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Mike Keith

Thanks for the blogging. Very interesting stuff. I had heard Hybels and the Willow Creek group had realized their methods were not effective but I had heard they had gone the way of "Self-feeders." Has that come up?

I am curious about the 5 things people are looking for in a church. I understand 4 of them. I don't understand what #4 is about - take next stpes? What does this mean? Growing in wisdom and understanding? Sanctification?


I feel the seeker sensitive movemnt was set up to go right into the next phase. People will agree that they have not been following after God and will realize the meaty life of a Christian has been lacking. So, they'll begin to want more. That's when the introduction of the disciplines will come, or the introduction of more service in the community...or whatever it takes to get a step closer to the Contemplative teachings. Being in a church that uses Willow Creek and Saddleback resources heavily, I know I began to long for things like the Lord's Prayer in church, or the creeds. Recently, our seeker friendly church put a cross up again. I believe they are headed for spiritual disciplines as the pastors cannot help but mention or promote Dallas Willard/Michael Frost and the like. I am guessing Christians will be guilted into disciplines because they were treated to the excesses and took advantage of those, and now they will be asked to begin to be more willing to sacrifice as part of the Body. Just a guess, but an educated one. Meanwhile, the pastors will likely not really repent, but will manipulate to jerk the people of their flock from one step to another. What is beyond contemplative? I don't know, but when it gets tiresome, the next step will bring them closer...maybe communes?

Bror Erickson

View Church as Spiritual Coach?
As a pastor I kind of like this. Coaches stand around and tell others what to do, how much to give... Notice they never do these things themselves it isn't expected of them.
I guess when you have robbed the pastor of the right and authority to forgive sins in the name of Christ, there is nothing else for him to do but give you spiritual exercises, disciplines or whatever.


Frederick Price? Yikes!

Scott Diekmann

"Why have these folks dumped the word 'Christian' in favor of 'Christ-Follower'?" Because when you preach the Law, you create people who think that Jesus is their role model for what they have to "do" - so you have Christ-followers. Calling someone a Christian is uncomfortable, because it conjures up images of sin and repentance, things we no longer need bother with.

Mr. Seeker-Sensitive

So far, the big Reveal is a big disappointment.

As a former leader at Willow Creek, for which I still have a tremendous amount of respect, I am saddened to see in the blog above that nothing has changed since my involvement in the late 1980s.

Back then, too, Hybels spoke with some authority on "authentic" Christians who were not self-centered but rather "Honest To God."

Back then, too, Hybels emphasized prayer and Bible and the kinds of spiritual disciplines espoused by Richard Foster as fundamental to "Walking with God."

Back then, too, Hybels emphasized the need to join in a New Community by moving from Grace to Growth to (small) Groups to (spiritual) Gifts to Giving.

Back then, too, Willow Creek had a "movement" to take one from weekend "seeker" services to mid-week "growth" services to "small group accountability" to "spiritual gifts" and "impact evanglism" in order to contribute to the work of the Church and thus impact the world.

Back then, too, Willow create relied on surveys like Reveal to boldly lay its problems bare--still the church's greatest testimony, in my opinion, in this sweep-things-under-the-rug world.

The problem is that everything Hybels and Hawkins and company are saying--so far--isn't anything different than what Willow Creek has always been doing. It's just a "once more with feeling" kind of sentiment. Try harder. Engage more. Coach better.

Something is wrong with the picture.

And what is wrong, in the end, the idolatry of the local church as the hope of the world. That's a role fulfilled only by the person of Jesus Christ.

Willow Creek, and to a lesser extent Saddleback, still seem to postulate that all the great movements of God radiate out from the local church. The problem is that Hybels and Warren freely tout their adoption of corporate management and marketing "best practices" to power their church growth and then call the results the work of the Holy Spirit.


All that said, credit must be given to both Hybels and Warren for their uncredited and worthy work in delivering some real Christianity 401 lessons over the years. That these messages come in the form of Christianity 101 vernacular is missed, I think, by many critics. Especially when so many "deeper" pastors parade their advanced grasp of ancient Hebrew and Greek in tortuous "meaty" messages that in the end fall even short of Christianity 101 doctrine.

Too bad these gems are lost in Willow Creek's and Saddleback's earnest desire to "transfer concepts" to other churches, putting the medium ahead of the message. Because the way it all comes across is that it's "all about Me," i.e., the Church, and by inference their founders and leadership.

Romans ThreeEleven

Kinda looks like the Obama logo in front of the "REVEAL." It makes sense. Jesus was a community organizer.

