I’ve been following the buzz surrounding Willow Creek Church’s newest
“highly effective” way of doing church, an initiative called Reveal: Where are you?
After a generation of numerical “success,” Willow Creek Church has
apparently learned that attracting large numbers of people is not the
same as forming faithful disciples of Jesus.
The church has traditionally considered Advent a penitential season, a
time for changing one’s mind and re-turning to God. It’s a time for
preparing the way of the Lord, the One who will come to consummate all
things in the rule of God.
The two aspirants to the governor’s mansion in my state ran a race that
often sounded more like an old-fashioned prayer meeting than a
political campaign. Both seem convinced that the key to victory lay in
demonstrating that one was more Christian than the other.
During almost 20 years of pastoral ministry I have served three
different congregations that experienced such long-term decline and
loss that it seemed as if the “end of the world” was upon us: they had
lost recognition in the community, members, ministries and their
passion for mission. But the loss that was talked about most often was
the loss of financial resources.
My wife and I were in the Atlanta airport this summer when she stopped
at a newsstand to pick up a magazine. On the cover of one, a well-known
TV preacher was touted as the pastor of a church, “America’s largest,”
that draws 45,000 people per weekend by offering help for life’s
questions and problems.
As a lectionary preacher, I’ve journeyed through the Gospel of Luke for
over 25 years. But this year I noticed something new. Luke places the
story of two rich folks in close textual proximity; in chapter 18, a
rich official remains nameless; in chapter 19, we meet a chief tax
collector named Zacchaeus. And in between?