Bill Hybels’ Willow Creek: The Volunteer Revolution

By Mary Fairchild

MfairladyWCVision Night 2003, Bill Hybels said, “Our values are our rock solid convictions—who we are at Willow. We are going to try to understand the culture.”  Willow Creek/Politics

On “Vision Night 2005,” after Gene Appel read from Acts, “As the apostle Peter preached… and 3,000 people were added to their number…,” Bill Hybels pointed out that they now have plenty of empty seats.  The completion of their 7,200 seat, $73 million auditorium keeps Willow Creek in the top ten largest church auditoriums in the country.  Highlighting the evening, Hybels shared that the dream of his adult life has been to be in a church where every single person knew that they were a priest and that they would be an unstoppable force in our community, city, state, country, and world.  He believes it can happen.

In the lobby, tables were set up with Bill’s new book “The Volunteer Revolution” for everybody in the Willow family “AT NO CHARGE.” (that was a lot of free books!)

“The New Apostolic Churches” believe they are “the last push to fulfill the Great Commission” according to C. Peter Wagner in his book “A Radical New Way of Doing Church.” He is joined by 18 apostolic church leaders, including Bill Hybels, who share their stories of inspiration as they shape their churches into new models for the twenty-first century. (20)

“Vision night” continued with Bill Hybels announcing that his congregation needed to “accept their mantle of priesthood” and he felt that everyone in the church was supposed to know exactly what their spiritual gift was. He relayed “how cool it felt” when he had won a boat race with the right teamwork. He then ridiculed those who were afraid of the “strange happenings” that can go on in relation to spiritual gifts.

He spoke about conversions saying, “….We think of the conversion point, the crossing the line of faith, but I’ve watched believers grow up in faith a lot of years now and I’VE COME TO BELIEVE THAT AFTER THE FIRST MAJOR CONVERSION (that salvation moment), a lot of Christ followers seem to have several mini conversions along their faith journey as they grow up in Christ. They come to various forks in the road—various decision points about how committed to Christ they are really going to be, how conformed to His image are they are going to allow the Spirit of God to make them….Will I acknowledge in the new covenant, in the new arrangement, that God has for his people (those of us who are in Christ are priests)….will I accept the privileges and the responsibilities that are attributed to priests? I think you come to a point in time where it is explained to you, and then you know.” He concluded by describing his relationship with Dr. Bilizekian who was responsible for changing his life and vocation.


(click picture to enlarge) Not unlike Augustine’s monastic “rule for life,” Hybels’ ideas on conversion sound more like the confessions of St. Augustine’s than that of a born again believer. Augustine felt that the external Word of God was not enough, and he spoke of growing god-like that had to do with the role the Holy Spirit played in bringing about a “successful” conversion. In order to “perfect Christian life” such a conversion could only take place if “the rubble heaped on the human soul had been cleared away.” The “garden of the soul needs to be properly weeded” and “one needs to turn away from all “creatures,” all external things, and turn inward to one’s soul where God resides. At this point “the work of transformation could begin.” Only then could “the divine birth in the soul of man” take place. Out of Augustine’s teaching came the cloistered monastic life which set the Roman Catholic priesthood above the masses and instilled its own schools of initiation called monasteries and seminaries which reflected the thought of the esoteric schools. (17)


(click picture to enlarge)New Age author Brennan Manning is promoted at the Willow Creek bookstore; pictured here with Harvest Bible Chapel/Moody’s Joseph Stowell and Rick Warren of ‘Purpose Driven Life’ fame. It’s no wonder spiritual formation is now taught at Moody.  Stowell is pushing it as president of Cornerstone University in Michigan:  “He(Stowell) also has kept busy revamping the chapel program. Students, who meet to worship three times a week, listen to higher-profile speakers, sing better musical selections and enjoy an improved environment that benefits their spiritual formation, he said.” Grand Rapids Press, 3/23/09 (21)