Billy Edwards

So when Jesus said, "Follow me", was He preaching the law? To draw such a distinction between "Christ-follower" and "Christian" is looking to pick a fight. By practical definition, there's not a dime's worth of difference.

I use the term "Christ-follower" because the word "Christian" has been coopted to the point it loses all meaning. E.g., America is a "Christian" nation. Conversely, "Christ-follower" is hard to misinterpret. Except of course, by those looking for a fight.

Ken Silva

"'Christ-follower' is hard to misinterpret."

True; denotes a man-centered approach in a futile attempt to live like Jesus in the flesh.


Thinking about "Christian" vs. "Christ-follower":

I think the problem with using a term like "Christ-follower" is that it puts the emphasis on *man* and his actions, rather than on Christ and what He has done. In other words, it emphasizes the attitude "I am a 'Christ-follower' *because I have chosen to obey Christ*," so (despite claims to the contrary) it really is "all about me."

Compare that to "I am a Christian because He has chosen me and graciously saved me" - emphasis is on God and what He has done, not man.

"Christ-follower" comports nicely with a works-salvation attitude, and loses sight of the fact that we did not choose Him, but He chose us.


wow. there really IS no jesus here chris. I really had no idea just how bad things were there. hope that you and your family are doing well! greetings from rio de janeiro!

akira Kurosawa

Some of you are amazing. Not Christ-centered?

Hybels confessed that their preaching at Willow did not offer the type of Biblical engagement that Christ-Centered people need.

Hybels is knocking the me centered attitude that many Christians have and claims that the greatest chasm exists between the Close to Christ People and the Christ-Centered People.

This is a humble and contrite Hybels. He is actually making a case against shallow and self-centered Christians


Top five thing that catalyzes spiritual growth (according to the research)

1. Reading and reflecting on the the Bible is the most powerful catalyst for personal spiritual growth.

2. Developing core Christian beliefs is crucial for those in the early stages of spiritual growth.

* People must understand the doctrine of the Trinity early on.

3. Personal spiritual practice are the building blocks for a Christ-centered life

4. Serving is the most catalytic experience offered by churches

5. Spiritual community is vital and migrates from organized to organic

This is a direct move toward Christ-centered, Bible focused worship and Christian living. Everyone should be glad that they are moving in the right direction.

"I am a 'Christ-follower' *because I have chosen to obey Christ*," is your interpretation, and that quote was not on Chris's post. The actual post says...

Evaluate where you are, Embrace the Life of Christ (what Christ has done for us and not about doing or effort), Engage in your next steps (personal growth plan based on church practices, spiritual disciplines and practices, relational practices)

Now you can argue semantics and waste your time discussing whether they have crossed this "t" or dotted this "i" correctly, but that sounds like you are engaging in the legalism that you keep harping about.

Rejoice and pray for our brothers who seem to be repenting of the heresies that you have been accusing them of for months. CHRISTIANS should show love and compassion to other CHRISTIANS, especially when they repent.

john frerich

Hey, is it so hard to just be called a "believer?" How about a "reconciler?" Prior to the term "christian" weren't our brethren referred to as "followers of the Way?"


Chris, I'm at this conference as well. Can we meet and sit together? Post a comment and let me know.

Pastor B.

great job, keep it up, very very helpful and informative!


My former Willow Creek and Saddleback-loving Baptist church used to use the term "Christ-follower" instead of "Christian," too. There's more than semantics behind the terminology.

The main reason given for the switch is that the word "Christian" doesn't have any real meaning anymore-- those false Christians and immoral, "nominal Christians" have spoiled it for the rest of us truly pious ones. Besides, unbelievers all think they know what the word Christian means and they want no part of it. Therefore we must invent a new term, both to show that we're really serious about walking with Jesus and to maybe fool the unbelievers into thinking that we're different from all those other "Christians" that they don't like. Maybe they'll like and respect "Christ-followers"!

A good friend of mine in Bible study at this church said that we should stop using the term "Christian" altogether, for some of the reasons listed above. I thought she was wrong then, and I still do.

First, it's naive to think that by inventing new words, we're going to fool anyone. There will always be false Christians, and yes, even false "Christ-followers."

Second, it seems like a kind of jerkish way to cut ourselves off from all the faithful Christians that came before us. As if we've just now come up with a superior corporate slogan. As if Christians have never been misunderstood in the past and should have just kept coming up with new names for themselves.

Third, it's obvious that unbelievers have a screwed-up idea of what "Christian" really means-- they always have and always will. Yet despite the fact that the term is slandered, misused and misunderstood, and this can even result in suffering for Christians, consider the words of the apostle Peter: "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, *do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.*" (1 Peter 4:12-16)

No one's denying that we're called to follow Christ, or that the word Christian can be sometimes misunderstood. But upon reflection, I think it's true that "Christ-follower" places greater emphasis on man's works and good decision-making skills than "Christian," which is an identity word. And for my reasons given above, the reasons giving for actively avoiding or even shunning the term "Christian" are all just really bad reasons.


