Beliefs & Values

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10 

Because Jesus came to seek and to save the lost, we feel compelled to do the same. 

The Mission of Willow Creek Community Church is to turn irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

The Vision of Willow Creek Community Church is to be a biblically functional community of believers so Christ’s redemptive purposes can be accomplished in the world. 

Ways to Belong

We’re thrilled you’re exploring what it means to be belong at Willow Creek Community Church by joining the 2:42 Community. Joining the 2:42 Community is a significant step toward integrating into the life of the church. Explore the information on this page to help you get to know Willow Creek as your potential church home.

The Elder Statements

The Elder statements of Willow Creek Community Church summarize the core of our beliefs and interpretations. Elder statements combine biblical integrity and guidance to solve issues that may arise in our church. Click here to view Willow Creek's Elder Statements.

Core Values

Ten core values bring clarity to the things that matter most at Willow. They guide how we achieve our mission, influencing major leadership decisions as well as everyday ministry plans. They even help us navigate staffing and budget issues. In short, they keep us focused on the unique call God has given us as a local church.

  • We believe anointed teaching is the catalyst for transformation in individuals’ lives and in the church. This includes the concept of teaching for life change (Romans 12:7; 2 Timothy 3:16–17; James 1:23–25).
  • We believe lost people matter to God, and therefore, they matter to the church. This includes the concepts of relational evangelism and evangelism as a process (Luke 5:30–32; Luke 15; Matthew 18:14).
  • We believe the church should be culturally relevant while remaining doctrinally pure. This includes the concept of sensitively relating to our culture through our facility, printed materials, and use of the arts (1 Corinthians 9:19–23).
  • We believe Christ followers should manifest authenticity and yearn for continuous growth. This includes the concepts of personal authenticity, character, and wholeness (Ephesians 4:25–26, 32; Hebrews 12:1; Philippians 1:6).
  • We believe a church should operate as a unified community of servants, with men and women stewarding their spiritual gifts. This includes the concepts of unity, servanthood, spiritual gifts, and ministry callings (1 Corinthians 12 and 14; Romans 12; Ephesians 4; Psalm 133:1).
  • We believe loving relationships should permeate every aspect of church life. This includes the concepts of love-driven ministry, ministry accomplished in teams, and relationship building (1 Corinthians 13; Nehemiah 3; Luke 10:1; John 13:34–35).
  • We believe life-change happens best in community. This includes the concepts of discipleship, vulnerability, and accountability (Luke 6:12–13; Acts 2:44–47).
  • We believe excellence honors God and inspires people. This includes the concepts of evaluation, critical review, intensity, and excellence (Colossians 3:17; Malachi 1:6–14; Proverbs 27:17).
  • We believe churches should be led by men and women with God-given leadership gifts. This includes the concepts of empowerment, servant leadership, strategic focus, and intentionality (Nehemiah 1–2; Romans 12:8; Acts 6:2–5).
  • We believe the pursuit of full devotion to Christ and His cause is normal for every believer. This includes the concepts of stewardship, servanthood, downward mobility, and the pursuit of kingdom goals (1 Kings 11:4; Philippians 2:1–11; 2 Corinthians 8:7).

Core Beliefs

Willow Creek's core beliefs describe our theological positions on key aspects of faith. Centered in Christ and His message, ours is a biblical theology rather than a theology that is speculative, subjective, or merely rooted in tradition. These beliefs are derived directly from Scripture (both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible).

The Bible

The sole basis of our belief is the Bible—the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments. We believe Scripture in its entirety originated with God and He revealed it to chosen authors. Scripture speaks with the authority of God while simultaneously reflecting the backgrounds, styles, and vocabularies of these human authors. We hold that the Scriptures, in their original manuscripts, are infallible and inerrant; they are the unique, full, and final authority on all matters of faith and practice. There are no other writings similarly inspired by God.

God

We believe there is one true, holy God, eternally existing in three equal persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the beginning, God demonstrated His power, wisdom, and goodness by creating the world and everything in it. Through His divine power and providence, God continues to sustain His creation, operating within history to fulfill His redemptive purposes.

