Monday, May 26, 2014

The Blight Cometh

Return to Part 1: What is the Willow Creek Model

What is the Blight?

The blight is a thick corrosive fog that strips away the will to live, work, and move in a church. It’s a miasma that envelopes you, making you so apathetic that no further response to the Spirit is possible. Once the people of the church breathe deeply of it they will think nothing of closing the doors to evening service, then morning Bible study, and then preaching altogether. It is an attitude, or an atmosphere, or a culture that makes the ears itch, that causes people to stop valuing and seeking Christ.

Don’t be confused; although it looks like I’m describing unbelief, the blight is distinct from this. It’s not that blighted people are becoming unbelievers, it’s that their sanctification is halted. The blight transforms the church from a small and faithful body to an enormous and faithless group. The blight replaces learning with ignorance, fidelity with doubt, and as new people are pulled in, the old ones are pushed out. The preaching of Charles Finney produced the ‘Burned over district.’ That’s another word for what happens when the blight sticks around long enough. 

And the blight is what happens when you sign up to become a Willow Creek church.

The Why of the Blight: The Systemic Problems of Willow Creeks Model

  1. It’s expressly prohibited by Scripture. The idea is that if we find out peoples needs we can tailor the sermons and programs to meet people where they’re at is completely undone by the fact that Scripture directly prohibits it. Paul warned Timothy against this very thing in 2 Timothy 4:2-5 when he instructed him to ignore everyone and continue preaching the gospel no matter what happens. But it’s not just that God said it and we’re disobeying—it’s that there’s sound wisdom in this prohibition—for in reality immature people don’t know what they want. The situation can be likened to my kids getting fussy (a common occurrence) and me trying to fix it by polling them instead of being a parent and just doing what’s best for them, “Uh hey kids, what would fix this fussing? You say you would be happy I gave you candy? Okay then.” Sometimes we need to have the doctor tells us bad news, and give us medicine which doesn’t taste nice. Look at James, if he gave people what was pleasant he never would have commanded them to weep, wail, and mourn, and the same goes for the messages of Isaiah and Jeremiah.

  2. It denies the authority of Scripture. This might come as a surprise, because the leaders pushing it might (and many times do) affirm the Chicago statement on Inerrancy, but if he’s a willow creek man he’s in full denial of the authority of Scripture.This is because either God has explicitly told us how to conduct church or He didn’t. He has either commanded us to evangelize a certain way, or He didn’t. If He didn’t, then why bother, and if He did, then we have to submit and do it His way, because the Bible isn’t a book that we come to with questions and get answers for. The Bible is the book that asks us questions and demands answers from us. At bottom Willow Creek denies that the faithful proclamation of the Scriptures is insufficient—we need drama, and skits, games, and things people like if we are to win them, but consider this for a moment and you realize that the denial of the sufficiency of Scripture is merely the fruit of the rejection of Scriptures authority.

  3. It doesn’t Pastor. One key thing Willow Creek does to appeal to people is to let them be part of the crowd. “If you don’t feel comfortable coming forward, that’s fine, nobody is asking you to. We want you to be comfortable here. Wear your blue jeans and sit in the back if you like, that’s okay with us, and when you’re ready, you come forward to discuss your problems.” As the church grows in size it becomes practically impossible to shepherd the sheep, because aside from the problem of having a congregation larger than you can manage, the system doesn’t encourage the shepherd to leave the 99 and go after the one, it encourages him to figure out a way to recruit 2 more instead. A church who brings people in anonymously keeps them anonymously, because what we’ve won them with, we win them to, and when we win them with entertainment, we can’t expect to move on to pastoring. When you set up anonymity as the chief good, well, certain non-negotiables have to go.
  4. It plays catch up. What is the Willow Creek model but a plan designed to lure, draw, or entertain people into the kingdom? But how entertaining are we? Can we really compete with the world, or the Mormons for meeting people’s needs and giving them happy, healthy families, or successful, wealthy lives? Is this kind of formulaic, self improvement schedule that features God at the highest point of the pyramid the model we want to be advancing? The world is far better at this than we are. Competing with Game of Thrones and Mormonism for people’s time and attention? Good luck. The world is always better at it than we are.

  5. Friedrich Hayek already proved it couldn’t be done.
    If Willow Creek fails even at the secular level to build a lasting organization, then why should it be tried in the house of God? In his excellent little book The road to serfdom, Hayek showed that the only way to manage a large group through a top down approach is to pick winners and losers. That is, preaching to felt needs necessarily pushes the church further into homogenized compartments because before we being we have to select which felt needs we’re going to meet. If we’re going to address the felt needs of the 40 year old people then we’ve automatically excluded everyone else. And how long can a church last at this rate? Not into the next generation is the answer. The willow creek model for the people my age is the emergent church, a group so outrageous that in under a decade they’ve managed to achieve total apostasy. 

  6.  It denies cardinal doctrines. What would the apostle Paul think of the Willow Creek model? Answer: he actually wrote to the Corinthians to tell them to stop doing it.
For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’ Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
(1 Cor 1:17-24)
     and again it is written,

“My speech and my preaching were not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Cor 2:4),


“the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor 2:14).

Next: Part Three, this time it’s personal

No comments: