Bill Hybels

created 12/31/2010

The purpose of this article is to look at the activities of Bill Hybels in light of scripture in the following areas (1) the methods Bill Hybels used to grow his church, (2) those who influenced Bill Hybels view of church leadership, (3) Leaders Hybels have used in his leadership program (4) The Teachings that Bill Hybels have layered into Willow Creek Community and the Church at Large that pose a Danger to the Body of Christ (5)What is the position of Willow Creek today  (6) Bill Hybel's conclusion

Since so many have done a good job of assessing the ministry of Bill Hybels over the last decade. I will be referring to and bringing together some of their articles where appropriate.

"Bill Hybels is the founding and senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church (WCCC) in South Barrington, Illinois, and the chairman of the board for Willow Creek Association. Hybel's convened "The Global Leadership Summit" in 1995, following what he says, "was a God-given prompting to help raise and develop the spiritual gift of leadership for the local church.""

He speaks around the world on strategic issues related to leadership, evangelism, and church growth.... he is a best-selling author of more than 20 books, including Axiom, Holy Discontent, Just Walk Across the Room, The Volunteer Revolution, Courageous Leadership and the newly released, The Power of a Whisper: Hearing God and Having the Guts to Respond. Bill received a bachelor's degree in Biblical Studies and an honorary Doctorate of Divinity from Trinity College in Deerfield, IL. He and his wife, Lynne, have two adult children and one grandson."" [1]

The Methods of Bill Hybels (1)

From 2000 to present Bill Hybels has used the seeker sensitive / church grow methods to grow his church. The Bloomberg  Business Week" reported the following in an May 2005 article entitled "Earthly Empires - How evangelical churches are borrowing from the business playbook" The following is an excerpt from the article:

“Many evangelicals say they're just trying to satisfy demands not met by traditional churches. Craig Groeschel, who launched Life Church in Edmond, Okla., in 1996, started out doing market research with non-churchgoers in the area -- and got an earful. "They said churches were full of hypocrites and were boring," he recalls. So he designed Life Church to counter those preconceptions, with lively, multimedia-filled services in a setting that's something between a rock concert and a coffee shop.

Once established, some ambitious churches are making a big business out of spreading their expertise. Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill., formed a consulting arm called Willow Creek Assn. It earned $17 million last year, partly by selling marketing and management advice to 10,500 member churches from 90 denominations. Jim Mellado, the hard-charging Harvard MBA who runs it, last year brought an astonishing 110,000 church and lay leaders to conferences on topics such as effective leadership. "Our entrepreneurial impulse comes from the Biblical mandate to get the message out," says Willow Creek founder Bill Hybels, who hired Stanford MBA Greg Hawkins, a former McKinsey & Co. consultant, to handle the church's day-to-day management. Willow Creek's methods have even been lauded in a Harvard Business School case study.

Hybel's consumer-driven approach is evident at Willow Creek, where he shunned stained glass, Bibles, or even a cross for the 7,200-seat, $72 million sanctuary he recently built. The reason? Market research suggested that such traditional symbols would scare away non-churchgoers. He also gives practical advice. On a recent Wednesday evening, one of his four "teaching" pastors gave a service that started with 20 minutes of music, followed by a lengthy sermon about the Christian approach to personal finances. He told the 5,000 listeners about resisting advertising aimed at getting people to buy things they don't need and suggested they follow up at home by e-mailing questions. Like Osteen, Hybel packages self-help programs with a positive message intended to make people feel good about themselves. "When I walk out of a service, I feel completely relieved of any stress I walked in with," says Phil Earnest, 38, a sales manager who in 2003 switched to Willow Creek from the Methodist Church he found too stodgy

So adept at the sell are some evangelicals that it can be difficult to distinguish between their religious aims and the secular style they mimic….”

Hybels Assessment

Col 2:6-8
6 Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,
7 having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.
8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.

Christianity Today reported the following concerning Hybels assessment of his seeker friendly approach

Willow Creek Repents?

Why the most influential church in America now says "We made a mistake."

