The Business of the Church

Friday, 12 Aug 2011

I’m sitting in South Barrington, Illinois (in the western suburbs of Chicago) taking a break from the Willow Creek Association’s Global Leadership Summit, an annual event hosted by Willow Creek Community Church and its pastor, Bill Hybels.  I joked to my facebook friends that I was undercover this week and that’s partly true. I’m the guest of a national corporation who—through a friend—paid for my registration and my nametag says I’m an employee of theirs! Well, no harm done. Not many people here read Modern Reformation or listen to White Horse Inn anyway…at least not yet!

The two-day conference is an intentional effort to combine the wisdom of business leaders with the wisdom of ministry leaders, with the hope that these two different kinds of leaders could learn from one another. The difficulty of that enterprise was demonstrated yesterday when Bill Hybels had to announce that Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, had cancelled his scheduled appearance at the summit because of an online petition by a gay rights groups upset by Willow Creek’s prior relationship with Exodus, Intl, which advocates that gay people can change their sexual orientation. Business leaders have different agendas than ministry leaders and that difference is spelled out in quarterly profit reports, reports that depend on keeping many different segments of the marketplace happy with your product. I wonder if many of the thousands of registrants here and at dozens of sites across the country watching by live video feed caught that lesson.

The product that the Summit is offering is enticing: success. The first day was spent listening to speakers (and even people who introduced the speakers) who were highly successful in their fields: Bill Hybels, who helped launch the megachurch movement; Len Schlesinger, a successful businessman and now president of Babson College, the top-ranked business school for entrepreneurship; Corey Booker, the young mayor of Newark, New Jersey; Brenda Salter McNeil, a writer and speaker on issues facing African-American Christians; Seth Godin, bestselling business author; and Steven Furtick, a young pastor of a brand new megachurch in North Carolina.

The unmistakable message is that applying leadership principles that are common to all leaders (no matter what “industry” you might be part of) will result in that most powerful of aphrodisiacs, success. To be fair, the session that I’m missing right now features the stories of difficult ministries, specifically foreign ministries in India and Egypt, where success may not be immediately visible. In fact, one speaker from Egypt is, as I write this, receiving a standing ovation for her mostly unnoticed work among the poorest children of the minority Coptic Christian community there. But it is striking to me that the Summit went outside of the country to find those “difficult callings.” The message, to me at least, is that if you are in the States you should be successful: big churches, lots of baptisms, or at least audacious entrepreneurial goals to give your life and church to. If you’re not successful, the failure resides in you and your unwillingness or inability to apply the leadership principles that have so clearly worked for so many others.

Do the kind of leadership principles that are necessary for a business to be successful belong in the church? The assumption here is that the church and the business are variants on the same kind of thing and so the principles that work in one should work in the other and the leadership that exists in one should exist in the other. That assumption is naïve and I’m surprised by the number of business leaders over the years who have spoken at the Summit, giving credence to that view. Businesses have customers; churches have disciples. Businesses want their customers to consume their products (whether that is a physical thing, a service, or an experience); churches want their disciples to attend to the means of grace (as humble as they might seem in the great religious marketplace). Businesses will change according to the ebb and flow of the market; churches cannot change their mission or vision and still lay claim to being the church.

What business is the church in? Bill Hybels said yesterday that the church is in the life transformation business. I’m glad to say that the Bible doesn’t support that view though it does seem to be a fairly common misconception today. We all want Jesus to come alongside us and improve us, our marriages, our children. We want to go to sleep at night confident that we have taken several steps forward, getting a little better every day. We want to reach the end of our lives and see that we have accomplished something of lasting significance and worth, to know that we were worth something. In all of these scenarios, however, Jesus is a means to an end (a very personal, therapeutic end: feeling better about ourselves). As one new acquaintance said at dinner last night, the problem isn’t that we need to align our hopes and dreams with Jesus; it’s that Jesus upends our hopes and dreams, intruding into our lives with such force that what we thought was important actually dies and new life is born in its place. As the great Episcopal preacher Robert Farrar Capon puts it, “Jesus came to raise the dead. He did not come to teach the teachable; He did not come to improve the improvable; He did not come to reform the reformable. None of those things work.” As long as the church thinks it is in the life business instead of the death business, it will constantly clamor after every tool to improve life and it will judge its success in the way that bookkeepers and accountants judge success.

So what does success look like in a church? Success looks a lot like faithfulness, or as Eugene Peterson puts it, a long obedience in the same direction. But can a church ever learn that discipline if it is constantly changing its ministry plan in an effort to pack more people into its $80 million dollar auditorium? Success can never be small in America. The same spirit that launched MTV’s “Cribs” and relishes in the material excess of celebrities pervades our churches and infects even the ministers. I’ll admit, I had to check myself several times from being swept up into the “more is better” attitude that was celebrated and encouraged this week. I had to remember that my success as a pastor must be different than the success a business leader looks for and is judged by. My success is judged by my faithfulness to the marks of the church and the ministry that God has called me to: a ministry of Word and Sacrament, a ministry of foolishness in the eyes of the world, a ministry of life and light to those dead and in darkness, a ministry not of myself and my dreams or even my leadership, but a ministry of Christ by His Spirit.

There’s not enough time to comment on the rest of the event, so I’ll just quickly bullet point a few things:

  • We started yesterday with an American Idolized “Awake My Soul,” the beautifully spare song from the British band Mumford and Sons.  I knew that I recognized it while the band was singing, but it was so over-produced that I couldn’t place it until I Googled the lyrics. I had to listen to the real version several times last night just to remember how wonderful the song is in its simplicity. Sadly, the band used it as the beginning of a medley of praise songs but the audience couldn’t figure out when to start singing along, at what point did performance give way to participation?
  • Anytime the band performed, the stage and auditorium exploded into a light show strong enough to induce seizures. I hasten to add that I’m a GenX’r and am supposed to like all of this. But I don’t think my problem is Presbyterian curmudgeoness; there was a disconnect between what everybody assumed they were doing and the environment in which they were doing it.
  • Along the same lines, highly produced videos intruded into every presentation. There were even commercials for different products related to the various speakers and presentations.
  • I wish that this had been a straight leadership/management conference. I think that Bill Hybels is in the wrong business. He is obviously a gifted leader and CEO. I learned quite a bit from him and the other secular presenters about business. The “Jesus” side of things was weird and whenever one of the secular speakers tried to include a little “Jesus” in their presentation, the result was always a mess (see Mayor Booker’s remark in the “theological fails” below).
  • [this point has been changed in response to a good pushback from a commentator] Steven Furtick, the young pastor of the new megachurch in Charlotte, North Carolina had a rousing message from 2 Kings 3, but I felt that he based the main point of his message on a part of the verse that isn’t universally attested to, at least in English Bibles. Preaching from 2 Kings 3:16, Pastor Furtick enjoined the crowd to have audacious faith by digging ditches in the desert, waiting for God to bring the rain. Rhetorically, this was a powerful message. But, in several English versions, there’s nothing in there about digging ditches. Instead, the text says that God will fill the dry stream beds. One could understand why ditches might be substituted for stream beds in different English translations, but where’s the verb?
  • Willow Creek is the epicenter of that kind of evangelicalism that the British newspaper, the Guardian called “unrecognizable” as Christian houses of worship, wrappers “round some mixture of superstition and advertising.” That was on full display these last two days. Thankfully, as the Boomers age that form of ministry seems to be dying off, too. I just hope the church in America can recover from it.

