Willow Creek Community Church, one of the largest and most influential churches in the nation, is unleashing a new vision that would expand its already far-reaching impact around the world.
Senior Pastor Bill Hybels unleashed Vision 2010 to the Willow Creek family in a kick-off sermon series this past weekend, calling congregants to a bolder unprecedented outreach and impact for the coming years. And the "two-word term that keeps reverberating in this vision is multiplied impact," said Hybels.
Multiplied impact will happen on three levels – the surrounding community, within the church itself, and the world.
The first big idea that Hybels and his Willow Creek team in South Barrington, Ill., heard "loud and clear" during their months of strategic planning and prayer was to raise the level of risk associated with reaching people far from God all across the Chicagoland area. That means a bolder witness and reaching out to the lonely and confused people across racial and socioeconomic lines.
This approach comes out of Hybels' Just Walk Across the Room book and evangelism campaign which was named Best Outreach Resource of 2006 by Outreach magazine.
The megachurch and its regional campuses have at least 9,000 more seats to fill at their current locations, Hybels noted. Through a bolder approach to outreach, Willow anticipates God to move in supernatural ways and see His power released.
The second idea Hybels unfolded was to rethink how they coach Christ followers as they pursue a fully surrendered life.
A survey conducted among Willow Creek attendants had revealed "mind-blowing" results, as Hybels put it. It asked how satisfied attendants were with how Willow Creek serves them at various stages in their spiritual development. Pre-Christians, or people who are still seeking and exploring Christianity, rated Willow Creek "very high." Ratings dropped slightly among new Christians but were still "fantastic." Adolescent Christians rated the church as good. But fully devoted followers of Christ indicated less satisfaction, saying they are not sure the church is helping them as much at this stage in their life.
"We want more of the deep truths of God," they said, according to Hybels.
In Vision 2010, Willow Creek leaders will be altering the way they coach to teach attendants how to be "self-feeding individuals" early on in their spiritual development. Rather than expecting to be spiritually fed each week with a 35-40 minute sermon on Sundays, congregants will start learning how to take responsibility for their own feeding. Everything else – the worship services and the classes at Willow Creek – will just be "whip cream" on top.
Willow Creek's third big idea is to unleash unprecedented levels of compassion into the broken world. The megachurch already feeds thousands locally through food pantries and sends aid overseas for AIDS relief and tsunami recovery. But Hybels believes they're just in the "warm-up stage of what God is going to do in and through this church in unleashing unprecedented amounts of compassion and justice and fighting for the poor and oppressed in this world."
This is where "multiplied impact" comes in.
"When God moves in our church more and more, then it stirs other churches," said Hybels. "As the watching world sees Willow do this, there will be multiplied impact around the nation and around the world."
"God has a destiny for you beyond what your faith can imagine," the senior pastor kept recalling from his own Christian walk and the building of Willow Creek and repeating to the church. "God's greatest miracles are in our future, not our past."
Willow Creek Community Church began more than 30 years ago with Hybels and a group of young students at the Willow Creek Theater in Palatine and now has an average attendance of 20,000 each week at its newly built auditorium and regional campuses. After starting the Willow Creek Association in 1992, the megachurch has trained and impacted hundreds of thousands of church leaders. The WCA currently has around 12,000 member churches around the world.