Few would disagree that Willow Creek Community Church has been one of the most influential churches in America over the last thirty years. Willow, through its association, has promoted a vision of church that is big, programmatic, and comprehensive. This vision has been heavily influenced by the methods of secular business. James Twitchell, in his new book Shopping for God, reports that outside Bill Hybels' office hangs a poster that says: "What is our business? Who is our customer? What does the customer consider value?" Directly or indirectly, this philosophy of ministry - church should be a big box with programs for people at every level of spiritual maturity to consume and engage - has impacted every evangelical church in the country.

So what happens when leaders of Willow Creek stand up and say, "We made a mistake"? more

Those who influenced Bill Hybels (2)

The Bible say's the following about our obedience to God in the area of whom we let influence us:

1 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night.

The following are the men who have had a major impact in the understanding of Bill Hybels view of church leadership.

Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian

The following is mention on Dr Bilezikian website. "Dr. Bilezikian was a founding leader of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill., one of the fastest-growing and most innovative churches in the nation."[3]

According to the article posted by 'Christianity Today', Title 'The Man Behind the Megachurch' by By Lauren F. Winner posted 11/13/2000 states the following:

"There would be no Willow Creek—no small groups, no women in leadership, no passion for service—without Gilbert Bilezikian."[4]

"...This French born professor did his undergraduate work at the University of Paris. Then he enrolled at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts, where he received a Master of Divinity degree.

While Gordon-Conwell is named after two great men, it is a hotbed of new- evangelicalism and modernism. Gordon and Conwell would flip over in their graves, if they knew how their names were being used.

After pastoring for five years in Albany, New York, Bilezikian moved on to teach in Wheaton College. (This is another hotbed of new-evangelicalism, and a synonym for compromise.) After accepting the presidency of a Christian college in Beirut, Lebanon, he returned to the United States in 1971. He soon joined the staff of Trinity College in Deerfield, Illinois (another school of compromise). It was there that he indoctrinated Bill Hybels into this new kind of ministry."

Bilezikian is also an ardent supporter of women’s ordination[7]. Believes in the Annihilation of the lost rather than the Biblical teaching of eternal punishment

Peter Drucker

An Episcopalian "One perhaps unexpected example of Druckerism is the modern mega-church movement. He suggested to evangelical pastors that they create a more customer-friendly environment (hold back on the overt religious symbolism and provide plenty of facilities). Bill Hybels, the pastor of the 17,000-strong Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, has a quotation from Mr Drucker hanging outside his office: “What is our business? Who is our customer? What does the customer consider value?”

"In Bill Hybels’ book Courageous Leadership, he cites his conversations with Drucker in regard to leadership. In his own words under a subsection entitled “Consulting Mentors About Performance Evaluations”, Hybels referred to Peter Drucker as one of “the two men who have most shaped my thinking on this issue” next to Jesus.

Hybels crystalized his vision for Willow Creek in the 1980′s at a dinner conversation with Drucker. “Bill, what is your unique contribution to Willow Creek?” Drucker asked. Hybels decided that one of his unique contributions to his church, aside from being the pastor, could be to create a resource for pastors who didn’t have firsthand access to thinkers like Drucker. This idea later turned into Willow Creek’s business school called the Global Leadership Summit. One reporter commented that “if evangelicalism does have a global power center, it would have to be Willow Creek” thanks largely to its business school. At the Willow Creek campus in South Barrington, Illinois, pastors and laypeople are discipled in Drucker’s leadership and management practices."[8]

Mr Drucker went further than just applying business techniques to managing voluntary organizations. He believed that such entities have many lessons to teach business corporations. They are often much better at engaging the enthusiasm of their volunteers—and they are also better at turning their “customers” into “marketers” for their organization. These days, business organizations have as much to learn from churches as churches have to learn from them."

Peter Drucker, a humanist who believes according to the Oct 1998 issue of Forbes Magazine that "The social universe has no "natural laws" as the physical sciences do. It is thus subject to continuous change" (page 154).

Thought Rick Warren and others claim Drucker is a Christian Drucker claims otherwise as seen in the following video.[12]

Robert Schuller

Schuller is know for his message of positive confession and self esteem, tolerance, acceptance on which he built his 50-year-old ministry.