And to conclude, three theological fails:

  • Newark mayor Corey Booker needs to go back to Sunday school: we do not have divinity within each of us, as he claimed during his presentation. In fact, our drive to do good isn’t internal at all, it is borne out of two things: gratitude to God and seeing our neighbor’s need.
  • Mama Maggie Gobran, an Egyptian Coptic Christian told the crowd that they must choose to be either a sinner or a saint. Great illiteration but terrible theology not to mention absolutely contrary to Ephesians 2:1-10, which states that we were dead in our trespasses and sins and made alive by God.
  • In a crowd of thousands of pastors, neither statement elicited even a murmur. The judgment of charity can only extend so far, folks.


Many of you have asked me if there was anything beneficial that I gained by being at the Summit, or if I went in with an agenda to merely criticize. As I mentioned above, I came hoping to learn leadership and management skills for the nonprofit organization I lead. I didn’t come as a pastor, but as an executive. To that end, there were quite a few good things:

  • I really liked Bill Hybels’ first session on Thursday. He set up four flip charts and identified four big issues facing leaders: the level of their current challenge at work, plans for dealing with challenging people, a challenge to address problems as problems, and reexamining the core of organizational mission. I took a good two pages of notes on his presentation.
  • The one take away I got from Len Schlesinger’s presentation (I was out of the room for part of it), was that big problems are solved by small steps, not big steps. That’s good to remember.
  • I also really enjoyed Seth Godin’s presentation: engaging, quick, funny. The big take away is that organizations can’t be all things to all people: who is your tribe (a fancy word for an audience or market)? Appeal to them and make yourself indispensable to them.
  • I enjoyed Jim Mellado’s interview with Michelle Rhee. She’s always been someone I admired and now I have even more reason to do so. I also really appreciated her honestly about her own process in becoming an “aspiring Christian.”
  • Henry Cloud is outstanding and his presentation on the three categories of people was excellent.

I had to leave at that point to catch a flight, so I can’t comment on anything else.



  • 12 Aug 2011
    Frank Rue says:

    Eric –

    You’ll note that in The Message, the verse that Steven Furtick used contains the phrase “Dig ditches all over this valley.”

    Clearly, Eugene Peterson was under a similar impression about the original meaning of the text, which distinctly does not match the feeling of the interpretation settled on in the ESV.

    Unfortunately, this is not the first time I’ve heard that passage used in that exact same manner; in a previous church, our pastor used this same passage to make this same point, so it seems to have made its way around the “faith as a substance” crowd quite well.

    I would love to hear more of your take and comments on the conference—perhaps a follow up post? 🙂

    In Christ,

  • 12 Aug 2011
    What Is The Business Of The Church? (via White Horse Inn) | mgpcpastor's blog says:

    […] workplaces. Eric Landry attended Willow Creek Association’s Global Leadership Summit, and among other observations about the event, offers these thoughts about: What business is the church in? Bill Hybels said yesterday that the […]

  • 12 Aug 2011
    What I Read Online  08/13/2011 (a.m.) | Emeth Aletheia says:

    […] The Business of the Church  White Horse Inn Blog […]

  • 12 Aug 2011
    Jeremy says:

    I would say that one thing in regards to that passage mentioned in 2 Kings… There are only 2 English speaking versions that have the text differently than he used it. The ESV and NLT. If you study many older commentaries by men who were scholars and theologians (John Gill & Matthew Henry to name a couple) also read it as dig ditches or make pools for the water coming. The KJV, NKJV, NAS, HCSB, NIV all have it the same as he preached it. So before we criticize a man’s education or his God-given calling to preach God’s Word, I think we should choose first the truth and then the truth in love.

  • 12 Aug 2011
    Nate Stratman says:

    Not trying to pick a fight, but there is great cynicism throughout this entire post. Did you come into the conference feeling this way or did what you see stimulate this tone? Was there anything of redeeming value to be applied in your context?

    Nate Stratman

  • 12 Aug 2011
    Ryan says:

    It’s obvious the only reason you went to this conference in the first place was to tear it apart… Maybe it would be better for your heart to simply let mega churches do their thing without you..?

  • 12 Aug 2011
    Ryan Phelps says:

    Ah, but…

    I’m not going to take your to task over points, just tone and general substance. For a ministry that prides itself on teaching the gospel unadulterated, you’d have done well to be more gracious to the Summit, the WCA and the Summit’s speakers. I found myself agreeing with you at the beginning but, near the end, was overwhelmed by–well, how else do I pout it?–your negativity. “Was it really THAT bad?” I wondered aloud. It’s like my hipster friends who disparage contemporary music with eschatological ferocity. “Should we just do away with that sort of music altogether?” And so to you, is there nothing we can learn from those who clearly think differently than you on how to do ministry? Or should we just do away with them and their building altogether? You could have, it seems, pulled at least a few positives from the conference (and “Bill should be a CEO and not a pastor” doesn’t count).

    In my effort to be gracious to you, I think you were spot on with much of your assessment.

  • 12 Aug 2011
    Anthony Garcia says:

    I agree with most of what you said here. However, I must also agree with the majority of the above comments as well. The tone of this post was harsh throughout, and if I were Bill Hybels, or any other person involved with the event, and I stumbled upon this blog, I don’t know that I would give it much ear for that reason alone. I fear your proper critiques may be of none effect due to the presentation. It’s almost toned as “spy comes in to throw stones via keystrokes.” This was my first visit to, and I struggle to separate it from the “angry Calvinist” category. Salt it with love, bro. God bless.

  • 13 Aug 2011
    G. Sanchi says:

    Ryan and Nate, your words show how little of the spirit of Christ dwells in your thinking. How did Christ respond to those who changed the law of God to justify their human opinions and traditions like Hybels? He called them vipers and sons of the devil. Paul called those who debated about words, genealogies, and vain human precepts dogs! Would you stand in condemnation over them? Christ had harsh words.

    Those who receive mercy and forgiveness by Christ are not the insolent and proud who think they can change God’s law or Gospel; rather, it is the humble who come to God on His terms on the Day of salvation he has appointed. What can be more vain and proud and arrogant than claiming that God doesn’t care about how he is worshiped or we can change the method of Church to follow the principles of this present evil age?

    Nothing in this post even came close to that type of Covenantal Cursing of our Lord, and yet your Modern noses are wrinkled. Your criticism is over his negativity? To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, “Grow some chests!” Neither of you gentleman know what it is like to fall into the hands of the living God who does not tolerate strange fire in His true worship. Your modern sensibilities need jostling lest you become unable to hear the words of Christ. The ministry of Gospel is attached to its method/means. To change the method God ordains is to change the Gospel message.

  • 13 Aug 2011
    Leo says:

    Great article!

  • 13 Aug 2011
    William M. Cwirla says:

    וַיֹּ֕אמֶר כֹּ֖ה אָמַ֣ר יְהוָ֑ה עָשֹׂ֛ה הַנַּ֥חַל הַזֶּ֖ה גֵּבִ֥ים ׀ גֵּבִֽים׃

    There actually is a verb there, “to do or make” but it’s a Qal infinitive, leaving it a bit ambiguous as to who is doing the doing. The KJV and its derivatives have it as command to Elisha to dig a bunch of ditches that the Lord will fill in an action prophesy. The RSV and its derivatives have it as the Lord will fill the dry ditches. Either way the prophetic point is made. The problem is the allegorization that occurs with so many modern preachers who turn a specific vision or command into a general principle.