On the back of his 2003 book “A Glimpse of Jesus: A Stranger to Self-Hatred,” both Bill Hybels & John Ortberg praise Manning for his work and Bill Hybels comments “I attempt to read everything Manning writes.” Former Catholic priest/present Catholic mystic, Brennan Manning combines Eastern mysticism, psychology, the New Age movement, liberation theology, Catholicism and Protestantism. Manning regularly meditates (centering prayer) and reports having many visions and encounters with God. According to Manning, “everyone is saved,” and we need to “overcome our psychological fog” and realize it. To the contemplative, the biblical view that all are lost and that only when a person trusts Jesus Christ as Savior he passes from death to life (John 5:24) does not apply. Crucial biblical truths, such as sin and forgiveness, are reinterpreted in the light of therapy. (7)

Willow Creek’s “spiritual formation leader,” Mindy Caliguire, shares that through “soul-guides” (in person and on pages) she has been led to A NEW WAY OF LIFE with an authentic connection to God. Lynne Hybels is a speaker listed on her web site “Soul Care” where she “fosters inner growth” and promotes certain books and authors whom she feels speak to our deepest longings for meaning, wisdom and hope. Her list includes the top promoters of “eastern mysticism techniques” and “New Age thought” like Henri Nouwen, Eugene Peterson, Dallas Willard, John Ortberg, and even “Co-dependent No More” author Melanie Beattie. (9) Spiritual Formation resources today at Willow Creek.

At Willow Creek’s Wednesday night service a “spiritual formation leader” Mindy Caliguire, was introduced in 2003. This was a special night of prayer for those who had concerns about our situation in Iraq. This guide led the body in ways best described as the New Age. We were instructed to relax our arms and put our palms up and be silent and meditate for a few minutes. Bill Hybels praised her for how deeply she had just been praying for her young sons and he introduced her as someone who is not seen much but was very active behind the scenes with the elders in the area of spiritual formation. Protestant No More: Willow Creek is Infiltrated by a Mystic Quaker Movement Called Renovare


The churches that “are effective” will be giving up their declaration of independence, according to church growth guru C. Peter Wagner who boasts that the “growing churches” around the world will be distinctively “interdenominational.” Wagner calls this change the “new apostolic reformation movement.” It is not a reformation of faith, but a reformation of practice. He sites the Willow Creek Association, an alliance spawned by the 18,000 member Willow Creek Community Church, “as an example” as Willow Creek now provides spiritual association and direction for thousands of churches worldwide. (19)


Karen Mainsdancing

(click picture: Karen Mains) Over the years the church began to accept techniques of inner healing, holistic health practices, and psychological counseling, but this search for knowledge within oneself is the basis for Gnosticism

Gnosticism, or “hidden knowledge,” was the basis for the mystery religions of paganism. Today, it is secular psychology that tells us that we have “tapped into wisdom and understanding” about the human soul and human nature. Simply by “looking within ourselves” we can discover all truth, all knowledge, and all power. In order to mind this supposedly unlimited potential, psychologists have attempted to explore unconsciousness through eastern mysticism’s altered states. Centering prayer is said to be the same process as integrating the conscious with the unconscious as described by Jungian psychotherapy.

ParkerPalmer2Parker Palmer is a recommended author by Sybil Towner in women’s ministries at Willow Creek.  Click  on pictures.


Carl Jung, who was suicidal and communed with a demon, taught beliefs about archetypal images, the occult and the collective consciousness. Spiritual formation is a new paradigm and “consciousness revolution.” Not unlike the charismatic experience, individual thinking and application of reason are discouraged.


