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Current Events
Willow Creek Community Church is planning yet another addition — albeit its first in nearly a decade — to bring its Hoffman Estates-based Care Center onto its main campus in South Barrington. The Care Center provides emergency food and clothing assistance as well as health and legal advice, employment services and English as a Second Language classes. The new Care Center will grow the building’s current 295,000-square-foot footprint by 12.5 percent, and will be constructed in a consistent style of brickwork. The Care Center has been attracting not only more clients during the economic downturn, but approximately 800 volunteers each month. More here.
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Leadership
Bill Hybels: “We were inundated by new people who came to check out the church, and to our horror, we didn’t have enough parking spaces to accommodate them. There were hundreds of cars stacked four-deep along our campus’s roads — both inbound and outbound. Nicely dressed adults trudged through fields of grass and mud to reach the front door. Children were thrust into already-overcrowded classrooms and asked to sit quietly in a stuffy space for a full ninety minutes. Talk about a systemic meltdown of dramatic proportions! To say we were embarrassed would be an understatement. It was awful. God had done his part. We just hadn’t done ours. Our excitement over all that new growth was quickly tempered by the painful reality that we had dropped the ball. We had dropped a dozen balls. We had been so singularly focused on our plans to get new people into our church that we failed to provide necessary infrastructure in the event that all that planning actually bore fruit. My hard-won advice? Have a bold plan for explosive growth! Expect God to answer your fervent prayers and to do his part in bringing people your way. Just be sure to tend to the needs that all that growth will bring. And at the very same time, roll up your sleeves and figure out how you are going to assimilate those new folks so that someday, every one of them will become fully yielded to Christ and fully integrated into your church.” via Willow Creek Association Blog. Does your church have a plan for dramatic growth?  Should it? In the church’s that you’ve seen that have experienced dramatic growth… what do you think cause it?  A move of God?  Great leadership?  A dynamic personality?  Outstanding worship? Why do some churches experience quick and rapid growth? I’d love to hear your thoughts… Todd
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Trends
How do you measure the effectiveness of a church? Budget? Attendance? Or do metrics exist that not only measure the spiritual health of a church, but also help a church create deeper levels of discipleship, satisfaction and ministry? The new book MOVE by Greg L. Hawkins and Cally Parkinson reports the findings from a comprehensive spiritual life survey administered to more than 280,000 people in more than 1,200+ churches across ever size, denomination, region, ethnicity and demographic in the country. This milestone study provides fresh insights into the real state of church-based ministry in America, demonstrating that effective discipleship can be both measured and predicted. In 2004 Willow Creek Community Church, arguably one of the most influential churches in America, took a step back to ask a difficult question: “Are we making a difference?” The result was a four-year process and a spiritual life survey, with findings that forever transformed the way they approached ministry. “What [we] discovered challenged some of our core assumptions about our effectiveness as a church,” said Willow Creek Pastor Bill Hybels. The dramatic impact of the original REVEAL study led the authors to launch new research to study spiritual life at more than 1,000 churches. The MOVE study provides leaders with insights to evaluate their programs and help attendees achieve spiritual growth. These findings include: The Spiritual Continuum — Identification of four phases of spiritual development. Catalysts for Growth — Determination of critical factors that move people forward along the Spiritual Continuum. The Spiritual Vitality Index — Clear and measurable factors that help a church be more effective. Best Practices for Church Leaders — Key findings from the top 5% of the most effective churches in the study. In addition, the study reveals eight startling insights that the authors urge church leaders to read and heed. It is possible to measure spiritual growth. Church activities do not predict or drive long-term spiritual growth. Many apathetic nonbelievers who attend church are unlikely to ever accept Christ. Even the most devoted Christians fall short of living out the mandates of Christ. Nothing has a greater impact on spiritual growth than reflection on Scripture. Spiritually stalled or dissatisfied people account for one in four church congregants. There is no “killer app” for spiritual growth. Leadership matters. MOVE releases in August 2011. For more information visit Zondervan.com/move. via Are America’s Churches Helping People Grow? The New Landmark MOVE Study Delivers Groundbreaking Insights and Results from 1,000 Diverse Churches Applying the Proven Willow Creek REVEAL Spiritual Life Survey.
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Controversy
Willow Creek has ended its formal relationship with Exodus International. According to a write-up at Christianity today, the two sides are saying two different things: WILLOW CREEK Elder Scott Vaudrey says the decision was not intended as a social or political statement.  In fact, it was the result of “a season of reviewing and clarifying some of our affiliations with outside organizations.” EXODUS president Alan Chambers thinks differently though:  “The choice to end our partnership is definitely something that shines a light on a disappointing trend within parts of the Christian community, which is that there are Christians who believe like one another who aren’t willing to stand with one another, simply because they’re afraid of the backlash people will direct their way if they are seen with somebody who might not be politically correct…Biblical truth is unpopular, and when you’re supporting unpopular truth, you are unpopular too; which means, some days, getting upwards of 10,000 phone calls and emails, and it can be overwhelming.” Hmmm… which to believe?? I think Mark Yarhouse from Regent University gives a better understanding to this trend in general: “Churches are realizing that while there is a small contingent of the gay community responding to language like ‘freedom from homosexuality’ or ‘freedom is possible,’ the vast majority strongly disagree. They’re angry and they believe it’s impossible to change, and to hear this is so offensive that they will have nothing to do with Christians. So I think churches, in response to that vast majority who say, ‘We’re not interested,’ have decided to look at other approaches in an attempt to connect with the gay community on at least some level. That doesn’t mean that churches disagree with the language of ‘freedom from homosexuality’ doctrinally; they’ve just found that it doesn’t work on a social level.” I think Mark’s right. Was there more to Willow’s severing the relationship than just shuffling around their partners?  Could be.  I think Mark may have hit the nail on the head though.  The church may just not have been comfortable with Exodus’ delivery methods.  But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ve changed their views on the core subject of homosexuality.  If that’s the case, it’d be good to clarify. And for Exodus’ point of view:  just because someone doesn’t partner with you doesn’t mean that churches are going to hell in a handbasket, or that no one will stand for truth anymore.  That’s a pretty stark message.  Oh wait… What do you think? You can read more here… Todd
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