  • 13 Aug 2011
    Doug Tinklenberg says:


    Perhaps you’re asking for the impossible. “Tone” must necessarily follow a “spot-on assessment,” if that’s what it is. I’m not sure you can have the one without the other. Remember, Jesus had a “tone” clearing out the Temple.

    Yes, these are two vastly different visions of how to do ministry. The necessity to choose one or the other as well as the chasm between them will only grow in days to come. If we succumb to the ‘tone’ and ‘style’ police in the church today, much will be lost. But with courage and conviction, who knows what great things in the Church might result.

    just my 2 cents,

  • 13 Aug 2011
    Ryan says:

    The more I’ve thought about it, the tone of this post isn’t so much negative as much as jealous… The last time I remember hearing anyone talk this badly about a mega church was from a pastor of a tiny little (dying) church in the middle of nowhere… he had lots of “theological” issues with big churches, mostly because his church wasn’t one of them… He read books by mega church pastors with a black marker in hand instead of a highlighter.. makes me think a lot about what it is to be humble and have a teachable spirit…

  • 13 Aug 2011
    justin says:

    i read many of the on-site bloggers’ posts for this conference. i have attended the summit before. i think the reason for bringing in politicians, businessmen, writers, coaches, etc to speak on management, leadership, etc. is that they often understand the importance of parts of the book of Proverbs better than ministry people. How many times are we exhorted to pursue diligence, hard work, self-control in the Proverbs, and these things relate directly to attempting to do all things excellently for the glory of God b/c we are working for Him. But, in ministry, we can AND often do get away with so-so effort, planning, intentionality. We can read books of all the damage done by well-intentioned but unthoughtful ministries. And, we don’t typically get fired for not paying attention to details or being organized…instead our flocks have to put up with our lackluster efforts. In business, you get fired or your company dies for what happens everyday in churches and ministries. So, we (being in the dead to life business myself) need to be exhorted to do what we do (as opposed to biz) with AT LEAST the same excellence as Seth Godin. We don’t need to do more…we already overwork ourselves as ministers, but we need to do better. NOT because bigger is better, but because God is better!

  • 13 Aug 2011
    david carlson says:

    actually, re: 2 Kings, it sounds like the pastor may have been incorrect in ditches (actually think the word is better defined as “cisterns” but it sounds like he was correct in application – the whole point of the passage is (as the notes in the NET Bible state:

    tn Heb “making this valley cisterns, cisterns.” The Hebrew noun גֵּב (gev) means “cistern” in Jer 14:3 (cf. Jer 39:10). The repetition of the noun is for emphasis. See GKC 396 §123.e. The verb (“making”) is an infinitive absolute, which has to be interpreted in light of the context. The translation above takes it in an imperatival sense. The command need not be understood as literal, but as hyperbolic. Telling them to build cisterns is a dramatic way of leading into the announcement that he would miraculously provide water in the desert. Some prefer to translate the infinitive as an imperfect with the Lord as the understood subject, “I will turn this valley [into] many pools.”

    In your quest for being “literal” (which you may be wrong in), you also missed the truth that is being taught in this passage. Yet the conference presenter did not. The rest of your post could be correct. But your error at this point puts that in doubt

    shame indeed

  • 13 Aug 2011
    mac says:

    I must say that my read of the Summit was starkly different than yours. I was not a fan of the music or the crowd participation stuff, and the bad theological moments were disappointing. However I appreciated the excellence of presenters. That said, I am tired people mocking others who have invested so much into their efforts. If this conference was promoting evil, make the case.

    You should have left the conference when Hybels made the upfront and very public statement that we gathered to learn from each other, Pastors submitting to business folk and vice versa. I have the ability to separate wheat and chaff, and found myself disagreeing with certain things and moving on.

    Do you actually believe that the Holy Spirit of God seeks to cleave the business world from the Church? As a business owner, I have created hundreds of jobs in my community and see that as a Godly calling. Do I have nothing to offer the Church? I have a Master in Christian Theology, do I have nothing to offer the business world?

    • 13 Aug 2011
      Eric Landry says:

      Thanks all for the good comments about my post. I’ve made a change to my critique of Pastor Furtick’s message in response and added an update of the things I appreciated.

  • 13 Aug 2011
    Lance says:

    Like you, I benefited greatly from the opening Hybels presentation and the Henry Cloud talk–both were closely related and, I think, can be a big help to pastors (like me), who have found themselves working with other pastors who were draining the church and needed to be directed elsewhere (and admittedly, most of us pastors are not comfy enough to do that when it really needs to be done).

    What bothered me most is still hearsay, but from what I heard, Erwin Macmanus pretty much said that Solomon (and thus the HS) was wrong, when he wrote, “nothing is new under the sun.”
    If that is the case, my biggest bone to pick with the WCA is, “You demand excellence in so many areas, why not in exposition of Scripture.”
    To me, it is far more harmful to have a pastor who undermines Scriptural authority, than to mix pastors with secular managers at such a conference.

  • 13 Aug 2011
    Todd Wilken says:

    Eric, GREAT job. TW

  • 13 Aug 2011
    Ryan says:

    Lot’s of people are quick to defend their opinion and go to war over it, then justify their behavior by comparing their own attitude/response to Jesus (responding to Pharisees, flipping tables, etc) as if we are on the same level as Jesus in terms of our righteous anger or our ability to peer into the hearts of men and judge their motives, intentions, or nearness to the Father. It’s sad to me that christians will more quickly critique than encourage and defend their own ‘right-ness’ than to simply listen…
    The most dangerous thing any of us could do is to approach scripture with an agenda. I believe the same goes for what we listen to or conversations we engage in. If you’re no longer able to change and learn, you’ve become an impotent leader. It’s a shame that upon hearing a vibrant and uplifting message, the immediate response is a critique and rebuttal… not a prayer for understanding or openness to something the Spirit may be trying to reveal to us… Are we all really so arrogant that we believe we’ve got it all figured out? That our interpretation of scripture is THE interpretation? That the Spirit of Christ doesn’t rest on anyone who disagrees with ________________? Really guys? It’s no wonder hurting people don’t turn to the Church for help!

  • 13 Aug 2011
    RJ says:

    I’m pretty sure Steven Furtick graduated from the seminary where Al Mohler presides as president.
    And this past weekend, Elevation Church baptized 1162 people in the morning services and a couple hundred youth in the Sunday evening service. Boy’s doing something right.

  • 13 Aug 2011
    Frank Rue says:

    Eric –

    Please don’t fall under the sway of popular (even Christian) opinion. The reason I enjoy White Horse Inn and Modern Reformation is because of its willingness to stand against mainstream, unbiblical growth strategies and compromises of the Gospel. Your critique of Furtick and the rest of the leadership gurus should stand; the biblical call to preach the Christ and Him crucified is foolishness to most—not a “brilliant business strategy”. It would do well for Hybels and the crew to remember this.


  • 13 Aug 2011
    The Business of Church Examined « The Ecclesiologist says:

    […] The post can be found here. […]

  • 13 Aug 2011
    Clive says:

    The fact that you had to add an “Update” to list what you DID learn only reveals not so much what your intentions were but the inner workings of your mindset, which is akin to being the hallway monitor in a Christian school and looking for any out-of-the-norm behavior. Your intentions, I agree, in attending the Summit was to learn but it doesn’t negate the fact that the type of critical heart you have shows that you are only interested in policing the behaviors of other believers. This was made obvious by the fact that you had to give an update as to what you did learn.