I believe that the responsibility in this Age is to 'positivize' religion. Now this probably doesn't have much bearing to you people, being Unity people, you're positive. But I talk a great deal to groups that are not positive... even to what we would call Fundamentalists who deal constantly with words like sin, salvation, repentance, guilt, that sort of thing" (Self-Esteem)

“I don't think anything has been done in the name of Christ that and under the banner of Christianity that has proven more destructive to human personality and, hence, counterproductive to the evangelism enterprise than the often crude, uncouth, and unchristian strategy of attempting to make people aware of their lost and sinful condition” (Time, March 18, 1985)

Sample of the Leadership Team:Tares or Wheat?

By inviting those into the church that do not hold to Biblical truth whether in teaching or practice, will accomplish two definitive things. (1) It gives credibility and further promotes them (leaders that do not hold to Biblical truth) as someone to be listen to and followed. (2) It further breaks down discernment within the body of Christ. Bill Hybels has managed to accomplished both of these through his leadership programs. Following is a list of leaders the either Hybel's have invited or will invite that teach and or practice things contrary to the scriptures. List not meant to be exhaustive, only to reflect a trend as a bases for discernment in who Bill Hybels is parading before the church as he provides leadership counsel.

Ken Blanchard - see article by 'Let Us Reason' Ministry - Leading like Jesus  or  being managed by Other Forces?

Erwin McManus - according to Pastor, noted author takes uncivil approach in new offering Book seeks to uproot ‘Christianity’ to return to its roots By CE Staff Reporter CHRISTIAN EXAMINER

“My goal is to destroy Christianity as a world religion and be a recatalyst for the movement of Jesus Christ,”

 McManus, author of a new book called “The Barbarian Way,” said in a telephone interview.

“Some people are upset with me because it sounds like I’m anti-Christian. I think they might be right. ”


The Christian Hordes?

See review of "The Barbarian Way" by Erwin Raphael McManus

TD Jakes Does not believe in the trinity. Jakes holds to the oneness heresy. He is also part of the 'Word of Faith Movement'(read more on Jakes)

John Ortberg -  Ortberg is a promoter of contemplative spirituality. A visit to his site

In Ortberg's 2005 book, God is Closer Than You Think, Ortberg quotes favorably from contemplatives such as Anne Lamott, Annie Dillard, Gary Thomas (Sacred Pathways), Brother Lawrence (who danced violently like a mad man when he practiced), interspiritualists Tilden Edwards (Shalem Institute), Thomas Kelly (Divine Center in all), Jean Pierre de Caussade, Frederick Buechner, Meister Eckhart as well as Dallas Willard and Thomas Merton. And yet, Christian churches are using this book. [11]

Larry Crabb

see "Larry Crabb and the American Association of Christian Counselors"

Jack Welch - Jack Welch’s Pearls of Wisdom from the Willow Creek Leadership Summit. The interview with Jack Welch was the reason I signed up for the Leadership Summit. I overheard someone at the conference say that “Jack Welch is the greatest leader since the Pharaohs”. Maybe that was intended as a hyperbole but it’s not totally crazy. Jack lead GE from a market capitalization of $15B to $440B and during that time over 40 of his top people went on to become CEO’s elsewhere. At one time 5 of the Dow 30 were run by former GE people.

The interview didn’t disappoint, Bill Hybels went right into some of Jack’s most central, and controversial ideas, candor and differentiation.

Cory Booker- Holds to universalist ideas.   The following was reported in US News and World Report in an article by Susan Headden Posted 4/16/06 stated the following.

