I go to the Willow Creek Leadership Summit, not as a signed up US MegaChurch fan, which I’m not, but because what you see is what you get — an opportunity to reflect on and learn about leadership with colleagues, in the context of a consistently world class training event put together from a wide range of sources by Evangelical Christians from outside my own expression of the faith. It’s also a personal check back for me to core discipleship values, and I really value the opportunity to take that journey systematically, rigorously and regularly.
But here’s a housekeeping question. How does a Megachurch like Willow Creek weather a recession? Those of us getting muddy and wet, if not shot, in the trenches sometimes wonder how the war’s feeling on the Battleship Invincible. It was interesting to find out.
In his opening address, Bill Hybels talked of the rough seas through which the enterprise was sailing. It included, amongst other challenges, $300K annual donors exploding in the water. There’s some comfort in knowing the seas look rough from a supertanker as well as from our little English dinghies. Of course my Anglo tendency is to be sarcastic about the differences, but it’s a fact that a place like that, as well as yea many more dollars resourced (the thing people always notice first) is also yea many more dollars committed and exposed.
Hybels acknowledged that the conditions we have all assumed to be normal may never come again, and simply hunkering down and awaiting the return of financial glory days is not an option for faith. This is a challenge to the Church to be the Church in the face of circumstances over whch we have no control. Acts 2:38 has to become a more a practical proposition, less a romanticised ideal. This means some formerly large donors downsizing radically, and accepting the humbler place of recipients, whilst those who still doing well step up their generosity.
Jack Welch, formerly of GE says “In a Crisis Cash is King.” Present conditions are an opportunity to own another kingship, and so prove what people in poor areas of the world often know better than rich Christians in the West — that there is nothing like the local Church when the local Church is being itself, rather than the means of getting a light dose of God at the weekend.
This strikes me as a significant philosophical principle for living in testing times, which I think it would be as interesting to try in the smallest housegroup as the largest megaChurches.