  • 13 Aug 2011
    RJ says:

    What really stands out about this post is that this blogger was willing to listen to his commenters and amended his own post!
    Eric Landry has made reformed blogger’s look good today.

  • 13 Aug 2011
    Growth and Success in the Church | Messiah Lutheran Church says:

    […] Edit:  It turns out Im not the only one saying this:  Check out this article from the White Horse Inn – […]

  • 13 Aug 2011
    The Ecclesiologist says:

    What Is The Business Reexamined (via White Horse Inn) |

    …Landry’s post is worth reading. He challenges the reader to reflect on the way the agenda of businesses and the agenda of churches are different. I cannot imagine what North American Christianity would look like if every church reflected on this statement…

  • 13 Aug 2011
    The Ecclesiologist says:

    Great post Eric.
    Though I found it ironic that you said “I think that Bill Hybels is in the wrong business,” (what business should he be in … if not the Church leadership business) I got your point. The Church frequently challenges men to leave their businesses and pursue the ministry. What’s wrong with telling a guy in the ministry that he is brilliant and much more helpful to the world as a business leadership strategist? The business of the Church is a dangerous topic to engage, but one that the Church must start talking about if we don’t want to become a business.

  • 13 Aug 2011
    Rachael Starke says:

    This comment thread is the most frustrating, infuriating thing I’ve read in a while. Eric offers an extensive list of things objectively seen and heard at a conference, assesses those same things from a Biblical perspective, raises legitimate concerns on that assessment,

    and he’s called judgmental and jealous?? Seriously??

    Christian-ish leaders standing up and teaching unsaved business leaders bad theology and zero gospel.

    Secular leaders purportedly able to educate ministry leaders what the book Proverbs is really about.

    Those things raise nary an eyebrow.

    But dare to question whether this kind of event might possibly be hurting the church and its witness in the world, not helping it?

    That’s what gets a holy rebuke.


  • 13 Aug 2011
    Caleb says:

    This review is unfortunate and ungenerous.

    “I joked to my facebook friends that I was undercover this week and that’s partly true.”

    Your intro here is clear and sets the pace for the rest of your critique. You came to Willow set completely against the grain. You had no intention of giving any speaker charity or the benefit of the doubt. Instead, every speaker was “guilty until proven innocent.” This is clear in your sharp and nit-picky assessment of most of the conference speakers (whether deserved or not).You came to Willow to interrogate, not interact.

    “The two-day conference is an intentional effort to combine the wisdom of business leaders with the wisdom of ministry leaders, with the hope that these two different kinds of leaders could learn from one another.”

    This is half-true. The conference undoubtedly speaks to the corporate world as much as the church world, but no where does Hybels advocate that the church needs to replicate corporate America. Not only this, but the conference had speakers involved in social-justice, education, entrepreneurship, church-leadership (differing denominations with clear methodological differences), management, politics, marketing, and psychology. To say that the conference is designed to combine business and ministry is a rash generalization.

    “Business leaders have different agendas than ministry leaders and that difference is spelled out in quarterly profit reports, reports that depend on keeping many different segments of the marketplace happy with your product…The assumption here is that the church and the business are variants on the same kind of thing and so the principles that work in one should work in the other and the leadership that exists in one should exist in the other. That assumption is naïve and I’m surprised by the number of business leaders over the years who have spoken at the Summit, giving credence to that view.”

    While it may be clear that some emphasis (whether intentional or not) is given to treating a congregation like a customer base, it is unfair to say that Hybels (or other pastors) would espouse a one-to-one parallel. In fact, much of what Hybels will talk about is not the church members, but the church staff. Hybels talk about “quarterly profit reports” revolves more around his paid employees, his staff, than his church attendees (disciples). If you disagree with Hybels on that parallel, that is fine! But make the correct distinction.

    “The product that the Summit is offering is enticing: success…To be fair, the session that I’m missing right now features the stories of difficult ministries, specifically foreign ministries in India and Egypt, where success may not be immediately visible.”

    You are absolutely right about your comments revolving around fairness here. You completely missed the session where Bill acknowledges that coming to this conference can cause people to focus all attention on success. You missed the talk Bill gave on Jeremiah’s life, illuminating that brokenness (not necessarily success) often accompanies the call and initiation of God on one’s life.

    “Businesses will change according to the ebb and flow of the market; churches cannot change their mission or vision and still lay claim to being the church.”

    Yes and amen! But do you really think Bill Hybels would’ve disagreed with this comment? Hybels, aside from clearly laying out at least a 7-minute Gospel presentation in his talk, has preached about the empowering of the local church for over twenty years. You know very well that methodology is different from theology. What is clear at this point in your argument is that you’ve built a mega-church, pastrarepreneur straw man that you attack very well.

    “Bill Hybels said yesterday that the church is in the life transformation business. I’m glad to say that the Bible doesn’t support that view though it does seem to be a fairly common misconception today…In all of these scenarios, however, Jesus is a means to an end (a very personal, therapeutic end: feeling better about ourselves)”

    I agree in part here, though, you undoubtedly put too many words in Bill and WCA’s mouth. To say the church exists just to change other people’s lives is undoubtedly short of Biblical understanding. But to say that the church does not have any responsibility in the transformation of people’s lives is silly and also short of Biblical understanding. You do not say it does not change anyone’s life, but your condemning tone implies it. No where in Bill’s ministry would you be able to draw the idea that they use Jesus towards its end. If you’ve read any of Bill’s books you would see that his regular prayer is, “God, I’m open and willing for you to do and move however you’d like through me.” If Bill’s desire was to use Jesus towards his end, he wouldn’t be in the ministry.

    “Success looks a lot like faithfulness, or as Eugene Peterson puts it, a long obedience in the same direction. But can a church ever learn that discipline if it is constantly changing its ministry plan in an effort to pack more people into its $80 million dollar auditorium?”

    Yes. Yes, I absolutely believe a church can learn the message of faithfulness despite its methodological differences with your church.

    “I’ll admit, I had to check myself several times from being swept up into the “more is better” attitude that was celebrated and encouraged this week. I had to remember that my success as a pastor must be different than the success a business leader looks for and is judged by.”

    That sounds great. But, where did you get the notion that “more is better”?

    “I didn’t come as a pastor, but as an executive.”

    Then why did you review the conference like a pastor?

  • 13 Aug 2011
    A Response to Eric Landry at White Horse Inn | says:

    […] Miscellany with 0 Comments // Eric Landry at the White Horse Inn has reviewed Willow Creeks Global Leadership Summit. After seeing Jared Wilson tweet about the response […]

  • 13 Aug 2011
    DB says:

    All the comments about cautioning Mr. Landry about “negativity” seem to be to be a barometer of the “cultural Christianity” in our 21st-Century North American society. Are we so worried about hurting someone else’s feelings that we must shirk away from stating the hard truth to discipline those who are professing to be believers yet are not accurately handling the Word of Truth in how they present Jesus Christ and the Gospel to the world? Mr. Landry, thank you for not succumbing to the ways of the world, and for defending the Truth of the Word, and for respectfully educating believers on the fact that the enemy of the Word is closer than we think. We should all be so discerning and testing of everything. Thank you.

