I changed my bio on our website this week.
I have always listed out ‘random affections’ because hearing about what people love tells us a lot about them. The people who influence us tell us a lot about who we are… Can you list out the 4 or 5 people who have most shaped you as a friend, a spouse, or a parent? Who are your vocational mentors? What are your random affections?
I have been in vocational ministry and organizational leadership for almost 25 years. During all that time, I have looked to and admired the work of Bill Hybels and Willow Creek Community Church:
- Back in the 90’s, I attended the (now renamed) Church Leadership Summit.
- I had a subscription to their sermon recordings. Each week I would get a cassette tape (!) in the mail with a sermon from John Ortberg or Bill Hybels.
- I own and have read almost every book that Bill has written.
- I have worshipped at Willow Creek a half dozen times.
- I wanted to be passionate like Bill was passionate for the local church.
- I wanted to tell riveting stories that make people laugh and cry… like he did to me.
- I wanted to care about lost people being reconciled to God and take risks to tell them that God loves them… like he does.
- I wanted to be excellent and confident in my leadership… like him.
- I wanted to to launch and support transforming Kingdom works… like he did (the Care Center, Cars Ministry, raising awareness about Global Poverty, calling the church to care about prisoners in prison, and so many others…)
- I rejoiced when Bill named his successor to be a leadership/preaching team of Heather Larson and Steve Carter.
The allegations against Bill are consistent. The behavior of which he is accused is wrong (and so many other negative adjectives). I wish he would publicly acknowledge what he actually did and put to rest the conjecture. It is painful (heart-wrenching) to watch a legacy dissolve; to witness the implosion of a church that changed the way we think about church.
Bill did shape me as a leader. But I have had to change my mind and repent of my aspirations to lead as one who is ‘mentored by Bill’ (from a distance through books and talks). I can no longer affirm his ministry by listing him as an affection on my bio.
I am sorting through what it means when our ‘heroes’ fail us. I am sad, sobered, cautious. We have talked about these events on our staff team and among my ministry peers. Our vestry, staff, and personnel team have taken time this summer to revise and strengthen our harassment policy.
I mourn for what is happening at Willow Creek. I can’t imagine the pain that the congregation is experiencing. I mourn for the degradation of the church (again) in the public’s eye. These events and resignations are more fuel for the fire.
I continue to look for men and women who are leading thriving organizations with integrity, compassion, skill, competence, and love. By God’s grace, there are thousands of these people!
May we all live lives of close accountability. I really appreciate this blog to pastors from Rich Villados. I think there is a lot of cross-over into your world as well.
We need to be known:
- both our gifts and our shortcomings
- both our strengths and our temptations
- both our flourishing joy and our lonely deceptions.
I wanted you to know what’s been going on in my mind and heart over the last few weeks. I am grateful to be your pastor.