Bill Hybels

Taken from Chapter Nine of the book "New Neutralism II: Exposing The Gray Of Compromise". by John E. Ashbrook

One of the prominent themes in the pragmatic churches of new evangelicalism is that of church growth. Brochures inviting me to seminars on the subject cross my desk every month. One of the experts in this area is Dr. Elmer Towns, dean of the School of Religion at Dr. Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. Towns advises churches to concentrate on the crowd called "the baby boomers," those in the 18-35 age bracket. Towns says that the boomers are not attracted to religion through the old ways of guilt, fear and tradition, He suggests that churches should drop Sunday evening services in favor of adult education or social programs. He suggests an early service, kind of early mass for Protestants. He suggests that pastors preach "fix-it" and "how-to" sermons on sexual topics. He thinks churches ought to get rid of the choir and use electronic music instead of traditional hymns on the organ and piano. He suggests that churches do more hugging. Such is the upbeat stuff of new evangelicalism. I take it that baby boomers do not come under repentance in the standard Bible way. I assume that "traditional hymns" are those of Watts, Wesley and Newton - or, perhaps, Bliss, Crosby and Sankey. If dignified Dr. Ockenga could return to share in such a service, I think he might hold his head and ask, "What did I start?"

These words are a prelude to the introduction of the Rev. Bill Hybels, Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois. Pastor Hybels is Exhibit A of the new era. Foundation Magazine for May-June 1990 quotes from an article about Hybels' church which appeared in USA WEEKEND for April 13-15,1990 under the byline of Cindy Yorks. Yorks said the following:

To attract churchgoers today, you’ve got to please the consumer That means high-tech entertainment, Day care, Self help groups- No pleas for money. No Bible- thumping. Happy customers from California to Maryland are eating up 'fast-food religion' this Easter

Foundation goes on to say.

The article describes a service at Willow Creek as 'a stick, show-biz service where drama and soft rock are served up on a stage washed in pink and blue spotlights. A soft-sell sermon is delivered by Hybels from a Lucite lectern...'

The author of the article acknowledges the fact that people attending the services there 'will not be bored as a combination of drama, humor and pop music is presented with no archaic hymns.’ And, she likens the church building to 'a 4,500 seat theatre complete with 12 big screen TV’s showing close-ups of action on stage just like at Rock Concerts.' Billy Graham’s Grason Press is pushing Hybels' latest book. Many evangelical pastors are rushing to Hybels for instructions in implementing his worldly programs in their own churches.

It is as if some evil paraphraser had retranslated I John 2:15 to say, "Do love the world and the things that are in the world; for the love of the world will bring many people to the Father."

One would think that such open worldliness would repulse all but the most radical believers. f4owever, guess who was a speaker at Moody Founder's Week in 1989 and again in 1991? Dallas Seminary's fall Pastors' Conference in 1989 brought Hybets to Texas, along with Chuck Swindoll and Moody Church's Erwin Lutzer. Christianity Today for September 8,1989 had a picture of Hybels with Dr. Robert Schuller and Dr. C. Peter Wagner at Schuller's Crystal Cathedral. I considered ranking Dr. Robert Schuller as one of the popularizers of new evangelicalism, but after rereading some of his writings I came to the conclusion that he is a popularizer of apostasy and not new evangelicalism, I may be wrong in my estimation of Hybels' importance, but it is my guess that we will see the name of Bill Hybels on all the marquees along the new evangelical trail in coming years.

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