Willow Creek, the poster child for seeker sensitive ministry, is no longer trying to be so hip. At the recent Catalyst Conference, a Willow teaching pastor, Darren Whitehead, surprised us with the new Willow.
Thirty years ago Bill Hybels launched Willow and the “Seeker Sensitive” movement from a theater. It was all about being fishers of men by lowering the barriers to introducing people to Christ.
It was now cool to use secular music, video clips of Hollywood movies, drama, smoke machines, contemporary worship or whatever drew people and helped connect them to the gospel. Today Hybels is a household name. The church attracts 25,000 on a weekend and baptized 2,000 last year.
By any measure, that’s successful fishing! But it’s a new day.
Darren explained how young people now seek something deeper, more permanent, and more transformational in their lives. In their swirling digital world, history and context matters. They’re turned off by the “alpha male” leader and desire engagement, authority of the scripture, prayer, and discipleship.
To connect with this new way of thinking, Willow Creek has dropped the seeker sensitive bells and whistles and instead sings hymns and focuses on scripture. It’s no longer about being hip but about being the “salt and light” in an increasingly confused world.
In Darren’s words:
If we lose our saltiness, we are worthless.
I was surprised by such a dramatic shift. How about you?