“Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” 1 Peter 2:11-12
Today is a sad day in Barrington, Illinois and many churches across the world. Founding pastor, Bill Hybels, stepped down as pastor from Willow Creek Church last night. He was planning to retire in October of this year but due to accusations of sexual misconduct, he stepped down early to take the distraction off of him and put it where the church needs to focus. He didn’t admit to any wrongdoing, he and his wife, after much prayer, decided it would be best for all involved that he step out of the way of future ministry opportunities for the church and the Willow Creek Association where 11,000 churches are a member.
I have followed Bill’s ministry for over 30 years and have only been amazed at what God was accomplishing through his selfless ministry. He was the founding pastor and led the church for 42 years. The Elder Board did investigations into all the allegations and found no fault and wanted to continue with Bill as the pastor. The only thing that Pastor Bill regretted was the way he reacted to the allegations. This has been a very high profile story and the media has kept it alive for years.
I am not going to weigh in on what I think happened or all the details, I just want to speak on how they are handling it. I admire Bill for his candor and how the church has openly dealt with this volatile situation. They have not hidden anything from their congregation or the world for that matter. It is all on their website and they have had several church meetings that are available to re-watch and dissect as much as you want. No stone was unturned in their process. Bill could have chosen to stay in the position that he was in and finish out to his planned retirement, the board would have supported that, but he didn’t. Through much prayer and deliberation, he chose to step down so the church can move on to an agenda of saving souls for Christ. He chose to take the high road and let God be God. I don’t know if we will ever know all the details of the accusations, we do know that God will still be God and He will grow his church.
God has ordained three institutions: The government, the family, and the church. The enemy is going to attack all three. The government has been infiltrated with a political flavor that keeps biting everyone in its path. Our government leaders are not able to accomplish many things and it seems like God is being pushed out of congress. The family has been assaulted through divorce, affairs, and bitterness resulting in gender confusion, other lifestyles, cohabitation, and a lack of trust in the marriage institution. The church continues to be assaulted in many different ways. I still go on record in saying that the church is still the hope of the world. When the body of Jesus is bathed in prayer, led with integrity, and under the direction of the Holy Spirit, God’s name is glorified. This church (Findlay First Naz) will always be led with that in mind.
My heart grieves for the Willow Creek Church and for Bill Hybels. But my God is still on the throne. Through difficult times the church has always grown closer to God and more people come to faith. I pray that people will not go to social media but they will turn to God in prayer. When we attend the Global Leadership Summit this August led by the Willow Creek Association, it will be different without Bill Hybels giving direction. I have always looked forward to seeing him lead in good and difficult times. But I will walk in confidence knowing that God will continue to be the Lord of the Summit and of all who attend.
Joy in Jesus!
Rev. Mike McClurg
Senior Pastor, Findlay First Church of the Nazarene