When it was announced to the Christian world in 2007 that one of the largest churches in North America was admitting to making strategic errors in its disciple-making process, a lot of people paid attention
Willow Creek Community Church, a suburban Chicago congregation that has blazed a trail for churches all over the world that yearn to reach seekers, realized that, while they were still growing – even putting up a new, larger worship space – they were at risk of sustaining significant losses from among the congregation’s most mature believers. It was time to reassess. That was 2004.
The staff, along with a market research consultant, took three years to look at how ministry was being done, and how it could be done more effectively. Various surveys were conducted, both in-house and among six other ‘test’ congregations. The results of this reassessment are summarized in REVEAL: Where Are You? (Willow Creek Resources, 2007).
The biggest question that was faced was the matter of how one quantitatively measures spiritual development. It was generally assumed at Willow that deeper involvement in church programs yielded more mature followers of Christ. But that method, according to their research, was flawed. Not only did they learn that involvement in many programs did not necessarily bring about a deeper life in Christ, they also learned that the more mature that the believer becomes, the less she or he tends to rely on the local church as a place for spiritual growth.
This is a short read – a matter of just a couple of hours. The book is attractively designed with full-colour, easily-understood graphs and well-written text. It leaves one wanting to read more.
Good news: there is more. The follow-up volume, FOLLOW ME: What’s Next For You? is next on my reading pile.
I love the humility with which Willow Creek has undertaken not only to reverse the trend they were seeing in their own congregation, but to share it with the rest of the world, so that churches everywhere may benefit from what they have learned. That’s a Kingdom mentality that would be amazing to see in more places.