"Booker is earnest, yet quick with a laugh; unassuming, yet confident. To spend time with him is to hear a lot about spirituality. A Baptist, he says he becomes "more Christian" by understanding other faiths. So he has studied Judaism and Hinduism and is learning more about Islam. "You see the divine core in all these religions, you see the beauty and the power and the possibilities, then you yourself gain a deeper reverence for God," he says. At Oxford, he was the unlikely president of the l'Chaim Society; a fellow member credited Booker with making him a better Jew... [4]

Booker is an advocate of homosexual marriage as reported in the article: Newark Mayor Orders Removal of Christian for Objecting to State’s First-Ever Homosexual ‘Marriage’
October 21, 2013 | By: Heather Clark 

Jim Collins -He too resonates with contemplative/emerging "theologies." In our article, "Willow Creek Leadership Summit Starts Today - Speaker Promotes New Age," Collins' affinity toward mystical spirituality is brought out. In 1982, Collins took Michael Ray's course, "Creativity in Business." The course (and the book named after the course) "takes much of its inspiration from Eastern philosophy, mysticism and meditation techniques" (from the book). In one section of the book it talks about "your wisdom-keeper or spirit guide-an inner person who can be with you in life.... We meditate to unfold our inner being." The book also presents Tarot cards.

Collins was so inspired by Ray's course in 1982 that he wrote the foreword for Ray's 2004 book, The Highest Goal: The Secret That Sustains You in Every Minute. Collins says the book is "the distillation of years of accumulated wisdom from a great teacher." Collins says he discovered "the path to my highest goal" by reading the book. read more Creativity in Business by Michael Ray and Rochelle Myers (1986).

What is this highest goal that Michael Ray speaks of? Realizing the divinity within. And how is this realization obtained? Through meditation. In the book, Ray tells readers to "practice emptying your mind," "experience not thinking" and to "meditate regularly." Other quotes in the book include those of Eastern religion gurus such as Ram Dass, Jiddu Krishnamurti, and Swami Shantananda. [6]

Ken Blanchard -see article by 'Let Us Reason' Ministry -see article by 'Let Us Reason' Ministry - Leading like Jesus  or  being managed by Other Forces??

Blanchard writes “I look for inspirational messages from a variety of sources besides Jesus. Our folks get to hear words of wisdom from great prophets and spiritual leaders like Buddha, Mohammed ... Yogananda and the Dalai Lama." “Buddha points to the path and invites us to begin our journey to enlightenment. I ... invite you to begin your journey to enlightened work” (Ken Blanchard, foreword What Would Buddha Do at Work? by Franz Metcalf, 2001) He has endorsed Jack Canfield's New Age Teacher whose Book, The Success Principles: the use of practices such as visualization and meditation.

One as to ask the question why would a professing Christian endorse and promote the spiritual leaders and religious precepts of the world system? Yet these are the kind of folks that Hybels uses as leader trainers in his Leadership Seminars.

More complete List of  Bill Hybels Leadership Trainings ( see compile list /  under development)


2 Tim 5:3-4 (NASB)
3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,
4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.

2 Cor 11:13-14 (NASB)
14 No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.
15 Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.

There is a cumulative list of so-called Christian leaders, New Age philosophers, politicians, humanistic psychologist, emergent leaders, contemplative practitioners, business consultants, etc., who are directly or indirectly validated and promoted by Willow Creek and/or its leader, Bill Hybels. [9]  through its leadership program.   ( see compile list under development)

It is a dense, complex directory of false teachers that have deeply embedded themselves within the Willow Creek Leadership program. organization and now the church at large due to Willow Creek leadership program that have been going in earnest since 1995. [9]

It is difficult to accept and or agree with Hybels on his self assertion of "his direction and motivation was a "God-given prompting to help raise and develop the spiritual gift of leadership.[1]The use of anti Biblical methods, his involving those who espouse the ever changing wisdom from the world system and those who teach heretical doctrine clearly show that God is not in his activities but is the work of the enemy Satan.

Bill Hybels and the leadership of Willow Creek Church have made the conscious decision to follow the wisdom of the world and the worlds practitioners as a substitute for wisdom of God and yet act like it's the leading of God.

In following the world's system WCC has placed itself in opposition toward God. (James 4:4)

Related Articles

Deception in the Church

The seeker friendly purpose driven church growth movement by Don Koeing

The seeker friendly purpose driven church growth movement by Don Koeing

The Willow Creek Dilemma: Why Our Association With Them Is Wrong  by Chris Carmichael

Highly Questionable Methods by Robert Reymond

The Gospel According to Hybels & Warren by Nathan Busenitz

Bill Hybels and the Willow Creek/Seeker Sensitive/Church Growth movement.

