Hybels View Of Church essay example
I would not call Hybels a theologian. He presents very basic evangelical theology. This is in sharp contrast to Guder's book, which has very sophisticated theologically developed views on the nature of the church. There is no discussion of God's relationship to his creation or the kingdom. Actually there is very little kingdom talk. The emphasis seems to be that the local church is very important.
But there is no connection to the global catholic (universal) church. This again contrasts Guder's global outlook. Guder does not discount the importance of the local church, but wisely sets it within the context of the global communion. The local church is primarily seen as a vehicle of evangelism and fellowship.
I was surprised that Hybels says nothing about the importance of worship. I have come to the conviction that churches should be primarily worshipping community. All other activities (evangelism, teaching, discipleship, social care etc.) flow from this primary calling of worshipping the triune God. But Guder also does not address the issue of worship. Rather he is setting out a "map" for our mission al witness in the world. The philosophy of ministry is outlined by Hybels most clearly in ten and twelve.
In chapter ten he basically presents a message given by Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian at a church leadership conference at Willow Creek. The four key elements of a healthy church are: teaching, fellowship, evangelism and helping those in need. Preaching is seen as something that should be done only by those who are gifted, spiritually disciplined and anointed by the Spirit. Hybels fails here to clearly spell out what biblical preaching is. He does not identify exegetical, expositional, narrative or topical as being the preferred method. Fellowship is seen as the opportunity to share deep needs in the context of small groups.
There is nothing really groundbreaking here. The usual critique of superficiality in churches is given. Evangelism is a big part of Willow Creek's numerical growth. They have used dram and music to effectively draw seekers into their services.
In fact, there Sunday morning services are entirely seeker drive. Hybels emphasis is that Jesus commanded us to evangelize and that people are lost without him. There is no mention of the Spirit's working within believers to soften their hearts to the lost ness of man. The section on helping the poor consists of primarily the need of developing programs such as food pantries, thrift clothing and other such services for those who can not afford them. I found the problem here is that we are not encouraged to challenge the structural evil that creates these situations of need in the first place.
The church is not really challenged to be prophetic, but is instead regulated to the function of any other social service agency. Chapter twelve examines ten core values that Hybels identifies as being part of Willow Creek's philosophy of ministry. The first is that anointed teaching can change lives. It is interesting that Hybels confronts some of the very criticisms of Willow Creek by others. Hybels warns against "felt-need" messages and being too slick in the production of a service. I wonder if outsiders would sense this when attending a Willow Creek service.
The other core values include lost people matter to God, the church should be culturally relevant, Christ followers should be authentic, the church should encourage the members to use their spiritual gifts, loving relationships should be a regular part of church life, small groups are important, excellence honors God and inspires people, pastors should have leadership gifts, full devotion to Christ should be the norm. Hybels did not have much scriptural examples of these values. It seemed to that these values were more reflections on what he had learned as a pastor at Willow Creek. What was shocking was that there was no connection global missions or global problems. Hybels does discuss their global outreach in chapter eight. But this is more about how they are exporting their philosophy of ministry through conferences and seminars.
The values were entirely localized and internal (except the emphasis on lost people). In Guder's book there are much more sophisticated presentations on the kingdom of God and understanding of the present cultural context. Hybels has very little cultural critique. The most revealing part of the book comes on pages 173-75 as Hybels reveals how their team evangelism works. He writes: Everything from the music to the printed program is designed specifically for unchurched people. We have services on the weekend, because if non-believers finally decide to attend church, that's when they " ll decide to go.
We minimize the "cringe factor" by maintaining excellence. Hybels then goes on to explain that they are doing what Billy Graham has done for years. That is, putting together an attractive service that will appeal to no-believers. The problem with this thinking is that Graham has been called to an exclusively evangelistic ministry that incorporates all the local churches in a community for a one time event. Whereas Hybels has been called to one specific local church that needs to be more multi-faceted in its approach to ministry. It seemed to me that Hybels focuses 80% of his energy to reaching the unreached.
While the remaining 20% is spent on worship, teaching and the other core values of his church. I find this to be extremely unbalanced. Willow Creek is a mission al church in the sense that they take the mission of evangelism seriously. But I would not place them on the level that Guder's calling the church to be. Hybels has no detailed understanding of North American post-modern culture. His philosophy of ministry is almost entirely anthropocentric, rather then Theo centric.
(Guder is clear that mission always has its start with God). Hybels has adapted his entire philosophy of ministry to the needs of the unchurched around him. I was motivated by Hybels passion to reach the lost. He has worked very hard and no doubt many people are in the kingdom because of his efforts. I am just troubled by the lack of balance that he portrays in his church. There is so much emphasis on outreach that there seems to be little energy left for societal social change or spiritual disciplines.
There was almost no emphasis on the need for intercessory prayer in Hybel's philosophy of ministry. I cannot recall reading even on reference to a weekly prayer meeting. I know that Hybels values prayer for personal growth but neglect to mention the need for corporate prayer. I found that there was a section in Guder's book that reminded me of Hybels' view of leadership. Guder states that "Effectiveness assumes that the goal of management is to control the processes of intricate social reality for specific need. The manager maximizes organizational effectiveness in resource capacity and market growth.
These management skills have become central images of church leadership". This seems to be describing what Hybels has been presenting in the latter half of this book! A carefully engineered program that promises the desired outcome of church growth. In the concluding chapter Hybels describes how he attempts to develop participating members in his church. He follows a 5 G plan - grace, growth, group, gifts and good stewards.
Grace simply means coming to faith and being baptized. Growth means they are growing in their faith. Group means they are involved in a small group. Gifts means that the members are operating in their areas of gifting. Good stewardship means the members are giving financially to the church. What is lacking is how Hybels communicates the 5 G's to his congregation.
Is it taught through Sunday Morning or a mid-week study? Does he do the teaching, or does someone else? In conclusion, I would have to say that Hybels view of church seems to be rather limited to his mid-west American experience. The book is riddled with poignant stories of people finding help through the church. It also contains many easy to remember slogans and motto's. But what it is really lacking is thoughtful theological reflection.
I am guessing that his primary audience is those who want to replicate the numerical growth that willow Creek has experienced. There is nothing wrong with that. But these practical suggestions need to be coupled with more sober study on God's plan for the church universal, not just the church local.