This morning we took an English friend to Willow Creek -. a popular pilgrimage for many of our overseas visitors. I was intrigued because Christianity Today (June 2008) ran a piece -Willow Creek's "Huge Shift" about this church's new plan to gear weekend services towards mature believers helping them grow in faith. The article said that Senior Pastor Bill Hybels was unavailable for comment.
However he preached this morning on 'Have you died yet?" Based on John 12:24, where one seed must die to bring forth a harvest, his (impressive) visual aid was 45 bushels (baskets) of wheat - the amount just 2 bushels of seeds can produce when they "die." While Jesus was obviously talking about his own life's mission, verses 25-25 challenge "everyone who bears Christ's name is going to do some dying themselves." Seekers need to die to foolishness (Ps 14:1a), to lying (Rom 1:20-23) and to self-atoning (Tit 3:5). Beginning and growing Christians need to die to sin (Rom 6:11), to the allurements of value systems of this world (1 John 2:15-17). Mature Christians need to know they can regress (1 Cor 15:31)...I die every day. As you can tell, I made notes (- my normal practice...it really helps me listen and reflect)!
But what made most impact was the way that Bill Hybels spoke from the heart. When he said: "You cannot produce full yield until you are fully yielded" you knew he himself was on the front line. When a preacher speaks from the heart about yielding, dying every day, and about depending utterly on the goodness of God.....with openness, vulnerability, just raw honesty about their current experience....that connects! Yes, there was emotion - one of the church young people had been tragically killed the previous night. Yes, he is a skilled and practiced preacher with amazing resources. But he preached Scripture out of personal conviction that rang true for me. I have no idea what the Lord has in store for Willow and him. But I think not making comments to the press, while preaching his heart out for God to form a yielded community is the way ahead.