  • 13 Aug 2011
    Edwards says:

    A question on 2 Kings 3:16.
    I have often wondered why the Lord would have them dig ditches when there was no water to refresh them and quench their thirst.
    Perhaps the ESV’s rendering of the scripture is correct.

  • 13 Aug 2011
    Clive says:

    Caleb – great comment asking Eric why critiqued as a pastor when he explicitly stated that he came as an executive.

    Eric – as you stated that you came as an executive, why did you critique it as a pastor? It wouldn’t have been wrong if you critiqued it as a pastor but your words grossly betrays your actions. Clearly, your endeavor or whatever you intended to do by going to this conference wasn’t thought out at all. Me thinks that you can apply some of that ‘success’ and ‘excellence’ principle from the conference the next time you figure out what your objectives are and what you intend to blog about.

  • 13 Aug 2011
    Sandy Grant says:

    Thank you, Eric, for the reminder that church pastors need great caution (rather than outright rejection) regarding applying business leadership principles to their ministries. I’ll leave comments on tone to others.

    Just a side issue though, Eric, regarding the “long obedience in the same direction” quote from Eugene Peterson (presumably from his book title on the Psalms of Ascent). I am just wondering if you knew (or recalled) that with that phrase Peterson is not being original. Rather he is quoting the atheist philosopher, Frederich Nietzsche from Beyond Good and Evil.

    I too find the phrase very evocative and useful, but on the one hand feel proper attribution should be made to its real author, but on the other hand am not sure I want to be citing Nietzsche, famous for his ‘God is dead’ nihilism!

  • 14 Aug 2011
    Frank Turk says:

    I just wanted to ask two questions:

    1. Given that this kind of Christianity is creating more participants (maybe “disciples” is not the right word) and sending more missionaries than the kind Modern Reformation’s tribe does and would like to see, is there a way to influence it for the better rather than alienate it? Or does it need to be alienated as a matter of church business, a la Arius or any of the pre-reformation heterodox teachers?

    2. I think the stunner here is the number of people who think Hybels & Co. are doing wonderful things who actually read the virtual pages here at Modern Reformation, Eric — your sly point about hem not even knowing what the White Horse Inn is seems to have been disproven by the wrath poured out here against your observations. To those who read this and found it offensive, what can the writers here do to offer their view of improvements that this movement and church type could implement?

  • 14 Aug 2011
    Wayne Roberts says:

    I believe Eric is a Christian first an executive second (or even 3rd, 4th, 5th). Some seem to be saying it should have been reversed. What exactly is of first importance? Also a number of people don’t seem to be regular WHI listeners, and seem to have gotten here via another blog.

  • 14 Aug 2011
    Paul says:

    As a pastor who has twice attended the conference in Barrington at Willow Creek (we have family there) I must say it is easy for a first time attendee to fall into the trap of misunderstanding the entire point of the conference (or even Willows weekend services), and therefore, pick it apart so easily – lacking this, lacking that, poor theology, etc, etc. This is a common trap, thus discountable.

    Mr. Landry – having attended under a slightly false premise by having had someone else pay for his ticket (no“skin in the game, as it were…did he really want to be there for the right reason?) – completely misses the point of the conference…possibly because Bill Hybels is an easy target.

    It is simple (something my father told me moons ago),“No one is perfect in the eyes of another. No one can be all things to all people all of the time.” I say, no conference can be all things to all people, which is why there are many different church conferences each year; people need different things…that is, one size does not fit all. If Mr. Landry could not see the genuine intent of what Hybels and crew (his governing Board, the WCA, and church staff) do each year, let alone what they do as a community church – both locally and internationally – and why attendance is incredibly vibrant each week at Willow’s services regardless of the pastoral team turnover over the years, or the great effort it takes to manage such a deal, then no amount of discussion or persuasion to naysayers will suffice.

    I happen to know the origins of Willow Creek…my wife helped start the youth group Hybels was pasturing, and helped start Willow. In fact, she commented that he was kind of goofy in his first sermons, something many of us first time pastors can relate. If you read his book on Willow – a book other’s asked him to write because it is a phenomenal story from humble, almost “No way can I do this!” beginnings, to its current manifestation of trying to reach others for God. The humble beginnings of this church was not a business decision…it was a God-driven challenge given to him through one of Bill’s professors, Dr. B. Yet it has been a very difficult journey – first held in the Willow Creek Movie Theatre Sunday mornings, hence the name. The current 90 acres it now sits was the second property the church ended up with…not the one they worked hard to raise money for originally. That property – had they gotten all the money they needed for purchase though various fund-raising sales effort (tomatoes eve…the list goes on) – would have literally been condemned weeks later by the highway department, at a huge loss. So regardless of the youth groups’ (yes, it was a youth group who did all this at first) initial disappointment, God was protecting this great endeavor from failure. But it has not been without significant trials.

    To know firsthand the journey I can see the goodness in what Hybels and his team have done. To make it “just Hybels” is a misnomer and devoid of all perspective. He happens to be the Senior Pastor, but there is a huge organization behind his position. Here’s a little known fact: today’s weekend services use nearly the same format as what they did in the beginning – skits, music (Son City), message, etc.all as a way to stay relevant to their community (and now the world through WCA), which was based on a door-to-door poll on why people were not going to church done back in the seventies. How many pastor’s even ask their community what they need or why they don’t come? Willow’s efforts, therefore, continue to be based on community outreach…helping people far from God become close to Him.” Simple. How many pastors can stand firm with unabashed boldness say that is their goal?

    To criticize any effort of another pastor without understanding from “whence he came” or because of status is completely wrong. I do find it specious these same folks who are critical of Willow or its many manifestations, fail to observe the monumental work it takes to manage such an organization…one that has a daily demand for “every persons need” (as our current society demands) that few pastors or churches could comprehend or deal with. Hybels himself almost had a breakdown years ago because he thought he needed to do everything himself no matter how big his shop got.

    I can testify – having personally met the man and hearing the stories from my wife – that Bill Hybels works every day to do what God has called him to do. His humility is evident. To simply call him “the mega-church movement starter” or pick apart his effort in a single yearly conference, not only gives short-shrift to the effort entirely, it is being of poor spirit (or is that“poor sport”.) Hybels once said, “when do we turn people away because we are full up?” (or words to that affect) So he would ask the congregation if they should expand to accommodate the need…and invariably they have said “Yes!”. To manage that level of growth has not been easy. And in fact they have had significant trials through the years, but they have always sought God’s leading and hand in the matter.

    I respect what Bill Hybels has done (although I assure you he takes little credit). Unfortunately (and typical ) the world (even other pastors) have sought him out as an easy target of criticism. That – my friends – is not Godly and Paul warned us “leaders” about engaging in such activity. As for me…well…when I introduced myself to him in the “bullpen” after a Summit session and mentioned my wife and Willow’s beginnings, then mentioned I was as a rural ranching community pastor of a small congregation and that I may have the “smallest” church represented here (a joke, but it is for sure only 21’x27′ in size), his comment will never leave me: “Your 25 are no less important to God than our 20,000.” That told me all I needed to know about the man.

    Initially there were Twelve Apostles – each with their own approach, which is exactly why Jesus picked them. Later, Paul discussed the “differences among the same body”, if you will, in many of his letters to avoid church infighting. Funny, that same problem continues today. Yes, it is easy being critical of another’s “success”. However, maybe instead of being critical we should take Paul’s lead on this and presume we are all on the same team,just at different positions on the field. More importantly, maybe the microscope should be turned the other direction. You want some insight into the man (Hybels) – why he does what he does? Then read his books. In them is a heart for God. An example I work to strive for each day and work to impart to my small group each month.

