Elder Update: April 17, 2019

Willow family,

Over 40 years ago God commissioned Willow Creek Community Church to the mission of turning irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. We envision Willow Creek Community Church to be a biblically functional community of believers so that Christ’s redemptive purposes can be accomplished in the world. The events of the last year have highlighted both the importance of staying true to God’s calling and the work we must do to collectively live out our church mission and vision. This is the first of multiple updates we will send regarding our progress and direction.

As an Elder Board, we acknowledge the failures of our church to handle the allegations with care, humility, and repentance. We apologize for the failure to hold Bill Hybels accountable while he served as the senior pastor. We apologize for the initial statements that were made disparaging those who brought forward allegations. We acknowledge the harm they have suffered. There is much work ahead to repair and heal what has been broken. We trust God to guide us.

Since the last Elder update, we have initiated conversations with those who made direct allegations against Bill Hybels as well as their advocates. We know that some would have preferred we make a public statement right away. We desire to prioritize the individuals in their own story. We recognize the faith it takes to speak with us as well as the courage it takes to retell stories of harm with the risk of experiencing pain all over again. We will continue the conversations at the rate and depth that is most honoring to them.

We have also initiated communication with Bill Hybels. We are sincere in our desire to pursue communication that facilitates repentance, healing, and restoration. While the Elder Board cannot compel any action, we seek to engage in a process of truth and reconciliation. We remain prayerful that God’s will be done.

As a community we find ourselves

  • mourning our loss and
  • sitting in the tension of the space in between what was and what will be
  • while celebrating the victory of a God who is still at work in our church.   

While this is a hard place to be, this is a very Christ-centered place to be. During this Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, Christ invites us to

  • mourn the death of our Savior,
  • sit in the tension of silence, and
  • celebrate the victory of His resurrection.

We ask our Willow Creek family to approach this holy week with a new resolve.

Let us gather on Good Friday and mourn. We will mourn the loss of relationships. Mourn the suffering inflicted by sin. Mourn a Savior who bore the penalty of our sins on the cross.

Let us pray and diligently seek God on Saturday. We will pray for God’s wisdom in reconciling with the past. Pray for God’s direction for the future. Pray to a Savior whose mission remains to seek and save that which is lost.

Let us gather again on Sunday to celebrate the victory of our Savior. We will celebrate the God who is faithful to His people. We will celebrate the hope He brings for the future of our church.

Reconciliation is a process. Collectively we will engage in truth-telling, humility, apology, and grace. This holy week serves as an important starting point for our church to lean into the work of redemption as expressed through the death, burial, and resurrection of our Savior. We will provide an update on public statements and next steps based on our conversations with those involved in the events of last year.  
In His Service,

The Willow Creek Elder Board

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