To: staff *at* whitehorseinn.org
Subject: Encouraging "Self-Feeding"
Listening to your 'Self-Feeders' broadcast today, many things came to mind. I would like to share a few.
I am a former family therapist and my husband and I left a 'church growth' church in So. Cal. in 2006 after figuring that it wasn't actually a church any more, but a corporation. We saw one problem that we attempted to move through a Matthew 18 process in addressing, but during the process we naively opened a few closet doors, found skeletons that would have brought the church's growth to a halt if they were addressed properly and were pushed out of the church.
During the process of leaving/being shown the door, God opened our eyes to many of the dynamics that were going on there, which are hallmarks of the Willow Creek model, that make the model so appealing and hold it in place even to the point of driving out spiritually mature members.
It is fascinating to me that after going through the research study and finding that mature members were starving, the conclusion that WC came to was not that they were failing to lead the flock to green pastures, but that it was the job of the flock to feed themselves.
This of course is not the model that we see in scripture. Paul never wrote to Timothy and told him to "figure it out" on his own, he lovingly, painstakingly discipled him. Christ walked with Peter and had very tense, very confrontational, very fruitful conversations with him.
But in the "feed yourself" model that abandons biblical discipleship, the pastors are free from having to invest in one on one relationships with mature congregants. They are no longer tethered to individuals in the church, and are free to become "rock stars" as my husband and I have begun to refer to our former mega church pastor and those who seem to seek fame over loving and investing individuals who crave more of Christ.
At some point in a Willow Creek inspired church, an invisible velvet rope goes up between the pastor and the congregation, and that lack of discipleship relationship not only serves the pastors desire for worldly success in freeing him up to write books, go on the radio, fly to conferences and increase his national name recognition, but it also frees him up from the accountability to obedience to scripture that happens when you are doing one on one discipleship. Because, as I am sure you have experienced at some point, when you are teaching an individual on any topic, not only does the Holy Spirit shine the spotlight of conviction on that area for you, He also has that disciple right there who has full access and freedom to call you on the carpet.
Once the discipleship relationships have been dispensed with, formal accountability structures, like elder boards, are faced with the task of holding pastors to account, but if said pastors are bringing in the bodies and the money, often the majority on any given board who don't want to kill the golden goose, win out over those who want their church to be holding themselves daily, hourly to scripture.
Once this 'freeing pastors from discipleship' mode is in place, the reality is then that there is a spiritual glass ceiling in that church. One does not just have to crave growing in their understanding and worship of God to gain access to the guy who went to seminary and can presumably answer the "Level 4" questions and offer Olympic level training, but as you touched on, must sign on to the goals of their church, which ubiquitously include programs, increasing numbers and building projects. (Wasn't the Acts Church selling their land to give to those who had need?) Those agendas then leave little time for wading through deep theological discussions and difficult personal issues, bringing the two together in a way that results in the sacrifice of deeply held personal idols in the true life worship of The Sovereign God.
I am the mother of a child with autism, and a disability rights advocate, who finds herself with the same struggle on a weekly basis. I get so focused on making the world a safe place for my son and other children, that I forget that my higher calling is to be in close relationship with my beautiful baby and meet his needs. To both figuratively and literally feed him.
After the worship of God of course, my first calling as a mom is to feed and care for my children, and in my free time I can try to save the rest of the world. But frankly, sometimes the latter is more appealing as the former has the tendency to kick my butt.
The first calling of a pastor is to feed and care for the sheep that God has entrusted to him, not to tell the sheep to go find their own food while they do research studies, write books, do podcasts and hold shepherds conferences.
I hope that you guys are learning from the errors of WC influenced and not forsaking discipleship of your own little flocks to do The White Horse Inn.
But please don't stop doing the White Horse Inn! Reformed, house bound moms with disabled kids like me need it!!!
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