A song came out a couple of years ago about worship where the song apologizes to God for making worship more than what it should be. Of course, many churches I know sing this song over and over again without listening to it.

I'm more skeptical about this "confession" of Hybels. A confession makes it sound like he's humbled and repentant. If that's true, and I hope it is, then what's with the music at this conference? It doesn't sound to me like there's a real change of heart, a real seeking after a just and holy God. It sounds more, like an attempt to appear "Christian", humble etc. If it is true, and Hybels hasn't fixed his church, then why is he having a conference telling people how they ought to do church and "strengthen people in their walk with Jesus"?


One of your statements caught my attention:

Hawkins defines a disciple as one who 'Loves God and Loves People'. (defines it based upon the law).

The problem with this definition is that it excludes sin and salvation through Jesus's shed blood, and it fits nearly every religion in the world.

A light bulb came on for me. Thanks!

(a Salvation Army soldier)


Before we start defending the term "Christian" (and I'm not endorsing "Christ-follower") we might be wise to understand where it comes from. It was originally given as more of an insult to early believers by the secular pagan world, much like Jesus-freak or Bible-thumper is used today. The term ended up being adopted by believers throughout church history, sort of like how the term Jesus-freak or Bible-thumper is being used by Christians in a more boastful way today. It would seem that everything ends up becoming corrupt over time.

john frerich rightly pointed out that the Apostles were known as "followers of The Way" which appears an interesting 7 times in the book of Acts. Really, I don't want to split hairs here, but as we strive to be discerning in this world of deception, we need to make sure we really know what it is we're defending.

Billy Edwards

As usual, you are looking to create division where there is none. I am a "grace" guy - exchanged life - whatever you choose to call it. Yet you have predetermined that anybody who calls themself a Christ-follower is subscribing to the law. Wrong, Ken.

The nub of the problem is that you think any term proposed by Hybles or Warren or Bell or anybody you don't like must by necessity be wrong. That's pretty shallow. You should have learned this a long time ago - not even your enemies are wrong about everything.

Steve Newell

My question is this on the term "Christ Follower". Why do we need to redefine the name "Christian" which the Church turned from a insult to name that is honoring to God (1 Peter 4:16).

There is there such a need to question everything? What the Church wrong for nearly 2000 years?


Fred Price is pretty high up on the toxic list isn't he? Can hardly believe that even theologically naive Bill Hybels would permit that. And some people actually wonder why mature, Bible-believing Christians run from places like this. Well, actually they're just following the voice of their Chief-Shepherd leading them to safe pasture.


Fred Price is pretty high up on the toxic list isn't he? Can hardly believe that even theologically naive Bill Hybels would permit that. And some people actually wonder why mature, Bible-believing Christians run from places like this. Well, actually they're just following the voice of their Chief-Shepherd leading them to safe pasture.


You'll note that they are big about, "movement," which is different than, "progress." A person running around in circles as fast as possible is displaying movement. But a person running in a specific direction with a goal in mind is making progress.

But that also requires discipline and focus like Paul described, centered on the mission of Jesus Christ, which seems to be lacking a bit with this conference.


Mr. Seeker-Sensitive

Defining a disciple as one who "loves God and loves people" is absolutely based on the law, as Jesus himself said it sums up the Law. Doesn't mean we shouldn't do as Jesus said.

The key, of course, is that we can't fulfill the law, try as we might, because of our sin and that's is why we find salvation in Christ's crucifixion and resurrection.

Which is why I've concluded after looking over this bizarre argument over "Christian" and "Christ-Follower" that I DO in fact have a problem with the term "Christ-Follower" and Willow's definition of Christian. It's based on the Lordship of our life context -- very important -- and not the Savior of our life context.

Defining salvation is pretty clear in terms of repentance and faith. Defining obedience gets mighty tricky, on the other hand, and depends on your definition.

In my own case some years ago, after a fantastic message by Hybels called "power along the way," I took the message to hear and took a toward Jesus -- and out of Willow Creek. Jesus was calling me to something different, something staff at Willow have since applauded.

So thanks to Hybels, I was obedient, but not according to any of the criteria Willow Creek is defining in this current Reveal conference.

How do we love God? How do we love others?

There is no one-size-fits all approach.

That's why Jesus told Peter, who was unusually concerned about the paths of James and John, "You follow me."

That's the problem with Jesus: the path he calls me to is often different from the path he calls you to.

