Here’s the link.
I stand in between the two camps this link reveals – the Hybel’s model of leadership driven mega ministry and the parish approach that nurtures the faithful few who on in churches on street corners across America keep the lights on. Neither one these gets all of me.
I have immense regard for Hybels. While he has blurred some lines between the world and the church, he has opened up the conversation on church building in powerful ways. And despite what he says about his own church’s failure in disciple-making, my guess is that his ruthless bottom-line approach overstates what may in fact be the case. He is just more bold than other more conservative churches in admitting that the goal is far higher than the church’s measure. I have never listened to Hybels where I walked away disappointed and was not given insight into the imaginative side of the bible and Christianity.
I have similar regard for the folks at White Horse Inn who constantly remind us that the Bible reigns over all fads and models. But I have to admit that I like Hybels’ style and communication. He is the guy I want to have dinner with.
This reminds me of something I always quote in philosophy classes. The good man with the bad point will usually win over the bad man with the good point. Often we just choose the man, the one we want to be like. So many of our choices are psychologically driven anyway. That does not mean I always give in to these drives and unexamined attractions. But I do have a trajectory toward the open and risky and away from the curmudgeon who is ready to think everybody is wrong.
The fact is that most pastors don’t have what it takes to be the kind of leader Hybels wants us to be. We find it very easy to grumble under our breathing something about the will of God and just take the church as we find it-small and dying a day at a time. The price it would take for the church to be different is just too high a price to pay for most pastors – too much courage, too much confrontation, too much honesty, too much work. It is just less stressful to buy into the White Horse Inn model.
One of the problems I do feel from the Hybels model is that it does not attract veterans. Guys like John Stott, JI Packer, D James Kennedy, etc., are not to be found among their ranks. They are a youth movement fueled by megachurch pastors who do things on their own. They are nondenominational, entrepreneural, and theologically non-reflective. Theology gets in their way. Sacred Scripture is not so sacred. It is this I can’t abide. I think on the whole these leaders have a high view of the Bible. But it doesn’t come through as it should.
Calvary Chapels do a good job on the whole of combining the large church mentality with sound Bible teaching and orthodoxy. They pretty much stand against most of what Hybels is doing and yet bring in the similarly sized crowds. But they have some aberrations that keep them marginalized from mainstream evangelicalism.
My guess is that at the end of the day Hybels’ model fades and the more “doable” and “faithful” model of normal parish life will endure. It will endure because it puts the church in the hands of the people, does not demand success in place of biblical faithfulness, is able to stand against cultural pushes, and is theologically more reflective.