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Archive for November 2007

Lee Strobel Coming!

This Sunday will be one to remember! Lee Strobel will be coming to CCC services at 9, 10:45 and for a special Question and Answer at 12:30 in the student center. He will be in person in the sanctuary and via video into Access.

For those of you who may not know, Lee is a New York Times best-selling author, world class speaker and dynamite researcher. As the former legal-affairs editor for the Chicago Tribune, he uses his skills to examine the evidence for faith. His most recent book “The Case for the Real Jesus” was released earlier this year.

He launched into his spiritual journey as a highly skeptical Atheist, examining the evidence and looking for reasons to disbelieve. Currently, he travels around the country/world interviewing scholars and doing detailed examinations of current scholarly issues surrounding Jesus. He is an amazing speaker with a compelling story and a tremendous heart for God.

Don’t miss the event! Plan to stay for the question and answer. (How many times do you get that opportunity?) Bring your friends…there is room for more!

Shocking Confession

An article by radio show host Bob Burney has been circulating recently about the “Shocking Confession” of Bill Hybels at Willow Creek Community Church. The article takes a few quotes of Bill Hybels (Senior Pastor of Willow) and Greg Hawkins (executive pastor) and makes sweeping conclusions of the failure of the ‘seeker sensitive movement’. He has read the recently published book “REVEAL” (by Greg Hawkins and Cally Parkinson), about the statistical data on Willow Creek’s effectiveness in partnering with God to change people’s hearts. The primary idea of the paper is found in the first paragraph, “The report reveals that most of what they have been doing for these many years and what they have taught millions of others to do is not producing solid disciples of Jesus Christ. Numbers yes, but not disciples.” He further states that now Hybels himself is admitting that his entire philosophy was, in large part ‘a mistake’.

Hogwash.

How do I know? I was there, in person, in detail. I served at Willow Creek as the director of evangelism for seven years 1999-2006. I also directed or oversaw the ministries to New Believers, Internationals, Apologetics, and launched Casa de Luz, the Hispanic ministry. Having been a senior leader at Willow, I know the inside scoop of what happened publicly and behind the scenes. I was a coworker with Greg Hawkins and Cally Parkinson, with a very close day-to-day relationship with Parkinson. I was there when the survey was taken. I sat in rooms as the data was analyzed. I watched the effects as the data hit the streets. I saw the announcement at the leadership summit of how this data affected leadership decisions and the future trajectory of the church.

Here are some reflections:
1) Every church has strengths and weaknesses. Ours sure does. The thing about Willow is that Hybels has the guts to measure his, change things, and publicly admit the weakest places. Wow. That is courageous leadership.

2)Willow Creek is a massive church, with approximately 20,000 in weekly attendance. Some people who attend were very shallow in their faith. Some were more mature. My ministry had hundreds of non-Christians and new believers. We also had 11 former pastors and 20 others with Christian master’s degrees in Christian programs- all of them volunteer leaders. These leaders were very well formed spiritually and passionate about teaching Inductive Bible Study, personal prayer, apologetics, theology, spiritual disciplines and rigorous Christian thinking.

3)Willow Creek has led an inordinate amount of people to faith in Christ. In a congregation like Willow, you will naturally have more people that don’t have inductive Bible Study skills because there is a huge percentage that came to faith as adults. Compare this to the typical American church that only sees about 1% of their congregational size come to Christ in a typical year and you can easily imagine why the ‘average’ person in a typical church has a higher Biblical literacy rate than one in an evangelistic church. It makes sense that there is lower Biblical acumen in a church with a high rate of growth through conversion.

4)When the results of the REVEAL survey came out, there were many categories that Willow Creek scored exceptionally high on. Hybels did not brag about these at the leadership summit, nor did Hawkins and Parkinson in their book. Willow people are insatiable learners and will tend to go after areas of improvement with tenacity. This is not to say there are not tremendous strengths, but they are often understated by Willow’s leadership.

5) Willow does a better job of turning people into fully devoted followers of Jesus than nearly any church I have ever seen. Not only are there Sunday services, but additionally, there are deeper-life services on Wednesdays with extended worship and excellent Bible teaching every week. In 2000, there were 17,000 weekend attenders and 17,000 people in small groups ministry. As a staff member, we would constantly go after excellence in Christian maturity in training, discipling, encouraging and loving people. Were there really weak areas? Of course! And there always will be. Did we take risks on some things and fail? Of course! But I am proud to have ventured out and tried some things – even though they did not all produce the fruit we dreamed of.

6)New Believers were trained in understanding the scriptures, Biblical concepts, and how to study the Bible in their first year of discipleship. In addition to the two services a week, they were in small group contexts with a mature disciplemaker who would invest deeply in their growth. This pattern was certainly in place before I ever arrived and was continuing on in 2006.
Being a high profile church, Willow is constantly attacked by people who have little firsthand knowledge and a big axe to grind. In his article, Bob Burney states of Willow and churches that utilize a Willow Creek strategy: “We were told that preaching was out, relevance was in. Doctrine didn’t matter nearly as much as innovation. If it wasn’t “cutting edge” and consumer friendly it was doomed. The mention of sin, salvation and sanctification were taboo and replaced by Starbucks, strategy and sensitivity.”

7) In all my years at Willow, I have heard any of the statements or nuances that are explicit in this claim, neither in church, nor in conferences. Burney is attacking a non-existent straw man. It is too bad that so many are willing to buy his assumptions without knowing the facts and quickly forward emails on to influence others as well.

One of the most important rules of good Bible Study is to ‘take the text in context’. Another is to understand the historical background and context of its author. Not only are these good rules to follow for Bible Study, they are an intelligent way to understand the present culture. Unfortunately, when it comes to his critique of Willow, Burney ignores both of these – quoting people out of context, and ignoring the reality of the amazing evangelistic and discipleship ministry God is doing at Willow.

