Addressing the concerns and needs of a 25,000-member congregation, Pastor Bill Hybels launched a sermon series this past weekend challenging them to return to Jesus' way, or what he called the "forgotten way."
"We're going to ... ask ourselves the question 'why did his way of living ever get substituted for something else along the way? What wisdom became so attractive and maybe so cheap that entire cultures abandoned Jesus' way for alternate paths?'" Hybels told attendees at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill.
"The Forgotten Way" series was born out of a desire to respond to the 20,000 prayer requests they received this past Easter. Many of them dealt with pace of life issues, human sexuality, conflict resolution and money.
Over the course of four weeks, Hybels is hoping to take the teachings of Jesus from 2,000 years ago and focus them on the needs of the congregation today while also contrasting the teachings with the conventional wisdom of today's culture.
"There's two kinds of paths," he said in a promotional video. "There's a broad path that you can take in life. You can make all kinds of choices, follow anybody you want to. But Jesus said it often leads to destruction.
"There's a second kind of path that Jesus talked about. And he said it's a narrower path. In fact, it only follows one leader. It follows one way. It follows one set of teachings. But it leads to life."
In his sermon kicking off the series, the megachurch pastor addressed the issue of pace of life. He challenged Creekers to slow down and stop running after or chasing after things like what to eat and what to wear. A high-paced life could kill relationships not only with family members and friends but also with God because oftentimes, it's time spent with God that gets squeezed out.
"A lot of us say ... my life is just so full ... I can't fit everything in," Hybels said. "If your life is so full ... you had better be very clear [about] what you're going to leave out of it because something or someone is going to get left out."
He urged Christ followers to reprioritize their lives so that time with God and family never get squeezed out.
"I'm here to say it in as simple and direct way as I can. If you allow the concerns and pace of your life to squeeze your communal time with God out of it, the unintended consequences of that are going to be very high," he cautioned.
Along with personal time with God, even going to church and worshipping together is a critical nonnegotiable, he noted. "This is part of discipleship," he stressed.
Alluding to the New Testament passage to seek first His kingdom, Hybels urged, "Be seek first people centered on God who can be trusted, whose families flourish, ... whose churches prevail, ... whose careers soar."
He wasn't preaching "health, wealth and happiness" or promoting "immunity from trials and tragedies" – which are teachings he opposes – but Hybels encouraged attendees that by being seek first people, they can receive blessings from a God who will meet their basic needs and possibly go even beyond meeting those basic needs.