Those of us who have been critical of the Seeker Sensitive project -- the attempt to "grow" churches by surveying the unchurched and adapting accordingly -- have been vindicated by an unlikely source: the Sensitives themselves:
Willow Creek has released the results of a multi-year study on the effectiveness of their programs and philosophy of ministry. The study’s findings are in a new book titled Reveal: Where Are You?, co-authored by Cally Parkinson and Greg Hawkins, executive pastor of Willow Creek Community Church. Hybels himself called the findings “earth shaking,” “ground breaking” and “mind blowing.” And no wonder: it seems that the “experts” were wrong.
The report reveals that most of what they have been doing for these many years and what they have taught millions of others to do is not producing solid disciples of Jesus Christ. Numbers yes, but not disciples. It gets worse. Hybels laments:Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back it wasn’t helping people that much. Other things that we didn’t put that much money into and didn’t put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for.
This would be good news if it heralded a return to confessional orthodoxy and traditional liturgy, but alas:
Our dream is that we fundamentally change the way we do church. That we take out a clean sheet of paper and we rethink all of our old assumptions. Replace it with new insights. Insights that are informed by research and rooted in Scripture. Our dream is really to discover what God is doing and how he’s asking us to transform this planet.
Sounds like the new boss is the same as the old boss. I can't help but think of Rudyard Kipling's delightful poem, the Gods of the Copybook Headings:
We were living in trees when they met us.
They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us,
as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift,
Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas
while we followed the March of Mankind.
We moved as the Spirit listed.
They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne
like the Gods of the Market Place;
But they always caught up with our progress,
and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield,
or the lights had gone out in Rome.
With the Hopes that our World is built on
they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton;
they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses;
they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market
Who promised these beautiful things.
As it will be in the future,
it was at the birth of Man—
There are only four things certain
since Social Progress began:—
That the Dog returns to his Vomit
and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger
goes wabbling back to the Fire;
And that after this is accomplished,
and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing
and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us,
as surely as Fire will bum,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings
with terror and slaughter return!