    I believe the failings of our society largely comes from weakness in the pulpit. But as church leaders it is ours to change…which is the entire point of The Summit, a point Mr. Landry completely misses – preferring instead to be critical.

  • 14 Aug 2011
    Ricky Williams says:

    A good summary of the interpretation on 2 Kings 3:16 is given in the note for that passage in the NET Bible on I think that will clear up some of the discussion.

  • 14 Aug 2011
    Edward Hutcheson says:

    We can say what we want, but we are going to have a difficulty any time we attempt to cross-pollinate entities that have goals that are diametrically opposed to each other.
    Business success in any era presents problems for those of us who have made a marriage of success and spirituality, and many of us are defensive when our lifestyles become the barometer by which success is measure. This event was a good idea,if only for the reason that it gave those with opposing views on the “use of spirituality” the opportunity to talk about the difficulties in living and ministering in and to a media driven culture that is event focused.

  • 14 Aug 2011
    Edward Hutcheson says:

    The issue of exclusivity may be at the heart of the differing responses to Eric Landry’s “report”. For some, religion and business is more inclusive and any comment that that cannot be correctly interpretated in that light becomes heresy. It is wise to have business pracices follow a moral mandate and the Scriptures give us a good instruction, but for some to get upset with the exclusivity issues, reveals a blindness that “The Gospel” addresses. While we are trading quotes here,it was Nietzsche who also promoted the notion that truth is a function of taste and if that is true we can also say that the exercise of it is peculiar and sometimes preferential. Those who are “Christians” do well to note the distinctions in the dialogue, because that is what they are called to do and they can do no less, even if some are offended. However, the CEO did warn us that it would be part of the deal if He was being proclaimed.

  • 14 Aug 2011
    RJ says:

    I admit it, I am not a regular reader/listener, but am not unfamiliar with this group nor with the White Horse Inn reference.

    I didn’t think your critique was mean. I posted mainly in defense of Steven Furtick.

    I still don’t know how 1300 baptisms last weekend in a church that is already about 7000 strong is a bad thing. Is it that the reformed ministers just don’t like this model of people being saved in large churches and baptised in one weekend? What is the downside?

    And once again, he graduated from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (the one where Al Mohler is the president).

    And by the way, can a non regular reader comment here without the game being tick tock and locked?

  • 14 Aug 2011
    Ryan says:

    I had never heard of this White Horse Inn group before I accidentally stumbled upon this blog post… I find it 100% unlikely that I will ever read another by anyone affiliated with this organization… but, everyone has their groupies, right?
    Maybe next year Mr. Landry can be one of the speakers at Willow and give us all some REAL bible teachin’!?!?!?

  • 15 Aug 2011
    Mark S says:

    On your “theological fails,” I wonder if maybe that is what some of those “pastors” who didn’t murmur in that crowd really believe. That would be more frightening than the fact the statements were made (and didn’t get a murmur). We start out wrong and we continue to get things wrong; that is why we need training in righteousness, and to be made complete and oompetent. It is why we need the church and the ministers God appoints, as we read in Eph 4:12-13. If they get it wrong, … oh boy….

  • 15 Aug 2011
    Chris E says:

    I don’t think anyone is doubting that Bill Hybels is very sincere in what he does, nor that Willow Creek as an organisation does a lot of good. However, it’s perfectly possible for sincere people to be wrong.

    It’s not difficult to gather a crowd using principles of marketing – the question is, to what end? When the REVEAL survey came out and showed that Willow Creek Church had a problem with depth, changes were talked about and then quietly shelved.

    Look at the people that speak at the Global Summit – last year featured Jack Welch. There is common grace wisdom to be found outside the church, however we have to be careful in what we import into the church, because it can distort the message we proclaim. Building GE is different from building the church, and there are plenty of *secular* critiques of the techniques used to do the former that never get an airing (even before we get to the religious differences).

  • 15 Aug 2011
    Caleb says:

    Eric, where’d you go?

    Your lack of response speaks louder than the review.

    I am curious what you thought of Bill’s Gospel presentation? My thought is you were head over heels to here “substitutionary atonement” at the Summit. Clearly that didn’t make the review.

    Frank, those are wise questions. I appreciate it.

    It seems that mere analysis will not bring any sort of constructive change. Let us affirm the Gospel, anywhere and everywhere.

  • 15 Aug 2011
    Edward Hutcheson says:

    Mega-churches have problems that are peculiar to churches that are not as large, but the numbers magnify whatever regular size models experience. It is possible to slip in and slip out of churches of all sizes unnoticed, but largeness presents a difficulty that goes against the promotion of relationship within church communities. Is it possible that some mega-church leaders were looking for answers from the “secular” CEO’s, who tend to be more at ease with the large numbers?

  • 15 Aug 2011
    Eric Landry says:

    Sorry, folks. I wanted to spend time with my family on Saturday and in worship on Sunday. The blog isn’t at the top of my priority list even today: staff meetings, new employees, board members. I’ve got a job. I’ll work through some of the comments and try to answer the questions that I can, though comments that purport to know the interior workings of my heart don’t deserve an answer.

  • 15 Aug 2011
    Eric Landry says:

    Ok, so I’ve read through all the comments and one particular strain of comment really stands out: that I was at the conference under false pretenses, that I went in with nefarious intentions, that I was only prepared to critique. First, you’re reading way too much into the joke at the beginning. I was surprised when I looked at my name badge and it showed me as an employee of the company that paid my registration fee. The reason they paid my fee was that a friend who is a nationally recognized business consultant was doing some work for them and asked if they would mind paying for me so that I could attend. He wanted me to go so that I could get some continuing education for my work here at White Horse Inn. I was happy to go (and put some “skin in the game” in terms of transportation costs, meals, etc.), eager to hear some of the business leaders, but also a bit cautious because I knew that my own thinking was at points different than Willow Creek.

    Another question posed to me: why did I critique the Summit as a pastor when I went as an executive. Partly this is because I am both and I can’t easily take my pastor hat off when I am at a Christian event that includes preaching and worship. Partly, this is because the Summit was directed much more toward pastors in the audience than executives. So, regardless of my intentions, I was being engaged from a ministry point of view and many of the examples and applications were ministry oriented.

    Again, for those of you who think that my intentions, my heart, my whatever are so easily diagnosed, there really is no point in continuing the conversation. You can’t know them; I can barely discern them.

    I appreciate the many comments in defense of Bill Hybles as a good man who is seeking to do God’s work. I especially liked the first hand account that Paul gave. But since when does that mean that what a good and Godly man does isn’t open to scrutiny or question or critique? I’m not calling Pastor Hybels’ faith into question. I’m not calling his intentions into question. But I do question the methods that were on display last week. I also question whether his vision of the church (and that of the other speakers) is the right one. Belittling people for even daring to talk about those things is far, far more divisive and hurtful than anything I’ve written here.

    Some of you may think that what follows applies as well to me as others and you’re probably right. But, it is the epitome of foolishness to merely mock (Ryan’s comment about “REAL bible teachin'” being a good example). I did not mock anyone in my post. I did ask pointed questions and made a few strongly worded statements. Where I was wrong, I edited or added further insight after being challenged by some of you. But, apparently even that is evidence of some kind of evil intent on my part according to Clive.