Salvation

The central purpose of God’s revelation in Scripture is to call people into fellowship with Him. Originally created to be in relationship with God, humans defied Him by going their own independent way, resulting in alienation from Him and the innate inability to please God. This fall took place at the beginning of human history; since then all people have suffered these consequences and are in need of the saving grace of God.

The salvation of humanity is completely a work of God’s free grace; it is not in any way the result of human works or goodness. Each person can receive salvation by repentance and faith. God’s Word assures individuals that He will continue His saving work in them forever.

Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ, the eternal second person of the Trinity, was fully united with a human nature by a miraculous conception and virgin birth. He lived in perfect obedience to the Father, voluntarily paid the price for the sins of all people by dying on the cross as their substitute, and satisfied divine justice, bringing salvation to all who trust in Him alone. After His physical death, Jesus Christ rose from the dead and ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father as the only intercessor between God and humans. He promises to return to earth, personally and visibly, to fulfill history and the eternal plan of God.

The Christian Life (The Holy Spirit)

People in a saving relationship with Jesus Christ are to live in holiness and obedience as they submit to the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. Sent by the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit applies Christ’s saving work by enlightening the minds of sinners to their need to be saved. He renews and indwells each believer upon salvation, becoming their source of assurance, strength, wisdom, and gifting for building up the church. The Holy Spirit guides believers in understanding and applying the Bible. Appropriated by faith, His power and control empower believers to lead a life of Christ-like character and bear fruit for the Father’s glory.

Human Destiny

Death seals the eternal destiny of each person. All humanity will experience a bodily resurrection and a judgment that will determine the fate of each individual. Having rejected God, unbelievers will suffer eternal condemnation apart from Him. Believers will be received into eternal communion with God and will be rewarded for works done in this life.

The Church

All who acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord are united with Him as members of His body, the one true church. Scripture commands believers to gather for worship, prayer, fellowship, and the teaching of the Word; to observe Baptism and Communion as established by Jesus Christ; to offer service to the body through development and use of talents and gifts and outreach to the world. The local expression of the church is wherever God’s people meet regularly in obedience to this command. Cared for and led by Elders and leaders, church members are to work together in love and unity for the ultimate purpose of glorifying Christ.

Faith and Practice

In all matters of faith and practice, Scripture is the final authority. In matters where Scripture is silent, believers should conscientiously seek to be led by God because it is to Him alone he or she is ultimately responsible.

Baptism and Communion

Willow Creek observes two biblical sacraments rooted in the actions and teachings of Jesus Christ: Baptism and Communion. These sacraments represent both the individual, inward commitment to a personal relationship with Jesus and the corporate, outward sign of being connected to a local community of Christ followers—the local church.

Baptism

Adequate knowledge, forethought, and reflection

If the purpose of Baptism is to publicly identify a believer in Jesus Christ, you may well be asking yourself, “What was the significance of my Baptism as a baby?” In the New Testament, we find parents bringing their children to Jesus. He held them and prayed for them and told His disciples to welcome them. But He did not baptize them, and He did not tell anyone else to baptize them. Baptism is for those who have made a personal decision to trust Christ alone for their salvation.

If you were baptized as a child, it was the intent of your parents that you would one day be a follower of Christ. Your Baptism as an adult can be viewed as the fulfillment of your parents’ wishes. It in no way repudiates the Baptism you received as a child.

While recognizing the right for other churches to practice infant Baptism if it conforms to their theology, the congregation of Willow Creek Community Church understands Scripture to teach that only professing believers qualify for Baptism.

  1. Baptism is an act of obedience to the command of Christ, fulfilled by individuals who have submitted themselves to His sovereignty.
  2. Baptism symbolizes the spiritual cleansing through divine forgiveness and the newness of life believers experience by virtue of their identification with Christ in His death and resurrection.
  3. Baptism provides an opportunity for believers to make a formal profession of their faith before the church.
  4. As a biblical rite of initiation into the body of Christ, the Baptism of a believer may be considered a prerequisite for becoming a member of the church.

