Brian Tome Shares Some Lessons He Learned From Willow Creek

It’s an awful thing when a woman, let alone multiple women, are hurt by a male leader. It is equally egregious when an organization doesn’t appear to leap to a woman’s defense regardless of the consequences. As a leader of a large church, I’ve been sitting back and watching, praying and processing. I’ve been hesitant to add another voice to the conversation, but as leaders I want us to wrestle with some of the angles which give us a black eye that aren’t getting much airtime.

No one has been more influential on the American Church in the modern era than Bill Hybels and Willow Creek, the church he started and led. In the 80s and 90s thousands upon thousands of church leaders made a pilgrimage to the Barrington, Illinois campus to learn how to grow a large, healthy church. It was about embracing the scriptures and holding fast to the mandate to reach people with the liberating truth of who Jesus is. To do so would result in a “Prevailing Church.”

In 2000 I was in a roundtable discussion with Bill and 10 other senior pastors for two days in San Francisco. Bill asked our opinion on what to do with a weird situation regarding his stock broker friend. Bill had given him permission to use old Willow Creek weekend VHS video tapes and dozens and dozens of people were cramming into the stock broker’s house for church services. Bill was curious as to whether we thought this was healthy or unhealthy. Unbeknownst to Bill, he was at the beginning of the innovation of using video teaching to start another campus, which is now known as multi-site. Hundreds of churches across the country, including Crossroads, have followed suit.

In the wake of that movement, we have seen innovation after innovation that have impacted how Christianity is expressed in America. This includes the arts being unleashed in worship services. Churches using a team of teachers to give their people a balanced diet of preaching. Pastors taking extended vacations or study breaks which keep us fresh for the long haul. Embracing and developing the spiritual gift of leadership. And fighting for the truth that women have the gift of leadership and should have authority inside of the church.

The Church has been changed. I say for the better. I’m thankful for the influence Bill has had on my life and that Willow has had on Crossroads. But these are times to continue to learn lessons from Bill and Willow. Bill and Willow have been embroiled in a scandal of biblical proportions for the past several months, which has been reported by Christianity TodayThe Chicago Tribune and the NY Times. He has retired early and the leaders/elders around him have made and admitted to mistakes in dealing with sexual accusations against their founder. Bill and the leadership structure he created and oversaw both hold responsibility and blame for what has been happening for quite some time. We can still glean learnings from these entities, albeit outside a conference setting.

As a senior pastor of a large church, here are some things I’m learning and doubling down on.

The leader and the organization need a healthy level of separation. It is hard to know what responsibility lies with Bill and what lies with Willow. That is because the identity of both entities were inseparable. “Billow” became too man-centric. When the succession plan was announced, the congregation was told, “no one person can replace Bill.” Therefore, co-pastors were named. While I have doubts about the wisdom of co-pastors, co-presidents, or co-fathers, one thing I know for sure: Everyone is replaceable. I could smash into an Elk on my motorcycle next week and Crossroads would go on. Hopefully be better because of a fresh perspective and fresh energy. Eventually I will be forgotten and irrelevant while Jesus increases in fame. At least that is my goal and it should be for every leader.

Click here to read more.
Source: Christian Post