Recently the news came out that the folks at Willow Creek have come to the realization that their programs and methods were not feeding the more mature believers in their midst. You can read more about it at Christianity Today here and here.
The mature believers in their congregation say they “are not being fed” and want “more of the meat of the Word of God.” The response of the leadership there has been that they should teach their people to become self-feeders.
I’m of two minds on this issue. I guess you can say my response is “yes, but.”
Some time ago I came the realization that I’m not going to be “fed” at church in the same way some folks are. This isn’t because I’m such a fantastically mature believer but because I grew up in church. Over my 30 plus years I’ve been in Sunday school, VBS, youth group, Bible studies, and of course “big church” countless times. I’ve read and had taught to me just about every passage in the Bible multiple times.
I’m probably not going to hear anything in church I don’t already know. If your life has been like mine, you probably won’t either.
Because of this, I’ve realized that I need to stop looking for a church where I’ll be “fed.” Instead, I need to look for a church where I can serve. In church I will hear lessons and sermons where I will be encouraged, inspired, reminded, and occasionally chastised, but I’m not going to be told something I didn’t already know very often. So from that respect, I somewhat agree with Mark Galli in the second piece.
However, the folks at Willow Creek may have a different situation. Let me say up front that I’ve never been to Willow Creek nor have I ever even spoken to someone who has. But I know what Willow Creek is, and I have attended my share of “seeker” services. If those are typical of what goes on at Willow Creek, the “mature” believers there may have never heard a sermon out of Hebrews or even John 15.
Seeker-friendly churches shy away from deeper theology and the scriptures that take you into it, and they seem to avoid those passages that, as one pastor I had said, makes the preacher hope the second coming will arrive before next Sunday. If that is the state of things there, the more mature believers at Willow Creek (and any other seeker church) will need some real meals before they’re expected to become “self-feeding.”