    Real conversations have to involve some sort of disagreement for the conversation to be worthwhile. We model that here at the WHI and in the pages of Modern Reformation by having people from different traditions speak and write. I hope that even if you think I failed miserably at my attempt to engage the Summit, you at least see that it is important to engage…sometimes even critically.

  • 15 Aug 2011
    Edward Hutcheson says:

    This may be the place where this discussion comes to an end, all of the jabs that came at Landry, have been about the issue of motive. The dispute is not about the good that large churches can accomplish, but about their efectiveness beyond a particular threshold and the means and methods they will use to contain or control “success”. This number will vary based on the effectiveness of the ministry. There is an importance to be ascribed to numbers, but all that has been said so far is caught between Matt:25 and Matt:7, the issues of what we do and why we do what we do. Matt:7 comes before Matt:25, in the same way that motive comes before doing and there is only one Judge who is going to deal with that. He is concerned about what we do and what we did, but he seems to be more concerned about why we did, whatever it is we claim to have done”in His Name”. And those of us who are touchy about entering into this particular aspect of the discussion will be better off acknowledging it, instead of ducking behind analogies and misrepresentations.

  • 15 Aug 2011
    Nate says:

    I wish the critics of Eric’s criticism would quit being so critical.

    Reductio ad absurdum…

  • 16 Aug 2011
    Den says:

    I haven’t read all the comments – time forbids that – but I have to agree with much of what Eric wrote. The Summit this year was a change from those of the last couple of years, where the global economic troubles had produced a strong sense of a “new normal.” Reduced resources, reduced opportunities, revised expectations – these were the hallmarks of what I heard last year and the year before. This year, as I examined the credentials and messages of most of the faculty, it was all upward and to the right. More, bigger, better, grander! If you weren’t being audacious in your faith, you were disappointing God. If you weren’t dreaming large, you weren’t thriving. In so many ways, this was the message that I was hearing.

    I did not attend. I had already registered and paid for my attendance last year – and I did not attend this year. I doubt if I will attend again in the future. The bigger-better-grander message is one that has worn very thin. It is a failed exercise I want no part of. It isn’t human in scale, it doesn’t address the needs of most of us who sometimes find ourselves on the receiving end of life’s punches, and it makes anyone less than a stellar success out to be a failure. This is a message that those of us who have not had stellar success don’t need.

    There can only be so many Joshuas and Davids, only so many great leaders. Most of us are foot soldiers, squad leaders at most, unknown, unheralded, unrecognized for the most part. And that’s OK – we didn’t get into this life for our own glory. If we did, we’re in the wrong life.

    There are rock stars in every human endeavor. There are millions more supporters, roadies, behind the scenes people doing the work. We all have a place. I just wish that the subjects spoken about at the Summit had more relevance to the non-celebrities.

  • 16 Aug 2011
    John Wesley on the Global Leadership Summit : What's Best Next says:

    […] made. But this is worth thinking about a bit. And Ill address the other issues, including Eric Landrys post, if I can hit a decent stopping point in writing my book this week. Thanks for reading. If you are […]

  • 16 Aug 2011
    Jason says:

    It’s a little ironic that several of those commenting on this topic have been completely harsh and critical and non-gracious toward Eric, while charging him with those criticisms.

    Instead of dealing with the validity of his points, several have jumped to conclusions about him and his motivations.

    Sadly, some of you are living up to the stereotype of being unwilling to think critically and biblically examine your own processes and strategies. It’s rather odd, considering the topic of the conference, isn’t it?

    I thought Landry was fair. But I guess some people cannot handle anyone critiquing their positions at all and must get on the attack on his character. Accusing him of “jealousy” is cheap and unchristianlike. Sad too.

    Come on, people. Grow up and address the actual points made.

  • 17 Aug 2011
    Dean says:

    Chris E, you state that “When the REVEAL survey came out and showed that Willow Creek Church had a problem with depth, changes were talked about and then quietly shelved.” How in the world do you know this? I have heard several staff people from Willow talk about a lot of changes that were made in the way Willow does things as a result of the REVEAL survey.

    Yes, Eric, you did ask a lot of pointed questions. But your questions are worded in such a way that they are statements more than questions. Rob Bell gave the same sort of answer when people complained about the questions he asked in his preview video for “Love Wins”.

    It just seems that Hybels was more gracious to Starbucks than you were to Hybels. His intent is to reach Starbucks, and he believes that won’t happen by going in and turning over their tables.

  • 17 Aug 2011
    Chris E says:

    “How in the world do you know this? I have heard several staff people from Willow talk about a lot of changes that were made in the way Willow does things as a result of the REVEAL survey.”

    Because some of the practices that REVEAL critiqued were ones that they push through the Willow Creek Association, and continue to push.

  • 17 Aug 2011
    Edward Hutcheson says:

    Machen’s insightful commentary about “liberal Christianity” still bites into the meat of the issue after almost a century: too liberal in their exercise of it but not liberal enough in listening to what other persons are saying, especially if there are questions for which credible answers cannot ne given. Intellectual ascension has a downside, and every era will have to deal with it. In another era, the fellow who said that “God is dead”, also held the view that truth was a matter of personal taste, reminding us that a liberal mindset allows a person to be right and wrong at the same time. Eventually we will come to a time when speech will not be allowed because the expression of it will be seen as hateful and oppressive. Please excuse the last statement, I thought I was in a previous era.

  • 17 Aug 2011
    Caleb says:


    I do agree. Several of these comments are malicious and unfair.

    Specifically, I do acknowledge that two of my points were directed at Eric’s tone. I didn’t mean either of those points to detract from the main point, or to be critical of Eric as a person, but to address some of his issues with the same gusto Eric used in writing his review.

    I hope I did raise and address several of Eric’s points. I think a few others did too.

  • 17 Aug 2011
    Jim Moon, Jr (BrokenPastor) says:

    Interesting response to the conference. I attended several of these assuming that I could gain ministry success. It fed into my heart idolatry of worshiping ministry success.

    Then God brought me through some wonderful failures in trying to start a church. Not one failing, but two. For HIS glory He had to break me of my addiction to control, success, ambition and give me instead His patience.

    Oh I still struggle. And Oh I still want to go to the Summit but I do not. It is too much like a recovering addict going back to soft-core porn.

    I don’t want that (as much) anymore. I’d rather be faithful to Jesus and let Him grow His church through His means, plans and goals.

    Btw, I do work hard and very wisely still. Just get less upset when I don’t see results I WANT right away.

    I’m graced

  • 17 Aug 2011
    Mike says:

    I greatly appreciate your thoughts, Eric. I WAS a member of one of the largest non-denominational “evangelical” churches in the U.S. for over six years. The church has been heavily influenced by Willow Creek. My first reaction to the debacle was, “Is Howard schultz a Christian? If not, what is he doing at this conference anyway?” I’m in the business world and understand Christians can learn a thing or two from non-Christians. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one struggling with non-Christians speaking at conferences for church leaders!

  • 17 Aug 2011
    Bill says:

    I The question here is was sin, repentance towards God, and faith in Jesus Christ as the only hope for salvation preached at this conference? Was it made clear that man is utterly lost unless he’s regenerated by believing the gospel. What about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and why he came into the world, was that explained? If this wasn’t preached all talk about leadership is in vain.

