Open Book
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#metoo hits the church

This month, the entire leadership of Willow Creek Community Church resigned. It was sudden. It was unexpected. It was necessary.

40 years ago a twenty-something youth pastor and a bunch of creative Christ-followers launched the seeker-sensitive movement in a rented movie theater. Bill Hybels, their leader, would become a church-growth rock star.
His church grew to over 20,000. His methods focused on effectively presenting the Gospel in a way that is agreeable to a post-Christian culture, attractive to people pre-occupied with self-actualization. Over time he launched the Willow Creek Association—not a church denomination, but rather an association of self-selecting congregations choosing to incorporate various degrees of Hybels’ methodology.

A business proverb warns, “A little success can be a dangerous thing.” A lot of success can be deadly.

Bill Hybels has been accused of sexual harassment. Accusations have now been made by several women, including his own executive assistant from the late 1980’s. Explaining
why she did not report Mr Hybels’ actions sooner, Ms Baranowski said, “I really did not want to hurt the church. I felt like if this was exposed, this fantastic place would blow up, and I loved the church. I loved the people there. I loved the family. I didn’t want to hurt anybody. And I was ashamed.”

For months the leadership of Willow Creek Community Church couldn’t believe the accusations, especially in light of Pastor Hybels’ strong denials. But facts are stubborn things. Eventually, the sheer number of accusers led them to change their point of view, no longer seeing the accusations as problems to be managed but as facts to be confronted. The church leaders acknowledged their priority had been protecting the institution and its reputation.

Recognizing their lack of vision the elders and lead pastors resigned, and repented.

The Bible recounts something like a
#metoo story. Using his rock-star status King David accessed sexual favors from one of his female subjects. When she informed him of her pregnancy, David did the right thing and married her (adding a young beauty to his trove of wives—a problem for another blog). But the marriage took place only after David arranged for her husband to be killed in battle.

King David thought he’d managed the mess. However, God was watching. God is always watching. When
God’s prophet shrewdly confronted the king about his sin something amazing happened. David immediately acknowledged his sin and repented. No denials. No justifications. No evasions. No obfuscations. King David owned it, and confessed.

Here is why
God Himself identified David as “a man after my own heart.” David was quick to acknowledge sin and repent. No denials. No justifications. No evasions. David owned his sin. He confessed, heartbroken over his own failing.

Your Father in heaven isn’t looking for perfection in you. He’s too wise to look for something where it cannot be found. What God is looking for is humble, repentant people. With such people—despite our multitude of flaws and failings—God is transforming this broken world. ~

Dan Nygaard