In the article “Soul Health” in “Leadership Journal,” fall 2004, Mindy shared that her role at Willow Creek now is to highlight an intense conviction about the centrality of the soul and a “way of life” that keeps the soul healthy. Her prescription is the use of “spiritual practices” that open our soul to God and a fundamental shift in the psyche. Although prayer and Bible study are on the list, MORE IS NEEDED. We need to be approached in “NEW WAYS.” Mindy claims that “CENTERING PRAYER” is a way to “silently open your soul to God.” It is an “open, surrendered, peaceful way of resting in the presence of God. Mindy shared that she had an experience where her soul demanded to be heard, rather than doing things on her own strength, she slowly recovered after SHE HEARD THE VOICE OF THE SHEPHERD ASK, “Mindy, what part of ‘nothing’ (John 15:5) don’t you understand?” (8)

“New Age Dominican priest Matthew Fox calls Eckhart his favorite mystic and claims to actually communicate with this dead monk. Fox wrote a book called “Meditations with Meister Eckhart: A Centering Book” for all those daring to make the mystical, spiritual journey. Fox quotes Eckhart as saying there is a four-fold path to God, the last being something ‘DEEP’ called ‘breakthrough,’ WHERE ONE BEGINS TO HEAR VOICES”(18).


Esoteric Christianity is secret teaching known only to the “inner circles of Christian initiates.” In the early days it was carefully hidden from the masses of ORDINARY IGNORANT CONVERTS. “Inner Christianity” had adopted the secret wisdom of the ancients, handed down from generation to generation. Anna Bonus Kingsford used chloroform to ALTER HER CONSCIOUSNESS TO OPEN UP TO THE UNDERWORLD so that she could work through dreams and magic. She and her companion, Edward Maitland, identified “THE SPIRITUAL ALCHEMY” of the gnostic and Hermetic teaching of the early Christian world along with the wisdom of the Neoplatonist philosophers and Muslim Sufis. In the 1880s they founded the “Hermetic Society” and had close contact with Theosophist Madame Blavatsky and the “Order of the Golden Dawn.” It would be Annie Beasant who would take over after the death of Blavatsky. In Beseant’s book, “Esoteric Christianity,” she claimed that her purpose was to THROW SOME LIGHT ON THE “DEEP TRUTHS UNDERLYING CHRISTIANITY.” Many gnostic churches began to spring up in France and England and Edouard Schure’s 1889 book, “The Great Initiates,” stated that there is a similarity of the teachings of all the major religions and their founders. He suggested that Jesus of Nazareth had been trained by the unorthodox Jewish sect of the Essenes and was subsequently initiated into the mysteries of Ancient Egypt (22).

There is a movement that is predicted to be a movement that will continue to change communities, cultures, and much of society which involves powerful manifestations that have nothing to do with the Christian term “born again.”  In 1974, John Wimber left Yorba Linda Friends Church staff at Fuller Theological Seminary where he studied Church Growth Factors for four years.  He then traveled across America teaching pastors about it.  C. Peter Wagner, who was an expert on church growth and a strong proponent of signs and wonders is said to have especially impacted Wimber and he soon concluded that the Gospel was largely ineffective unless accompanied by signs and wonders.  Wimber and C. Peter Wagner co-authored a signs and wonders class that was taken globally.  They set out to implement the “missing holy spirit” in the churches.  Wimber’s unbiblical ideology included a great end-time harvest that would involve the masses.  Pastors trained in Wimber’s methodology operate the Promise Keepers Movement. (3)


“The New Apostolic Churches” believe they are “the last push to fulfill the Great Commission” according to C. Peter Wagner in his book “A Radical New Way of Doing Church.” He is joined by 18 apostolic church leaders, including Bill Hybels, who share their stories of inspiration as they shape their churches into new models for the twenty-first century. (20)


“For about two decades, Peter Wagner has been associated with several global movements of the Holy Spirit. This journey began back in 1982, when he and John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship, co-instructed the course ‘Signs, Wonders and Church Growth’ at Fuller Seminary. His outspoken advocacy of praying for the sick, spiritual mapping, identificational repentance, the ministry and role of apostles and prophets in the church today, and demonic deliverance have identified Peter as a pioneer in the arena of spiritual warfare.” (21)

