Friday, November 09, 2007

reading and interacting with love

Scot McKnight in his great new book, A Community Called Atonement, again mentions Alan Jacob's book, A Theology of Reading, and says that Jacobs "radicalizes love as the only posture of hermeneutics" and lifts this quote from him:
Only if we understand this love of God and neighbor as the first requirement in the reading of any text can we fulfill "the law of love" in our thinking, our talking, and our manner of working.
Let me hopefully gently challenge a critique that I sadly believe from my reading of it, actually violates this point from Jacobs.

This article by Bob Burney, I'm afraid does violate this. Read it for yourself; it's not long. What bothered me in reading it was that what Hybels says and has done, and is doing is cast in the worst light possible. It takes his words to an extreme, and (arguably perhaps, but it seems clearly to me that it does) misrepresents what Hybels was actually saying. Bill Hybels and Willow Creek, for all the shortcomings, has done much good in God through Christ in the lives of many so I sadly find this article not only unhelpful, but hurtful to all.

It's important to really listen well, in love, and a big part of that is to ask questions and find out what is really going on. Behind the scenes at Willow Creek, small groups have been big as in important there. A well known evangelical author on apologetics, Lee Strobel as I recall- formerly an atheist, was reached through Willow Creek Community Church, and loves to be a part of churches like these because he believes they excel in reaching people like himself.

So let's beware of how we read and think, and in all of this how we're loving God and our neighbor. Yes, truth is critical, and it's only known if seen in love.

What do you think about my take on Bob Burney's critique and on this issue of reading and interacting with love applied to Hybels' recent words?

Link: Jesus Creed: Weekly Meanderings


L.L. Barkat said...

I suppose if I were to radicalize something as the only posture of hermeneutics it would be "grace". Indeed, I know I do that. It changes everything. (And grace is, of course, the chief vessel of love, so this is not so different in thinking from Jacobs.)

Kim said...

My my my...Bob has a major "seeker sensitive" chip on his shoulder! Sure, there should be other steps toward helping disciples grow and mature in their faith - but it doesn't mean the seeker-sensitive model has failed. His logic appears flawed.

NaNcY said...

i think that scot, alan, bob, bill, the willow creek chruch, and we ourselves are all wanting what is best. but, sometimes we just do not go about what is best in the way of God, we all go about it in a blind way at times. so we need to continue to strive to see our lives and the lives of others through the eyes of God...through our heart...through the Love of God and to continue in this way to encourage eachother in our good seeing and through our blind spots.

Kim said...

The findings of the Hawkins study would seem to back up what the "emerging church" has been saying and I don't really see Bob's comments as anything other than a call to accountability for the "church at large."

I recently posted this at Mark Galli's blog on the same Willow Creek subject. Mark has asked me for the specifics of my non-church attendance, which I'm putting together:

George Barna’s book, “Revolution” does a pretty good job documenting this phenomenon. My wife and I do not regularly attend any church, but have found ourselves closer to God, closer to each other and closer to those we minister to than in any other time of our lives.

As Barna has noted, we’ve found our faith worked out in a “para-church” ministry that, to us, functions more like “church” than church ever did. We and those around us are more transparent, confessing our sins to one another, praying for each other, and spiritually ministering to each other in a way that I know God must smile upon. No, there’s no contemporary worship, there’s no sermon, and we actually pay for the privelege to attend. But, I can tell you that it’s the best money I ever spent and it goes to fund more groups like ours. I’m blessed. Kim

Ted M. Gossard said...

Is some ways I do like the word "grace" better, as well. It is aptly descriptive of the kind of love we need in this life to receive and give.

Ted M. Gossard said...

I have to agree with you.

I did reread the article this afternoon, and though I may not be reading Bob Burney completely right, I see him taking an adversarial position in a sense that is unworthy of Christ. I mean, it seems to me- and I stand to be corrected- that he is saying that Bill Hybels never helped his people get in Scripture for themselves, etc.

To read Hybels in a Christ-like manner would involve much more than evidently Burney has done. You'd better dialogue and listen to their side, and find out what they've really done, before you write an article like he did.

That's where I stand on it.


Ted M. Gossard said...

Good point. We need to be hearing each other out on both sides of any disagreement, and to seek to do so in the love of Christ.

Ted M. Gossard said...

I'm not sure the emergent church can be lumped into an anti-Bill Hybels, Willow Creek Community Church- model.

I'm not a fan of mega-church, though I don't reject it either. You have to look at the various churches.

It sounds like to me that you folks are really doing church. Of course people are the church, and so when we come together and do what God has called us to do, then we're- maybe you could say- churching. All the "one anothers" as well as being the Body of Christ in this world.

I'm sure Bob Burney means well. I just don't see his article as a true reflection, and I mean fair, on Willow Creek and Hybels. He seems to me to put everything in the worst light. I dont' think his call to accountability can do anything but ring hollow, since it is evident to me that he doesn't know what he is critiquing well, but seems to me to be going on what he has read, and on the stand he has taken.

