Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Cathleen Falsani of the Sun-Times interviews Bill Hybels - Willow Creek Community Church in the News

The Chicago Sun-Times ran a two part interview with Bill Hybels this weekend.

Here's a bit for your reading pleasure:

Q. Did you imagine that Willow Creek would be what it is today?

A. "Truthfully, we were seven days away from extinction every week for
five years. There were so many times when we said, "Well, this is probably going
to be the last service we're ever going to be able to do." So in terms of having
grandiose thoughts of how this would develop, it was blocking and tackling and
trying to survive week after week after week.

Virtually every day that I drive on our campus I think, "Who would have ever thought?"

Q. Is today's most pressing spiritual need the same as it was 30 years ago?

A. No. Thirty years ago, we argued about what was true. Was there physical evidence for the resurrection of Christ? Or whether or not there was reason to believe the Bible is a valid truth source --there was arguing about what is true. These days people seem to be asking, what's real? What's powerful in my life? What will work? Because the alternatives to religion are getting exposed for what they
really are, which is certainly less than the real thing.

There's an escalating hunger for that which is real and powerful and transforming.

Q. So the search has shifted from the head to the heart?

A. Absolutely. I am so convinced of the biblical truth of Christianity,
and convinced of its power, that when people feel its power, they will
eventually be convinced of its truth. So, I really don't spend any sleepless
nights wondering if someone powerfully touched by Jesus Christ is going to wind
up with their head on straight about the absolute truths associated with it. I
believe they will.

Twenty-five years ago or so -- in that era, when Easter came around . . . people came [to church] and said, "Do you expect me to believe that a 33-year-old carpenter who was killed came back to life? Persuade me. Convince me. Show me your evidence." And if I delivered on that, hundreds of people were affected enough to continue to investigate Christianity.

Now people come on Easter Sunday and they're hoping against hope that something will touch them deeply, and they're wide open to whatever it is. They're just hoping
this [world] is not all there is. Because if this is all there is, then that
just leads to despair.

Q: Will Willow Creek alter its aesthetic to appeal to a new generation of seekers, like the coffee-house-style worship services with candles and couches that are growing in popularity?

A: "I have seen so many . . . variations, flavors or styles of gathering places. I was in a church recently filled with people in their 20s and it was wooden pews and
stained glass, and they thought it was retro and cool. Thirty years ago, we were
in a movie theater and thought it was so cool because we were finally delivered
from the horrors of stained glass and wooden pews.

"So I see churches these days in bowling alleys, in warehouses, in storefronts, in aging cathedrals that were given to them for a dollar lease. More than anything, people want the reality of the discussion at hand. If what is going on in that building is the real thing, if the transforming love and power of Jesus Christ is being experienced, you can sit on a metal folding chair or in a plush theater seat.

"The real deal is always going to win in the end."

There's also a side bar on Mars Hill and the Emergent movement, some stuff about AIDS and activism, and Bill's reflections on cultural relevance in churches yesterday and today.


Friar Tuck said...

Interesting reading here. I wonder how much of that is a change in culture and how much of that is a change in the people that you are reaching and trying to reach.

Kim Traynor said...

That's a good question. Willow has certainly broadened it's approach to reach more than just the white suburbanites and that has changed the way it does things, so I would say both are true - Willow is reaching out to new people and the culture is changing.