Willow Creek’s change of direction from “seeker sensitive” to “disciple making” church has been widely reported and blogged about. Christianity Today has two recent articles about the change, Willow Creek Repents? and Willow Creek’s Huge Shift.
In essence, the church uncovered a shallowness in members’ faith and practice with high levels of dissatisfaction and found that the most satisfied Christians were those who were “self-feeders” who were then contagious in their evangelism because of the depth of their relationship with Christ.
The seeker sensitive model of church depended largely on making the Christian sub-culture attractive, with high quality worship services, comfortable meeting places and a plethora of professionally presented programmes. The model for mission can be represented like this:
Friends invited their friends from other sub-cultures to participate in this world of pop-concert style worship and life-management style sermons in a symphony hall venue. The depth of the 13 Christian personality types mattered little in this model of evangelism because the culture of church was of prime importance. Now, instead of pouring energy and resources into making church culture attractive, Willow Creek seeks to build attractive Christian people. There are no short-cuts to this. Deeper knowledge of Christ, more radical obedience to Christ, increased love for Christ and evident trust in Christ only come through disciplined discipleship, training and devotional life.
The Mars Hill church mission model is already ahead of Willow Creek in this way. Their mission model can be represented simply by reversing the arrows of the diagram above.
The focus at the centre is on building disciples with a radical love, obedience, trust and knowledge of Christ who will understand the world’s sub-cultures and be able to live for Christ in those places. I’ll blog some of the lessons from Mark Driscoll’s “Radical Reformission” over the next week or so, especially with respect to non-homogenous church growth, messy churches and friendship evangelism.