The Community Church Movement

The Community Church Movement      The January 15, 2001 issue of U.S. News and World Report contained an article titled, "In a Time of Division, an Urge to Merge." The article takes a current look at how the ecumenical movement in America is progressing. The material especially focuses on the "full communion agreement" between the 5. 2 million member Evangelical Lutheran Church and the 2. 5 million member Episcopal Church that occurred in January of 2001. The two religions have agreed to "share clergy and pool other resources." This "merger" was the result of "decades of dialogue, prayer, and politicking" states the foregoing mentioned article. According to many historians, the Ecumenical Movement has been a fiasco. In the case of the just mentioned Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Episcopal Church, each religion will retain their own creeds and structures. Hence, the unity is unity in diversity.      Perhaps the greatest success story unfolding in America today relative to unity in diversity and religious merger is the Community Church Movement. The Community Church concept claims to be the answer for all the shameful numerous and divergent extant denominations. Indeed, divergent religion is in direct conflict with the prayer Jesus prayed regarding his followers all being one (Jn. 17: 20, 21). According to the World Christian Encyclopedia, the number of denominations throughout the world have surpassed 33, 800, with an average of 10 new ones organized each week.      The numerical success of the Community Church Movement. There is no question as to the numerical success of the Community Church concept. In fact, some are calling the movement a phenomenon. Newsweek featured the Community Church of Joy in Glendale, Arizona that has a "success story" of 6, 000 members in this age of declining membership (August 9, 1993). Many historians consider the Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago to be the inception and very impetus of the Community Church Movement. Willow Creek has so phenomenally increased in numbers that I understand the Harvard Business School has prepared a case study on this congregation. Peter Drucker cited Willow Creek in the Harvard Business Review as an example of "what business can learn from non-profits." I am told that over 1, 000 church leaders from all across America travel to Willow Creek each year to learn how to duplicate the Willow Creek Community Church in their cities.      The Willow Creek Community Church. Willow Creek Community Church began in 1975 as an "independent Christian church." They began to meet in a rented theater in the western suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. In 1995, they had mushroomed into a congregation of 21, 000 members. Since Willow Creek is viewed by many as the progenitor of the Community Church Movement, what were the circumstances of their beginning success and what methods did they use?      The plea and methods of Willow Creek, the example church today for many. The members of Willow Creek went into the surrounding neighborhoods and asked people, "Why do you not attend church?" The response they received was fivefold: "(1) Churches are always asking for money, (2) church services were boring and lifeless, (3) church services were predictable, (4) sermons were irrelevant to daily life in the real world, (5) and the preacher made people feel guilty or ignorant, so they leave church feeling worse than when they entered the doors."      Based on the results of their surveys, Willow Creek redesigned the typical American church service. The result was an innovative approach to worship that involved "drama, contemporary music, and sermons designed to make people feel good about themselves. They also began to play down any solicitation or obligation on the part of the people attending to financially contribute. They boast about introducing a "new church" to America. Outreach, a church marketing magazine that is often used by Community Churches to in