying is that we need to stop putting our hope and faith in people and their self-exalting, self-justifying, self-serving organizations and institutions, local or otherwise. It’s time to start reading, learning, obeying and proclaiming God’s Word – all of it – instead of snappy slogans, corny clichés, vain visions and the silly strategies of men.
We ought to be about seeking God’s face first and new faces for our sanctuary second. It’s as if we believe manually growing our congregation somehow enlarges our God. But that’s church worship, not God worship! And if we declare our church, man-made or not, to be “the hope of the world,” then we are little more than idolaters.
Jesus rebuked religious leaders for putting their hope in the Temple. Are we any less guilty today for putting our hope in a religious building’s inhabitants? If that isn’t humanism, I don’t know what is.
It doesn’t surprise me that Bill Hybels believes that though. He’s in the church business. He’s a salesman and that’s his product.
I should also point out that according to Christian Today, Saddleback Church’s Purpose Driven pastor, Rick Warren, is currently writing a new book entitled: The Hope of the World.
I doubt it.
The church growth movement, you see, worships a two-headed god called “Results” and “Relationships” where nothing gets in the way of either – even God’s Word. It was first encountered in the Garden of Eden.
The religion of Results persuades us to, like Eve, take and eat of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” even when the Lord says: “Thou shalt not.” But we do anyway because we believe the end justifies the means – and we’re convinced it’s for a “good cause.”
Today, many trained facilitators in leadership positions have infiltrated the church and convinced gullible and covetous Christians that if they rely on market principles and surveys, they’ll get the Results they’re after – which may or may not have anything to do with the Word and Will of God.
We call that “pragmatism.”
God calls it sin.
The religion of Relationships teaches us to, like Adam, “hearken unto the voice” of those we love rather than the One Who created them – especially if it keeps the “unity of the body” – contrived and illicit that unity may be. So, we take the experiential advice of well-meaning friends, loved ones and associates and treat it as authoritative – especially when it is what we want to hear – instead of praying, waiting and laboring in the Word for wisdom and truth. In the end, God’s Will is, at best, relegated to one of many opinions.
We call that “consensus.”
God calls it sin.
The Christian Post went on to say that Hybels “encouraged leaders to re-invent new strategies that would serve as self-replenishment.”
No word yet on where he found that in scripture.
Doesn’t sound anything like the 23rd Psalm though – that old strategy that says: “He restoreth my soul” and “leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”
Paul Proctor, Forgotten Word.org
For an excellent related article by Paul, please read: Is Christianity All About Relationships?