WILLOWCREEK CHURCH & BILL HYBELS’ THEOLOGY
There is an epidemic movement which has infected even the most conservative denominations and seminaries, which began in the United States more than a decade ago, and is now being manifested throughout the Church globally. One of the founders of this "seeker-friendly" movement is Bill Hybels, Senior Pastor of Willowcreek Church in the Chicago area.
REMOVE THE CROSS
The Ten Commandments have been removed from being posted in Public Schools and now we are reaping what we have sown — children shooting children — consciences seared like a hot iron. Similarly, now the seeker-friendly philosophy asks the Church remove the symbol of the cross. Of course, you don’t have to have the symbol of a cross in a church for it to be fervently evangelical or God-fearing. It has much more to do with the REASON the cross is being removed — the theology and philosophy behind this epidemic movement.
BE CONFORMED TO THE IMAGE OF THIS WORLD
This "seeker" or sinner-friendly church growth movement theology suggests that the Church needs to be conformed to the image of the world. But the Apostle Paul writes that we (and the world) are to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 12:2). Christ is a rock of offense to the world and we are trying to make Him appealing. Decorate and disguise Christ and then you can reach "unchurched Harry and Mary" and draw people into the Kingdom? Entertain people into repentance? Whatever happened to the scriptural commandment "come out from among them, be ye separate?" (II Corinthians 6:17). Christ was willing to become publicly humiliated (not decorated), scourged, disgraced, shamed, pulverized beyond recognition for us. But the seeker-friendly movement seems to suggest that we have to apologize for the gospel in order not to offend anyone. The Church in Symrna was one of only two churches in Revelation which Christ commended and had NOTHING against. Why? Because they were faithful even to the point of death (Revelation 2:10). These saints were willing to be (and were) martyred. At the end of time we see again saints who "loved their lives not unto death" (Revelation 12:11). In fact, even in the Twentieth Century there have been more saints martyred than since the foundation of the Church. Christ commends Christians for overcoming this world by the blood of the Lamb, not by some clever marketing plan or "felt needs." This whole theology is a reproach to Christ and the persecuted and martyred saints throughout the ages! And again, Hebrews 11:37-38 tells us that the destitute, persecuted and mistreated saints of this present world, the world was not worthy of them. Paul says earlier: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" (Romans 1:16).
REMOVE RELIGIOUS WORDS
One of the Willowcreek theory papers on small groups in churches suggests that we need to remove "religious words" in our efforts to reach the community. Well, it is with these very Biblical religious words that we confess our faith. What religious words used by every major and minor Prophet in the Torah and by Christ and His Apostles would you suggest we remove? It is with these very Biblical religious words that we praise His Holy Name. Heaven and earth are hung by the [religious] word of His power (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus used religious words when he called forth Lazarus from the grave. The halt, the lame and the blind went bounding through the streets with religious words after being cured by Jesus or the Apostles. Religious words are precisely what Noah preached to them that all perished in the Flood because they did not fear God and hearken unto his words. Religious words are what Jonah preached to turn 120,000 people (the entire population of Nineveh) to repent..."repent"...another religious word. These Ninevites were not only not "post-Christian era," but their culture NEVER heard the Gospel or had any Biblical form of religion. There was NO modification of the message or methodology simply because they were unchurched, but Jonah used the very same message in that age and nation as we need in this present age and every nation, and that message is simply "Repent". And guess what? It worked!! God’s Word was NOT defective and did NOT return void!
"Born again" is a religious word. But Jesus said "Except a man be born again, he can NOT enter the Kingdom of Heaven" (John 3:3-7). Jesus used this religious word, so why shouldn’t we? How do you carry out the Great Commission without using religious words in Scripture to proclaim the Gospel...another religious word? "Saved" is a religious word to every tribe and nation to the ends of the earth to every generation throughout the ages. And, once again, what does the Bible say? "Whosoever believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, even on His name shall be "saved" (Acts 16:31).
Jesus used religious words in the Sermon on the Mount, whose audience was both churched and unchurched Harry and Mary. Same message for both audiences!!! Religious words were spoken at the upper room at Pentecost. If it is good enough for the 120 who started the church in the First Century, it is good enough for me in the 21st Century. Are we now to go into all of the world and preach the Gospel (of repentance unto salvation and fear God and give him glory) without using religious words!?!
CHRIST BUILT HIS CHURCH IN THE RIGHT ZIP CODE?
Market research tells a church planting committee what Zip Code to build your church. But Christ would have built one of his churches in the worst Zip Code. The Willowcreek theory paper on small groups (and this epidemic philosophy) further states that, "There was a time in the early 50s that people could build small groups completely around the disciplines of Bible study and prayer." Once again, if it was good enough for the early disciples and founding fathers, it is good enough for me. When Jesus overturned the money changers tables in the Temple in righteous anger, He said "My house shall be called a house of prayer" (Matthew 21:13). We are not called to be successful, we are called to be faithful and holy. If a church remains at three people or becomes 3,000 that is God’s problem. The Scripture does not say "seek the fellowship (or church growth movement) and I will supply the light." It says "seek the light and I will supply the fellowship" ( ). "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin" (I John 1:6-8).
MAKE SURE YOU’RE A PLEASING ("CONTAGIOUS") CHRISTIAN
Friendship with the world is enmity with God. In the Book of Revelation, the Church of Pergamum was condemned for its marriage of the world to Christ. Christ commended the saints "who loved their lives not unto death." So much for a politically correct church whose doctrine is Tolerance. In II Corinthians 2:14-16, Paul says that our procession is a stench of death to world who is perishing, but a pleasing fragrance to the Lord. Paul counted himself (and the other Apostles) scum and refuse to the world. But some have now made the churches become a pleasing aroma to the world, but a stench to the nostrils of the Lord.
OH FOOLISH AMERICANS, WHO HAS BEWITCHED YOU?
What we need in the United States is a New Reformation. A New American Revolution. As the Prophet Jeremiah preached: "Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls’" (Jeremiah 6:16). But what we hear today is "this is the 21st Century!" This sinner-friendly theology like the Church of Pergamos has married the Bride of Christ to the unholy world which has a form of godliness but is bankrupt in spirit. This spiritual harlotry God will judge. This epidemic in the church has given birth to the Church of Laodicea (neither hot nor cold) whom Christ will spew out of his mouth. It is time to trust the Gospel. It is time to trust that God’s word will NOT return void! "If I be lifted up I will draw all men unto myself" (John 12:32). And how was He lifted up? He was lifted up on the cross. It is time to get back to preaching the cross and Him crucified.
"Except for the shedding of blood, there is NO remission of sins" (Hebrews 9:22, Hebrews 10:18)...oh no...another religious word.
"And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because [he eateth] not of faith: for whatsoever [is] not of faith is sin" (Romans 14:23).
"All Scripture is profitable [including every ‘religious’ word in the Scripture) for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (II Timothy 3:16-17).
Not using every word (religious word) of Scripture renders us and anyone we teach spiritual cripples unquipped to do the work of the ministry and lacking the full armor of God to fend off the fiery darts of the enemy and fight the good fight of spiritual warfare and run a good race. That is the true Gospel. Oh foolish Americans, who hath bewitched you? This seeker-sensitive theology is not the Gospel of Christ, but a theology of apology. It is a faith without armor, incapable of withstanding the fiery darts of the enemy. It is a fleet of boats in a sail boat regatta, when what we need are battleships in formation for a spiritual war against the principalities. What we need are spiritual World Trade Center tragedy firefighters who are running up the stairway to Heaven who brave the Gates of Hell that none would perish. Repent while God is still giving you a season to repent!
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