Now I hope I'm not the one guilty of failing to read and interact with love.

Thanks for coming on and being willing to disagree. That's good and hopefully I can learn from it.

Every Square Inch said...


I didn't find Bob Burney's article to be wrong or offensive in any way. I think it's because Hybels and Willow Creek are self disclosing that the methods they've employed are not working. (It's commendable that they make it public)

I think what Bob Burney is doing is agreeing and then cautioning that the Willow Creek guys are possibly repeating their prior mistake by trying to rethink and innovate how church should be done instead of looking to scripture. That may be viewed as uncharitable, I suppose but I don't think so.

Most of all, I agree with nancy's point that in all these matters, we should think the best of their motives...that doesn't mean we cannot strongly disagree with their approach

Ted M. Gossard said...

I respect that.

What I'm calling for, or wanting is a more full view of what's going on there over the years at Willow Creek and I don't believe Bob Burney is fair in that regard.

To let you and others know where I'm at: I dont' care if it's traditional or contemporary; I don't want entertainment and it doens't matter to me whether I like it or not- I mean church.

I also have problems with mega-churches just in regard to their size alone- and some dynamics that might end up going along with that.

I don't think I personally would gravitate towards a church like Willow Creek. But I call for a fair critique and to do so would take commitment on the part of the one critiquing to spend some time there. And based on what I've read, I'm not impressed that Bob has done that.

Just my take.

NaNcY said...

it is true that some writers do not always take the time to do their homework when writing an aritcle.

i have seen it done that way when i know the subject matter.

and when it is you that they misquote or say the opposite of what you said or even make up something to fill can be a little disturbing.

it must be really evident to people that are in the lime lite.

but, this to shall pass.

it just goes to show us that we can not believe everything we read. well, except for God's word..of course!

there are some good writers and publications and some not so good ones. but,everything should be read with a bit of caution and a lot of chin scratching.

daughter has a flu bug while we are here in indy.
isn't that fun! haha

KM said...

Off-topic Ted, [sorry :-)]: I have tagged you for a gratitude exercise. Please join in — I found it a blessing when I did it earlier today.

Hope you & family are well!

Charity Singleton said...

Ted -- I'm arriving late to this discussion, but I find the exercize of looking back at ourselves as the church and taking inventory to be a really helpful exercise. Truth must always have a posture of grace and love. But the methods that takes changes so often. I think the key here is to critique "OURSELVES" as one body, one church, not each other.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Too bad about your daughter having a flu on your trip. Hope she's feeling better this morning.

Yes. we all need to weigh our words and proceed with caution. I probably come across pretty strong, and even more so in conversations outside this blog on this subject. It really ticks me off when Christians do this to each other and to others. It ends up being neither true nor love. And I have to beware myself in critiquing because this too, in my book, can become sin.

Ted M. Gossard said...

I mean, in my book this IS a sin issue. And in God's book my attitude can end up being sinful in critiquing it.

Ted M. Gossard said...


I'll get to it. I'm behind on a tag I received earlier that I was putting off until today.

Hope you're doing well, also. Thanks.

Ted M. Gossard said...

I agree. And that's just my problem with Bob Burney's critique. It's done not as US, but as THEM, simply because he has clearly not read and interacted with this church and the study, with love or really sufficiently at all. Therefore his critique really is not helpful either to Willow Creek or to his readers.

Pastor Rod said...


I agree that Bob's article is uncharitable and generally unhelpful. I agree that Willow Creek has done a lot of good. (I've been pastoring in the same area for 25 years.) I would also say that Willow Creek has been gracious to the other churches in this area.

However, I think there are a couple of important issues that come out of this study.

First, they admit that they were wrong. They don't say that everything they did was worthless. But they acknowledge that their strategy was flawed.

There are several sub-points to be made here. One is the humility and character they demonstrated by announcing this.

Second, their "repentance" doesn't go far enough. They somehow think that they can change strategies with people once they cross a particular line.

From all I can tell, they still plan to use their attraction strategy with "seekers" and people at the early stages of faith. Then they expect to get people to accept a completely different philosophy.

Also, they seem to be trying to fix a philosophical problem with a "better" strategy. They are going to cure people's dependence upon programs with a new program.

At least that's how I see it.


Ted M. Gossard said...

Pastor Rod,
Thanks for your thoughts on it. Good to hear your perspective.

I don't know enough to have an opinion as far advanced as yours is. It sounds reasonable, though from what I know I tend to try to put the most positive take on what churches are doing. There are so many different ways of acting as church when we come together- all laden with human tradition, not necessarily bad in and of itself.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Let me add to the idea of "seeker sensitive" traditions, I can think of them as seeking to emulate the Apostle Paul's commitment to be all things to all people that he might by all possible means, save some.

We may not agree on all the ways churches might do "seeker sensitive", and I don't even like the words "seeker sensitive". But I don't see that as inherently wrong or unscriptural.