It is my prayer that my church, and churches across America will experience the same courage and boldness that Willow did in facing its weaknesses and working to correct them. We plan to do the REVEAL survey in January. I hope it grows our church and helps us to become all God wants us to be. Kudos to Bill Hybels and Willow for leading the way once again!

Thankful

Gratitude is a key to a rich life. Paul said “Give Thanks in everything.” (I Thes 5:17) Why? Because thankfulness molds the soul. It brings perspective, it infects people around you. It keeps you from becoming self-absorbed. It makes you increasingly generous and less selfish . Gratitude is critical to acheiving life in all it’s fullness.

I am going to list out things I am grateful for…not just the typical things you say at the Thanksgiving table (health, family, turkey) but the other stuff…the stuff that brings joy but often times goes forgotten:

I am thankful for:

  • Asiago cheese bagels at Panera
  • A working heater in my car
  • Butterflies
  • Leather chairs
  • The smell of chocolate-chip cookies
  • Mike Kimmons’ exuberant worship style
  • Logic
  • Things that defy logic
  • Hugs from Josiah before I go to work
  • The sound of a Harley
  • Google, Bible Gateway, and Mapquest
  • Air Travel that connects me to cool places in the world
  • Health Insurance
  • Haiven’s little laugh, especially when it is loud and in public
  • Tooth-whitening strips
  • Jean Bishop, Lottie Krogh, and others who have been faithful to CCC for over 7 decades
  • Hope for eternity
  • Nose hair clippers
  • The Fighting Illini’s recordbreaking turnaround, 9-3 record and defeat of the #1 team in the nation!
  • Grace when I mess up, and more grace
  • A wife who stuck with me for over 17 years
  • My dentist…really…when I think of life without dental work…I am grateful
  • A library full of books that connect me to the best thinkers in the world
  • Jesus
  • Friends that hang Christmas lights with me on the Saturday after Thanksgiving
  • Yappy little Schnauzer dogs
  • The sounds of kids learning to play piano
  • Garage Door openers on rainy days
  • The opportunity to make a little difference in the lives of people around me…

Happy Thanksgiving all! Make it real…by being truly thankful…

It's "Official"

This church is blessed to have a great ministry staff of paid and volunteer directors. I can tell you already that I am having a great time working with them and can’t wait for the months ahead! Let me introduce them.

Lead Worshipper
Jason Hinze has been in the Omaha area leading many into worship for a number of years. He is a well respected musician but known more for his caring heart and love for God. That heart and love shows whether in a worship service or in a one on one conversation. Jason will primarily be in Access and work closely with David Potter in anticipation of starting the Sarpy Campus in February. Jason is married to Courtney and they just had their first child the 10th of November!
Elementary Children’s Director
Darla Bair has been involved in children’s ministry since she was a freshman in high school. Over the years Darla has overseen ministries where children’s lives were touched with the love of God. Whether in Thailand, New York or in a church plant or here at Christ Community, Darla loves seeing children discover the love, joy and hope that comes from Jesus. Darla is married to Chris and has a 10 year old daughter and a 5 year old son.
Preschool Children’s Director
Liz Friesen will oversee our birth to preschool ministry. Liz has been actively involved here at the Old Mill campus ranging from coordinating MOPS [Mothers of Preschoolers] to being a story teller to our Wednesday night Cubbies. She too this as a wonderful opportunity for babies, toddlers and preschoolers to experience God’s grace and love in a very tangible way. Liz is married to Jared and has three children 4, 3 and 1.
Technical Arts Director
Marc Birkey is a freshman in college who has demonstrated a serving heart for many years. Marc has been actively involved in giving sound, light and video support for youth and college ministries along with the five Sunday morning services. Marc is a well known by the church staff and is so appreciated for his willing spirit to communicate God’s love in a clear and understandable way.

That is our paid staff for the Sarpy Campus.
Below are the names and positions for our volunteer directors.

Hospitality
This critical ministry is overseen by Fred and Deb Wohlenhaus. Fred and Deb will coordinate a team that will make sure that the minute someone drives on the the grounds until they leave that they will be greeted with a warm smile, a good cup of coffee, something to munch on and have any of their questions answered.
Roadies
Jason Hartig and Jim Kropenske will make sure that all the equipment from our trailer will be set up and packed up in a timely way. They will have a great team that loves to work behind the scenes so each person attending will feel at home.
Journey Groups
This is a major component of our adult ministry. Beth Siemens is the Journey Group coordinator. She will make sure that you have can get connected into an adult group that meets on a day/night of the week with others that are like minded. Tom and Becky Moates along with Bob and Janice Cummings will help coach and encourage the groups once they are up and running. Currently we have close to 80 adults involved in a journey group!
Women & Men’s ministry
Terry Walters and Dan Brandt will be coordinating various men’s and women’s activities and studies specifically for there in Sarpy County.

Biggest Upset!

ANNNNDDDDD…….

Coming in at #20 in the BCS standings this week is the Illini of the University of Illinois!
Yes, that’s right! The team that swept into the home field of the
NUMBER ONE team in the nation and snatched the game away from under their noses 28-21.

It was a nearly flawless game for the Illini. No turnovers, only one penalty. Four hard-driving touchdowns. And Ohio State goes down! The first time Illinois has EVER beaten a #1 team in it’s home.

What does this mean? The ILLINI are back. They have been gone for about 3.5 decades, but with almost all of the talent being freshman/sophomores, you can be looking for a team that is a national contender in the next two years.

Go Illini!