And that's the problem with a megachurch in calling different Christians to the same path of spiritual growth instead of equipping them to go out into the world where Jesus calls us to be and grow along the way.

Peter Hamm

You write [Wow. Hybels confessed that he has messed up. Candid confession that he has pioneered ministry methods that don't work.] Huh? I don't think he said that. You have taken your own pre-suppositions in with you and I don't think you really listened to a word that was said. I don't think you've looked at the REVEAL data with anything close to an open mind. Just with a critical eye looking for the tiniest fault that you can magnify, exaggerate, or just plane mis-quote.

You already knew you thought it was all bunk. Nothing could have changed your mind.

John Mulholland

This is pathetic.

Clerical collars? Really? That's how you're defining a "real pastor"? Then, you have the guts to mock someone for wearing a monk's habit.

"Hawkins defines a disciple as one who 'Loves God and Loves People'. (defines it based upon the law)."

Funny, I thought those 2 things were based on the words of Jesus. In case you don't buy that, check out Matthew 22:34-40:

"Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself. 'All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."


Rather than stand and pretend to be ‘worshiping’ with the rest of the conference attendees I am sitting and working. The looks I am getting are fun. One guy shot a look at me as if I were a pagan and I was being sacrilegious. There is the irony. I think they are being sacrilegious - Chris R.

There is a part of me that feels sorry for Chris R. because I once sounded so much like this. My wife was raised Pentecostal and I was raised in a tradition that thought Pentecostals were quacks. I remember going to church with her while we were dating and thinking much the same things Chris thought here. When everyone around me was raising hands, clapping, dancing, shouting for joy I was sitting in my seat, hands in pockets, acting “mature” as if I was teaching these “crazy” people a lesson. I mean, after all, what did they really know anyways? I was the one in school studying theology and bible - God just doesn’t work this way. If God did, I would know.

Deep down inside, though, there was something longing to be set free. Deep down I knew that my resentment towards these people was not theological it was personal - they had something that I wanted but couldn’t admit I needed. I had God in a nice, tidy little box and these crazy Pentecostals were exploding my box, making me come to grips with a startling reality: God is bigger than my head.

I’ll never forget the day I got out of God’s way and stopped making God obey my doctrines for him but just let myself fall into God. As I lifted my arms in the air for the first time in my life I felt as though I was being freed from a prison I made for myself and tears began to roll down my face. It was liberating to let go of the desire to control God. I still have much to learn in this regard but that was a huge baby step out of Chaldea and into the life God desired for me.

The above journey took well over a year and was frought with much struggle and inner turmoil. During that time I regret the ways I argued with people and tried to convince them they were way out in left field. I think I did that to protect the image of God I had created and held to for so long. Secretly, though, I was hoping someone would see that about me and call me on it.



A friend directed me to this blog and the more I read the more sad I felt. Not so much for the mistakes that Willow Creek and Bill Hybels have made (though there are probably thousands of lives that have been changed through their ministry), but for the negativity and cynicism of the Body of Christ as we bite and devour one another, picking at semantics, worship styles, music volume, and what type of clothing is worn.

And "Love God and Love Others" seems to be a pretty good reflection of what Jesus said was the greatest commandment.


I agree Mike. It is sad that Christians would waste so much of their time pointing fingers. Chris R's entire ministry is negative. I would be exhaused.

Steve Newell


"Entire ministry" is a little extreme is not it? Do you believe that everything on this blog is negative? Is negative wrong? Paul was extremely negative in his letter to the churches in Galatia as also in his letters to the church in Corinth.

There are many positive blogs that he has posted, such as ones on Holy Baptism, Law & Gospel, and Justification.


Yes, I do think it is his entire ministry. From this site to Leaven to the pirate radio show - all of it is nothing more than someone pointing fingers and judging the hearts and motives of others. It is as if God is not really in charge, Chris R is - and thank God Chris is here to sort everyone out. What would God do without him?

Is negative wrong?

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.


Paul was extremely negative in his letter to the churches in Galatia as also in his letters to the church in Corinth.

Chris R is not St. Paul. Furthermore, unlike Paul, Chris R. is not rebuking a church that he has a personal stake in, that he himself planted or helped to plant and has been the spiritual director of or has cultivated a personal relationship with so that he intimately knows the details, the people and the hearts of those he rebukes OUT OF LOVE. Paul's letters, even when the most harsh, are grace-filled. They are not negative just for the sake of it nor do they come accross as holier-than-thou. Somehow I can't imagine Paul in the middle of a worship service at Corinth and whether he was pleased with the worship or not acting like a spoiled brat in front of everyone.

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