While fasting from TV and internet I read this book by Bill Hybels and his wife.
I must say that I am ashamed of the way I have judged Willow Creek, and churches like them. We have called them attractional churches, and suggested that they stand back and call people to them. Well though I cannot speak for other "willow creek" type churches, reading this book has really challenged this perspective.
I think that the emerging church is in many ways doing exactly what Willow Creek atleast purports. What we have discovered is ways of doing this in different cultural contexts. I believe that is exactly what Willow Creek advizes. I do have concerns still about very large churches, and the power base that they create, I also have some concerns about the leadership philosophies that some adopt. But one thing this book really challenged me on is my judgementalism of what is basically style.
To greatly oversimplify it would seem to me that the "stategy" of Willow Creek is that their members would go out and make friends with their neighbors. They would invite them into their lives, and share their faith with them. The church then "helps" these relational missionaries by providing a service that their talented, and gifted staff create. Through this "team evangelism" they lead others to CHrist, and then through small groups they disciple them. I was very profoundly blessed by the intentions and heart of these two people. They want to take completely unchurched people and turn them into fully devoted, missionaries.
It would seem that is my goal exactly. It would seem that I employ very similiar methods. I have just recognized that Willow Creek would not appeal to my friends, and the people I desire to work with, and have developed a different way of "team evangelism".
Now I might share some of my concerns about their model, but also, recognizing the similiarity of the emerging church ideas, I have these concerns for myself and friends as well:
I have been to a service like Willow Creek, it was my impression that many did not move from the "seeker service" to full discipleship, and infact were content to be entertained by the professional "performance" of the church. and i must recognize that there are many that come to emerging churches that come for the cool mystic worship, the discussions, the community, yet are not called to full discipleship.
I have tried to do similiar things in the past and have wound up having a church full of other CHristians wanting to come to a church that is "cooler" though I care for these people, I was desirous of providing a church for my nonChristian friends not a new service for unsatisfied Christians we must watch that we don't build churches only of discontent Christians
I believe that whenever we create power bases of this incredible size we cause corruption. That the politics of this power, will always cause us to compromise in some way. I do not believe leaders should be put under this strain. I believe we can and should seek to remain free from the stain of power. the emerging church is now developing the credibility, and the notoriety to become a significant power structure, I as a leader must seek to become not a power weilder, but a servant of all.
I do believe that the increasingly post modern world requires a more relational style of outreach, as well as a more relational structure. But I applaud the efforts of all of my friends to make the truth of Jesus love known to all.