When Phillip R. Johnson visited John Wimber’s Anaheim Vineyard church as part of research in writing a book, he reiterated the gist of the pastor: “In a moment I’m going to call down the Holy Spirit. Things like you’ve never seen will begin to happen.  People will laugh.  Some will shake and quiver.  Others may make strange animal noises.  Don’t be alarmed by anything you see; it’s just the holy spirit working in his own special way.  We don’t put limits on how God can and cannot work. He may even surprise us with something new tonight. So no matter what you see happen, don’t be alarmed. And above all, don’t try to rationally evaluate the things you will see.  God isn’t trying to reach your mind; He wants to reach your heart. Analyzing spiritual phenomena through the grid of human logic or religious presuppositions is the quickest way to quench what the spirit is doing.  Subjecting the revival to doctrinal tests is the surest way to put out the fire. Don’t try to find reasonable explanations for what is happening; just turn your heart lose and let the spirit flow through your emotions. Only then can the Spirit have his way in your life.”(4)

Back at Willow Creek’s “vision night 2005,” Bill Hybles moved right along by reading Acts 2:1-4 and explained, “This is the description of what happened to the first church at the day of Pentecost, the day the holy spirit showed up in power and manifestation… ‘And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.’

Okay, picture this, YOU’RE IN A ROOM WITH SOME FELLOW BELIEVERS AND THERE’S A SOUND OF A WIND THAT’S GROWING IN ITS VELOCITY AND IT FILLS THE ROOM. What happens to you in a situation like that? …it’s terrifying! What makes it terrifying is when the wind is blowing at 40 knots you don’t know if its going to stay there…you just don’t know. But you know this, it’s out of your control. Something supernatural is going on that you can’t manage and you can’t control.  I Think that the first message that God was trying to teach the Church when the Holy Spirit arrived is that there is now a power beyond human power and it’s going to operated in this thing called the church. You’re going to be a part of something supernatural, so keep your eyes on the supernatural. You’re caught up into something divine–not really you.”

On the contrary to Hybels’ preaching, although the filling of the Spirit is the control of the Spirit—the dominion, the direction of the Holy Spirit, His control is actually very subtle. The filling of the Spirit involves our thinking.  The control of the Spirit is a ministry of the Spirit in the believer as we are walking in the Spirit yielded to Him. Matthew 9:8 says, “When the multitudes saw this they were filled with awe and glorified God who had given such authority to men.” The emotion of “awe” was controlling them…it was the controlling of their mind and their heart at that moment. To be filled with the Spirit means that He is the controlling factor in our thinking at that time. Just as Luke 4:28 says, “And all in the synagogues were filled with rage as they heard these things.” You are totally controlled by that disposition of mind at that time… when you are in rage.

Hybels continued by referring to 1 Corinthians 12:1 where he taught that the Corinthians were struggling with being ignorant and “avoiding spiritual gifts,” when, in actuality, the passage clearly speaks of an “abuse of the spiritual gifts.” Although the Corinthians were very enthusiastic about faith and they were very dynamic, Paul says they were also very carnal. This same ignorance of the truth and fleshly wisdom that they were walking in brought tremendous confusion concerning the area of spiritual manifestations or spiritual gifts.

For the Corinthians, in their pre-Christian life, they grew up in the center of pagan mystery religions. It was very typical of the pagan mystery religions to be experience oriented to the extreme.  In fact they had a word “ecstasis,” which described a trance-like state that they valued highly as perhaps the greatest religious experience that you could have. We get the word “ecstasy” from it. The Priestesses there, the “Oracles of Delphi,” were women who went into these trances and began to speak in this gibberish and they were said to be in communication with the gods. In Corinthians 3:1, Paul says, “Brethren, I cannot speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to babes in Christ”—clearly to fleshly people. The Corinthians were behaving and judging by the world’s criteria—what the world considered successful. They were looking for experiences–some of them from their former lives.  They were being deceived by Satan and were following a number of lies. One lie was that of following after certain men instead of following after the Word of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. An experience may “look” very religious and very mysterious and maybe even of divine origin—and yet it is not by that judged truly from God. It must be subject to the Word. (1)

“Now concerning the spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led” (1 Corinthians 12:1-2).

