My Visit to Willow Creek: I Didn’t Know I Was in Church Until the Offering!

-By Don Boys, Ph.D.

People were walking toward the impressive auditorium from every direction. I got the impression of a crowd going to a sporting event. Almost every person was dressed as if they were. Out of thousands of people, I saw one man wearing a suit; most people were in shorts so I saw lots of leg. It was a very causal event. I did see five or six women carrying what seemed to be Bibles, although surely not a KJV! But then, I’m making an unsupported judgment.

Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, IL is having an incredible impact on “evangelical” churches as thousands of copycat congregations have been organized in recent years and many others have revamped their traditional services with a motive to replicate their success. Bill Hybels, the founding pastor, is more of a CEO than pastor. He was one of Bill Clinton’s counselors and defenders! He had Clinton in his church for a “no holds barred” interview in front of thousands of pastors on August 10, 2000, but Hybels only threw him “soft balls.” He did not ask about the many other allegations of sexual sins, even rape, by Clinton nor did he bring up the massacre at Waco. Zero, zilch. Yet it was a “no-holds barred” interview!

Hybels told the crowd, he thought Clinton’s confession in September 1998 was “an honest one, but that he never got credit from the American public for admitting his mistake.” “Mistake?” Hybels told the pastors that the president’s “confession” and “apology” was worthy of King David himself who committed adultery and murder! Clinton, he said, gave one of the most contrite and complete confessions he said he had ever seen! Astounding naiveté or dishonesty!

And to compare Clinton’s confession with that of King David is close to blasphemy. Hear David in Psalm 51 as his body shakes with weeping contrition, head bowed as he cries: “Have mercy upon me, O God….Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin….Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in they sight….Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow….Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” Worthy of King David, indeed! That interview is one of the most despicable things a preacher has ever done!

You might think Hybels would learn from his Clinton fiasco but he is a slow learner. On October 2, 2001, Hybels invited a local Muslim leader, Faisal Hammouda, to speak about Islam to his congregation, no, that is his “audience.” “Congregation” is not seeker-friendly. Hammouda was provided a huge forum to spread lies about his false and dangerous religion. The Muslim leader said, “We believe in Jesus more than you do, in fact.” Did Bill point out that the Jesus they believe in is not God nor did He die on the cross and rise from the dead? No, that would be confrontational! Hybels has forgotten that he is to preach the gospel to false religions, not dialogue with them.

Pastor Hybels would do well to follow the example of the Apostle Paul who boldly preached against false gods at Mars Hill and proclaimed God’s command that all men everywhere repent of sin and by faith rely on the finished redemptive work of Christ at Calvary. Hybels is another example of a weak, wimpy, worldly preacher who should be elected President of the League of the Willfully Blind.

Because of the above (and other) offenses, I would like to see Hybels publicly stripped of his Sunday School pins, his preaching-Bible confiscated, and then frog-marched out of the church into the business world where he belongs and where he can’t do much damage to the cause of Christ. Rick Warren should shuffling behind him.

As I entered the Willow Creek Church that Sunday morning, I was looking for inspiration, information, and instruction. I got some information, and one out of three isn’t bad. To be honest, some positive things impressed me. Numerous men helped with the massive job of getting everyone parked, and a huge number of people greeted us in a very friendly manner. They seemed to be very pleased that we were there. Many Baptist pastors should take note!

The building was very impressive, comfortable, and “user friendly.” The sound system was excellent (not purchased at a local discount store) and had plenty of volume. The service (concert) started on time with very loud music performed by a well-known Latin band. They were not well known to me but then I haven’t known much about bands since the days of Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman. So what do I know?

Anyway, I was assured that they were famous having played for Billy Graham and Promise Keepers. Since I’m not a music expert, I can’t say they were “good,” but I can say they were loud, very loud. And raucous. The young, talented, handsome leader seemed to be convinced that he was young, talented, and handsome, but then I am making a judgment. I don’t know their hearts but I do know they convinced me that they were aping the world in dress, music, attitude, etc.

The band did seven or eight numbers and I realized that I could never again say, “I have never been to a rock concert.” I was informed that what I heard was not rock music, but I repeat, what do I know? It sure sounded like rock. I finally realized that I was in “church” when the offering was taken and someone mentioned Christ. This took place one hour into the “service.” To their credit, the offering was “soft sell,” not “hard sell” as in many fundamentalist churches.

During the “song service,” they sang a chorus repeating more than 40 times, “You are good, all the time.” I assume they were referring to Christ.

There was a lot of movement during the “music.” A young woman in front of us was usually the first one to shoot straight up in her seat throwing her arms into the air, rotating her hips as she snapped her fingers. Of course, the herd mentality took over and soon most of the congregation was standing except for my wife and me and a few others. It was obvious that rather than the church taking the Gospel message into the world, ambitious pastors have brought the world into the church.
Dr. Don Boys is a former member of the Indiana House of Representatives, author of 13 books, frequent guest on television and radio talk shows, and wrote columns for USA Today for 8 years His most recent book is ISLAM: America’s Trojan Horse! His websites are and

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Copyright Publius Forum 2001