Although the old covenant practice of infant circumcision is sometimes given as a rationale for infant Baptism, the biblical definition of the functions of circumcision and Baptism shows that those two institutions fulfilled different purposes in their respective covenants. The equation is never made in the Bible between the circumcision of male infants in the old covenant, and the Baptism of born-again believers, much less of infants, in the new covenant. However, Willow Creek Community Church encourages Christian parents to present their children for the ceremony of dedication, whereby God’s blessing is formally invoked upon the children, and the parents publicly commit themselves to raise the children in accordance with the teachings of Scripture.

Because the symbolism of Baptism requires a more adult level of cognitive and developmental readiness, the Elders require that children be in Grade 6 or older to be baptized at Willow Creek. Proverbs 20:25 issues a significant caution against the danger of making a vow before adequate knowledge, forethought, and reflection have been given. In an effort to prevent young people from making a premature commitment they may not fully understand, this minimum age has been established.

Baptism recognizes and celebrates the redemptive life change that is continually occurring within our church. The Elders encourage new believers and believers who have not yet participated in adult Baptism to be baptized by immersion. The Elders’ position is that Baptism by immersion paints the truest picture of dying to sin and arising to Christ and new life. While the Elders strongly encourage immersion Baptism, we do recognize that some individuals may request Baptism by the sprinkling of water rather than full immersion, either because of a strong personal preference or based on a compelling physical reason or disability. In these cases, the Elders ask that a brief explanation be given during the registration process.

The biblical foundation for Baptism

Jesus' final recorded words to His followers before His ascension to heaven express the importance He placed on Baptism. In Matthew 28:19, Jesus commands His followers, “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Baptism does not provide salvation for an individual, but rather serves to identify the individual publicly as a follower of Christ. In passages such as Acts 2:41, 8:12, and 10:47–48, the act of Baptism follows an individual’s decision to trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. The New Testament records the Baptisms of adult believers only. In Romans 6:1–11, the apostle Paul describes the immersion of Baptism as a means through which the believer identifies with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ: Going under the water represents Christ’s death—and a believer's death to sin; coming out of the water illustrates His resurrection and the believer's new life in Christ.

Baptism is an act of obedience to Christ that follows an individual's acceptance of salvation by God's grace alone. Baptism isn't a prerequisite for salvation; however, if an inner commitment to trust Christ alone for salvation has been made, then the outward symbol of that commitment—Baptism—should follow, as is modeled throughout the New Testament in the lives of those choosing to follow Christ.

When can I be baptized?

Baptisms take place quarterly at Willow's main campus in South Barrington, and according to each church's planning at the other locations. Check with your campus to see when the next Baptism is scheduled.

How can I be baptized at Willow Creek?

The biblical foundation for Communion

Jesus' Last Supper, the Passover meal He shared with His disciples on the night before He was crucified, is the biblical foundation for the Communion meal celebrated in His honor by Christians all over the world today. With His twelve friends gathered around Him for the traditional Jewish Passover meal, Jesus "took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, 'This is My body, given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.' In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is poured out for you'" (Luke 22:19–20).

Who can take Communion?

Communion is "the believer's meal," a sacrament intended for Jesus' followers, by which they acknowledge and remember His work on the cross—the ultimate sacrifice made on our behalf for the forgiveness of the sins of humankind.

  • Willow Creek extends an "open" Communion table, meaning the invitation to receive Communion during a Willow service is open to any follower of Christ, regardless of membership at Willow, denominational affiliation, or spiritual tradition.
  • Those investigating Christianity who have not yet made a commitment of faith through Jesus Christ are encouraged to simply let the Communion plate pass by, using that portion of the service to pray and invite God's activity into their investigation of faith.

When is Communion celebrated?

Communion is celebrated during select Midweek and weekend services at each Willow Creek campus throughout the year.

I am on a gluten-free diet. Can I still celebrate Communion?

To meet the dietary needs of our congregation, gluten-free elements are available at most Willow Creek campuses. Simply find a Guest Experience host before the service and let them know you would like to receive gluten-free elements.