    I haven’t been to the conference but I’m on the mailing list of Saddleback Church and I have drawn the conclusion that the “church growth” movement has become a self-help industry, modern psychology with Christ added onto it. I get great tips from Saddleback on dieting and exercise from the Daniel Plan doctors, time management advice, productivity tips from businessmen etc. And this is all great but it’s not the gospel, it’s not christianity. The seeker sensitive preaching (Hybels and Warren)is based on the false premise that good preaching should help both believers and unbelievers alike. The fact of the matter is that the unbeliever needs to be converted to Jesus Christ, otherwise he’s dead in his sins. For a church to claim that they can help unbelievers become better leaders, better fathers, better stewards before conversion is just not christian. As good as this may be, preaching this self help gospel is not the role that Jesus Christ assigned to the Church in the Great Commission. God chose that we preach the foolishness of the Cross over the wisdom of man.

  • 17 Aug 2011
    Brandon says:

    I think one reality we face that so few seem to acknowledge is that the overwhelming number of Christians in leadership positions are not pastors, but people who simply love the Lord and want to lead others in a way that is good and helpful, a way that shares some of the grace we have tasted while at the same time minimizing the judgementalism that our employees may expect from us.

    Becoming a great leader is the heart desire of many a man or woman because it is the sphere of influence in which God may have placed us. In this sphere I am blessed to have the opportunity to bless others by leading them in a manner in which they experience joy at work and not misery. Through consistent modeling of a Christ like attitude and God glorifying behavior I have influence in the lives of my team that likely outweighs anything a local pastor might have ever had. I serve people by leading them well.

    To lead well also gives the Christian leader favor with those above them, not just below. Imagine how different the stories of the Bible would be if Godly men weren’t also great business men. What would have Egypt’s story been without Joseph’s plan for food storage? What about the Israelites without Jethro’s advice of how to govern and manage conflict? What if Nehemiah had never gained such favor that he was allowed to return to Jerusalem to lead the rebuilding of the walls? What would have happened to the widows without the wisdom for how to organize their care? What would have become of the Gentile mission without men who understood the seriousness of their decision and took the time to consider all options?

    I believe we often operate under a false construct that presupposes that Christian leadership and secular leadership are fundamentally different. Leadership is not inherently good or evil, it is what you make of it. In a fallen world there will inevitably be leaders who use the resources they are entrusted with for selfish gain. This doesn’t make secular leadership incompatible with Christian leadership, it makes sinful people incompatible with Christianity. A good leader is always a good steward of their resources. This is neither Christian or secular, it’s just true.

    One final thought I have is on why so many Christians see to push so hard against the idea of success. Why do we seem so embarrassed of the growth that God may supply to his bride that he loves. Do we look at a husband who gives abundantly to his wife as a shameful thing compared to the miser who forces unnecessary hardship on his bride. Sure, there are businesses who place the bottom line ahead of their people, just as there are churches who place their traditions and outdated practices ahead of their people. The disciples didn’t seem embarrassed by the plentiful harvest of people brought into the kingdom. Why are we?

  • 17 Aug 2011
    Brandon says:

    I hope I successfully avoided direct criticism of this blog post in my previous comment. I won’t say that I agree with all or none of it. Ultimately I just don’t think it was entirely helpful or appropriate in it’s context. After reading it twice I see very little commentary on the leadership principles and practices presented during the summit, which was ultimately what the whole thing was about. It feels a little like reading an interior designers critique of Lambeau Field. While their opinion may be correct I just end up confused about how it fits with the purpose of the object critiqued.

    This post seems aimed at a conference focused on theology driven leadership which I don’t believe WCA ever pretended this was. I can only hope that a music critic from Rolling Stone doesn’t show up at my church on Sunday. They would be legitametly disappointed.

  • 18 Aug 2011
    Kathy says:

    I’m with Nate. It seems the logs didn’t get removed from some eyes before trying to remove a speck…

    Here is God’s word:

    Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,

    “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
    and I will be their God,
    and they shall be my people.
    Therefore go out from their midst,
    and be separate from them, says the Lord,
    and touch no unclean thing;
    then I will welcome you,
    and I will be a father to you,
    and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
    says the Lord Almighty.” ~2 Corinthians 6:14-18

    My understanding is that being yoked together is “plowing common ground”. How can Believers and Unbelievers share the same platform when they are not planting the same seed; seeking the same crop?????

    May the Lord grant His people wisdom and unity in Truth.

  • 19 Aug 2011
    Emily says:

    It is apparent that many who are criticizing this article do not understand that ministers and preachers of God’s word must NOT divorce sound biblical teaching from anything they do. And neither should any of us as Christians. EVERYTHING is going to be judged by God- EVERYTHING is going to be held to the standard of God’s Word. THese “church leaders” who hold summits and conferences to “teach” other leaders how to be “successful” are going to hurt the Church in the long run. They are teaching pastors to be about money, size, and to teach “easy believism” all while promoting themselves. I am not pleased with the way mainstream Evangelicalism has changed- the priority has moved from The Gospel of Jesus Christ to the gospel of man. People centered, success driven, easy listening. We all need to critique the false teachings of “mainstream” churches and examine what we hear, read, and see against the scriptures. Eric did a fine job in this article. If only we all looked at these things through the lens of scripture.

  • 19 Aug 2011
    Caleb says:

    “It is apparent that many who are criticizing this article do not understand that ministers and preachers of God’s word must NOT divorce sound biblical teaching from anything they do.”

    It is also apparent that those who are criticizing some of those who are criticizing the article aren’t bringing up the legitimate points that are raised. Emily, I don’t think many of the people who had legitimate critiques of Eric’s review would disagree with your thoughts.

  • 19 Aug 2011
    Edward Hutcheson says:

    Some of us are looking for and presuming that there should be unity that is void of criticism. if there is disagreement on what the scripture is saying we will have to accept that this is an exercise in polemics, because the views differ and the competing views are not all scriptural
    Greater men,than we have had to slug it out and God did not get any glory out of their outbursts, but they did get clarification. The John Wesley, Augustus Toplady exchanges remind us.
    However, these gentlemen were able to support their beliefs with scriptural content and context. Some of us are taking our text from pastoral management practices are cannot be labelled as foundational, just expedient.

  • 19 Aug 2011
    Forum Friday « ophelimos says:

    […] article from the White Horse Inn blog talks about the dangers of mixing church and business […]

  • 22 Aug 2011
    John Sanders says:

    Brother thank you for this post. You can’t win with this type of thing. If you don’t go and SEE and HEAR things with your own eyes then you are told you can’t critique something that you have not read yourself-seen yourself-witnessed yourself-etc. When YOU DO GO then you are told you just came to nit pick and that you think you know everything- etc-etc-etc. That is what people say about Phil Johnson, Tim Challies, and every other conservative evangelical.

  • 22 Aug 2011
    Weekly Wraps (August 15-21) « Zoy Sauce Etc says:

    […] The Business of the Church (Eric Landry)  Landry blogs his visit to the recent Global Leadership Summit organized by […]

  • 25 Aug 2011
    Michael Webb says:

    How like the Congress! The partisans battle while the country goes to hell. You will know them by their fruit.

  • 25 Aug 2011
    Michael Webb says:

    P.S. Eric said the summit offered an enticing product:success. That just shows how our pre-sets shape our perceptions. I came away with enthusiasm for three things: 1) honoring God, 2) godly, compassionate action, and foremost, 3) leadership…something desperately needed. And that is what the summit purported to offer. I see no “bait and switch.”

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