Willow Creek discovers Bible study

by Richard Mansel

In a remarkable turn of events, the 20,000 member Willow Creek Community Church, in the Chicago area, discovered that its members actually wanted “deep Bible study.” Their preacher, Bill Hybels, called this revelation, “earthshaking” and the “the wake-up call of his adult life.”

Their study discovered:

“Fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ were disappointed with the church. They say that they are not being fed. They want more of the meat of the Word of God. They want more serious-minded Scripture taught to them. The Church is not helping them grow spiritually and increasingly, these folks are thinking about leaving the church.”

It is earthshaking that the church would desire deep Bible study? The fact that it is shocking that church members desire deeper knowledge of Scripture is astounding. It says much about the current religious landscape when one of America’s most influential churches discovers the necessity of Bible study so late in the game.

This admission by Willow Creek sounds familiar.

Dr. Benjamin Spock wrote several books claiming that children were little adults. If we disciplined them, we would damage them so we must keep them happy and let them make their own way. Before he died, however, he made this startling confession.

“We have reared a generation of brats. Parents aren’t firm enough with their children for fear of losing their love or incurring their resentment. This is a cruel deprivation that we professionals have imposed on mothers and fathers. Of course, we did it with the best of intentions. We didn’t realize until it was too late how our know-it-all attitude was undermining the self assurance of parents.”

This is shutting the door after the house has already been robbed. We do not have a do-over when we are toying with people’s lives and souls. Words and actions have consequences. The avoidance of teaching the Bible and disciplining children have produced monumental societal problems. Sermons on pop psychology, and funny stories about kids, cats and dogs and elaborate Broadway productions may stimulate men’s emotions but only the gospel can pierce men’s souls (Acts 2:37).

Scripture records a story akin to Willow Creek’s discovery. When Josiah was king of Judah, Hilkiah, the high priest, discovered the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord (2 Kings 22:8). Josiah presented it to the people and then tore down their idols and returned temple worship to the pattern revealed by God (2 Kings 23).

This discovery begs a pertinent question. The passage in 2 Kings notes that the Book of the Law was found in verse eight. However, in verses three and four, we have mention of a high priest and a scribe. Without the Book of the Law, what exactly were these men doing? They were ostensibly worthless. A high priest without the Law of Moses and a Church that does not teach the Bible produce the same rotten fruit.

“Having spent thirty years creating and promoting a multi-million dollar organization driven by programs and measuring participation, and convincing other church leaders to do the same, you can see why Hybels” was so shocked.

Programs do not make a church. The Lord’s Church proclaims his message and leads people to discipleship and salvation (Matthew 28:18-20; Ephesians 3:20-21). Programs do not lead people to heaven or heal broken hearts, Scripture does.

We must present the gospel to a world looking for the truth of Christ. The fields are white for harvest and the Lord’s fields need laborers (John 4:35). Accordingly, as we work in these fields, we must take the plan of God and “Preach the Word” anywhere and everywhere, regardless of the weaknesses and itching ears of the listeners (2 Timothy 4:1-4).

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Richard lives in Florence, Alabama and is married to Deirdre. They have three daughters. He is an avid reader, devoted writer and lover of history and research. He is the author of "The Most Important Question" and is working on more books.

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