We are to experience the apostles’ teaching, not teach the apostles’ experience.  Human experience (mysticism) leads you to the idols. Not all of our experiences are from God. We don’t want to know what you “feel” or what “you did,” but “thus saith the Word of God.” ~ Pastor Jim Mooberry

Next, Hybels shared, “At the day of Pentecost we learned that we can “all” have the Holy Spirit but we don’t act that way…” Books on spiritual gifts by C. Peter Wagner highlight the top shelf of the “spiritual formation” aisle in Willow Creek’s bookstore that promote signs and wonders and healing. The charismatic also believes that the Holy Spirit was poured out upon “all flesh” at the day of Pentecost and they believe that God continues to speak today through visions, dreams, or words of prophecy. It is through these “experiences” that the charismatic church has been able to bridge the gap in ecumenical alliances with liberal Protestants and Roman Catholics.

It is so important to understand the dispensational distinctives of God in the subject of the ministries of the Holy Spirit. New revelation for the church age ceased with the completion of the cannon. God has given us the “truth” He wanted to communicate to us and He is no longer doing that (Eph. 2:20). The apostles and the prophets laid a foundation for the church in their ministry and these letters that are in the New Testament are part of that foundation, part of their ministry. In John 16:12 and 13 Jesus says, “I have many more things to say to you but you cannot bear them right now. But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. For He will not speak of His own initiative, but whatever He hears he will speak and He will disclose to you what is to come. Jesus said he had more things to tell us when the Spirit comes He will guide you into all truth. It is a body of truth that He would deliver to all of the saints. Paul says that He’s done it once and for all. So the Spirit of God came at Pentecost and He began to fill the apostles and use them in their ministry and they began to supply all the body with truth that Jesus Christ wanted yet to convey to them. The Spirit of God has communicated to us what we need and the cannon has been closed for this time period. There is no need for the gift of prophecy, tongues, knowledge, or wisdom because those gifts were bringing forth new revelation and that need has ceased. Today we are warned not to add anything to the cannon.

“I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book. If anyone adds to them God shall add to him the plagues which are written in this book. If anyone takes away from the words of this book of prophecy God shall take away his part from the tree of life…” (Revelation 22:18)

At Vision Night 2003, Bill Hybels said, “Our values are our rock solid convictions—who we are at Willow. We are going to try to understand the culture….That is a core value here….It is a value of our church to be authentic with each other and to stop playing games…. Freedom comes when you don’t have to pretend anymore. It’s what Jesus meant when he said you can be free indeed.’ Cuz you can anticipate radically accepting love from each other–the freedom to no longer have to pretend. We hold that very highly here….If it leads to truth telling, and confrontation, and sometimes having to do clean up and reconciliation its a lot better to go through the mess of that than to go on with masks on and all the pretending. Don’t you agree?”

A godly society cannot be established amongst unregenerate mankind. Even in the Millennium Jesus and His saints will need to rule with a “rod of iron” against those who will rebel against His government (Rev. 2:27; 12;5, 19;15). Evil is the outward manifestation of the fruit of man’s “inner nature.” Man’s inward thoughts and intents of the heart are corrupt (Jeremiah 17:9). Scripture tells us that the love of many will actually grow cold toward the end of the church age and that sin will abound (Matthew 24:12).