Willow Creek and Bill Hybels' theology By James Sundquist

An Insider's Look at Willow Creek's Deepening Apostasy by Mary Fairchild

The People's Church, Willow Creek, and the Church Growth Movement by Paul Proctor.

Critique of the "Seeker-Sensitive, Purpose-Driven" Church Method By Pastor Dan Norcini

Bill HybelsPRO and CON: THE SEEKER-CHURCH MOVEMENT "Seeker-Sensitive for the Sake of the Gospel" by Mark Mittelberg and Douglas Groothuis

The Willow Creek Dilemma: Why Our Association With Them Is Wrong  by Chris Carmichael

Highly Questionable Methods by Robert Reymond

The Gospel According to Hybels & Warren by Nathan Busenitz

Bill Hybels and the Willow Creek/Seeker Sensitive/Church Growth movement.

Willow Creek and Bill Hybels' theology By James Sundquist

An Insider's Look at Willow Creek's Deepening Apostasy by Mary Fairchild

The People's Church, Willow Creek, and the Church Growth Movement by Paul Proctor

Critique of the "Seeker-Sensitive, Purpose-Driven" Church Method By Pastor Dan Norcini

Bill Hybels

[***]Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright ©  1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission


In an article dated March 16, 2011| By DEEPA BHARATH, Robert Schuller stated the following: GARDEN GROVE – Robert H. Schuller, founder of the Crystal Cathedral, "said Wednesday that he strongly disapproves of an anti-gay covenant his own church administrators asked choir members to sign, stating that it goes against the principles of tolerance, acceptance and positive thinking on which he built his 50-year-old ministry.'





[7] Site " Gilbert Bilezikian, Beyond Sexual Roles: What the Bible Says About a Woman's Place in Church and Family, Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1985, p. 145, emphasis mine. Bilezikian has also written, “…it is evident that the statement in 1 Corinthians 14:33-36 forbidding women to speak in church has nothing to do with women exercising their spiritual gifts. In this passage, the Apostle was dealing with a different issue that did not concern the exercise of spiritual gifts. He was actually opposing, by quoting their words derisively, abusive church leaders who were intent on excluding women from active participation in the life of the church” and “Since the institution of ordination is traditional rather than biblically prescribed, there can be no valid objection raised on scriptural grounds to women being ordained.” Bilezikian asserts that women must be ordained for the church to be authentic: "There cannot be authentic community as described in the New Testament without the full inclusion of the constituency of members into the ministry, life, and leadership of the group." Susan Olasky, “Femme Fatale,” World Magazine, March 29, 1997.

[8], Jeff. “How Willow Creek is Leading Evangelicals by Learning from the Business World.” Fast Company. December 6, 2010. available:

[9] used In Plain Site article Title  "WIllow Creek Family Tree" as a base:

[12] Claremont Colleges Digital Library, Drucker Archives, Interview with Peter Drucker, 2001-12-05 where Drucker claim he is 'not born again' at time stamp 2:15:32

[13] Newark Mayor Orders Removal of Christian for Objecting to State’s First-Ever Homosexual ‘Marriage’
October 21, 2013 | By: Heather Clark

NEWARK – The mayor of Newark, New Jersey ordered the removal of a Christian man from city hall on Monday for raising an objection in the name of Jesus Christ against one of the first-ever homosexual ‘weddings’ in the state.

As previously reported, the Supreme Court of New Jersey unanimously ruled on Friday to uphold a lower court order that mandated officials to allow same-sex “marriages” to be performed and recognized in the state. Ceremonies were then hurriedly organized for Monday, the day that the court set for nuptials to begin.

Democratic Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who was recently elected to the United States Senate, told reporters that he was making himself available to officiate ceremonies at city hall when the clock struck midnight on Monday.

Booker is a professing Christian and attends Metropolitan Baptist Church in Newark, but states that “God’s truth might lie also in other faiths.” Throughout his campaign for the Senate, he was known for his outspoken advocacy of homosexuality and abortion, and has refused for years to perform any marriages in the state until New Jersey allowed homosexuals to also tie the knot.