God allows evil to exist in the world to test the hearts of men so that none will be without excuse. We are not to take for ourselves what He has not ordained. Western Civilization has largely been shaped by the esoteric philosophies of secret societies working through the influence of members in strategic political positions. Most secret societies are based on the basic philosophy of deism which is based on human reason rather than revelation (Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, Illuminsim, etc.). They all plan to establish a one-world society based on human reason and personal freedom. A democracy can be easily changed into a world society, especially if wars can be used to persuade the masses to seek safety and peace in a world federation of states. (15)

According to the Scriptures, however, church growth is not focused on perfecting relationships and relieving emotional pain in our world tainted with sin. It is all about “spreading the Word of God.” The church age is like a field, which is going to grow by the “seed”—the Word of God.

“Now the parable is this: The seed is the Word of God” (Luke 8:11).

In Acts 6:7, it was when Samaria had received the Word of God that it was qualified to be a church.

“And the word of God increased; and the number of disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the truth” (Acts 6:7).Sanctification is the setting apart of our hearts day by day to God. The sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in making you holy, more like Christ proceeds from the Word of God–that’s the truth that sets you free when you understand it.

“Sanctify them through the truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:17).

I can’t say if any of these men are pretending or not. Only God knows their heart. Perhaps they are blinded by the ruler of this world and cannot see. We can do without anything else, but we cannot do without the Word of God. When we begin to move away from the Word of God as our sole ministry, our sole hope, by the degree that we move away from it, it is the degree that the church gets weakened and eventually falls. When the Antichrist comes it’s going to be with a strong delusion that is going to involve supernatural wonders. This false religion of Satan has spread throughout the world. Not only does he have superior intellect and power, but he is invisible. The world, as a whole, has no idea that he is even there behind the scenes. In 2 Corinthians 4:4 where it says that if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing and whose case the god of this world has blinded them so that they might not see the light of the face of Jesus Christ and the Gospel. The leader that he is going to bring in that last day is coming along with all kinds of false wonders and miracles and signs.

“For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming. Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan WITH ALL POWER AND SIGNS AND LYING WONDERS, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie”(2 Thessalonians 2:7-11).


  1. Globalism and Willow Creek Church (global–Bono, Gergen, Carter, Blair)
  2. Protestant No More:  Willow Creek is Infiltrated by Renovare
  3. The Theosophical Society (Wagner’s Apostolic Churches; Willow Creek)
  4. The Human Potential Movement (Manly P. Hall, Vincent Peale, Bill Hybels…)
  5. “Tongues: What is Happening Today.” TheFaithfulWord.
  6. Dager, Al, “The Vineyard,” Media Spotlight, 1996.
  7. Johnson, Philip R. “My Visit To the Vineyard,” 1995.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Watch Unto Prayer, “Filling in the Blanks With Fuller.”
  10. Pastor Jimm Mooberry, “The Departure From the Scripture in the Evangelical Church Today.”
  11. Caddock, John, “What is Contemplative Spirituality and Why is it Dangerous?”
  12. Caliguire, Mindy. “Soul Health,” Christianity Today, Fall 2004.
  13. Hybels, Lynne, & Mindy Caliguire,  “Soulcare.”
  14. Dager, Al. “Vengeance Is Ours,” p. 38, Sword Publishers, 1990. (dominion theology)
  15. Pastor Jim Mooberry, “The Faithful Word,” Judgment of Babylon the Great #JMREV33.
  16. Moser, Janet. “The Mystical Bible: ‘The Message’ of Mysticism.”
  17. Follis, Don. “Networking and Risk-taking essential for the Church in the New Millennium; Peoria Online Trader, 6/4/99;
  18. Wagner, C. Peter. “The New Apostolic Churches.”
  19. Wagner, C. Peter. Wagner Leader Institute Canada.
  20. Gentz & Brooks, “Man, Myth, & Magic,” Esoteric Christianity.
  21. Nardy Baeza Bickel, “After one Year at Cornerstone University, President Joseph Stowell planning for ‘unashamadly Christian’ Future;” 3/23/09,Grand Rapids Press.
  22. Willow Creek/Politics


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