Who is Bill Hybels?
Bill Hybels (1951-present) is the founding and senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, one of the most attended churches in North America, with an average attendance of nearly 24,000 as of 2011.
The church has been listed as the most influential church in America for the last several years in a national poll of pastors. He is the founder of the Willow Creek Association and creator of the Global Leadership Summit. Hybels is also an author of a number of Christian books, especially on the subject of Christian leadership.
Hybels has a bachelor's degree in Biblical Studies from Trinity International University, near Chicago, and an honorary Doctorate of Divinity from TIU's Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
Hybels and Willow Creek Community Church
In the early 1970s, Hybels was studying at Trinity International University (then called Trinity College) when Gilbert Bilezikian, a lecturer, challenged the class about an Acts 2-based church. Hybels was captivated with the vision and abandoned his business aspirations for ministry.
In 1971, Bill Hybels, youth pastor at Park Ridge's South Park Church, started a youth group with friend Dave Holmbo called Son City. Modern music, dramatic skits and multimedia were combined with Bible studies in relevant language helped the group grow from 25 to 1,200 in just three years.
After 300 youth waited in line to be led to Christ in a service in May 1974, Hybels and other leaders began dreaming of forming a new church. They surveyed the community to find out why people weren't coming to church. Common answers included: "church is boring", "they're always asking for money", or "I don't like being preached down to." These answers shaped the group's approach to the new church.
On October 12, 1975 the group held their first service in Palatine's Willow Creek Theater. One hundred and twenty-five people attended the service. The rent and other costs were paid for with 1,200 baskets of tomatoes, sold door-to-door by 100 teenagers. Hybels spoke on "New beginnings" Within two years the church had grown to 2,000.
Challenges in 1979 led to a recommissioning of the church's vision to be broader and deeper than before. Hybels apologized for the example of his relentless schedule and overemphasis on grace. "We've set up all our leadership structures and goals to grow a full functioning Acts 2 community, as opposed to just an evangelizing machine that doesn't drive the roots down deep and do all the other things it's supposed to do."
In 1981 the church moved to its current location in South Barrington. By 2000, 15,000 were attending weekly services over six weekend services in a 352,000-square-foot (32,700 m2) building. In 2004, the new Worship Center was opened. With a capacity of more than 7,000, the state-of-the-art auditorium is one of the largest theaters in the United States and the church currently averages 24,000 attendees per week, making it the third largest church in America.
Willow Creek Community Church has become well known as the prototypical megachurch, with contemporary worship, drama and messages focused toward both Christians and those exploring the Christian faith.
Willow Creek's three weekend services were more "seeker sensitive", but have now become less so, since the "Reveal Study" which showed members desiring a deeper dive focused on scripture and spiritual growth. Most recently (September 2011), Willow brought an even deeper dive into scripture by promoting Shane Farmer as Discipleship Director, and having him lead the Mid-week experience, meeting on Wednesday evenings.
On July 1, 2010, Hybels introduced President Barack Obama for a speech on immigration reform.
Hybels and the Willow Creek Association
In 1992 Hybels launched the Willow Creek Association (WCA) to link like-minded, action-oriented churches with each other and with strategic vision, training, and resources. Hybels is currently chairman of the board for the WCA.
The WCA, led by Jim Mellado, believes the effectiveness of a local church is largely dependent upon the sold-out, Christ-centered devotion of its leadership core. Whether staff or volunteers, the whole church benefits when leaders develop themselves spiritually and personally. The WCA exists to help churches thrive.
While The Global Leadership Summit is Willow Creek Association's anchor event each year, it's just one of the many developmental tools and resources available to church leaders through the WCA.
Hybels has largely avoided association with specific political parties or movements, although in June, 2010 he introduced President Obama's address on immigration reform, and his wife, Lynne Hybels, blogs for God's Politics on Sojourners website. He did receive some criticism when at a leadership conference hosted by the WCA in 2000, he interviewed Rich DeVos (Amway co-founder) and carried out a 90-minute interview with President Bill Clinton in which he questioned the President on many key issues.
When Karen Hughes (former advisor to President George W. Bush) in the following year spoke at the Summit, Hybels said to the attendees jokingly afterwards, "There, we are even." (Referring to bringing a counterbalance to Clinton's visit.)
Willow Creek leadership and Hybels' role
While Hybels serves as senior pastor at Willow, he was not heavily involved in day-to-day operations between mid-2006 to 2008. Gene Appel served as lead pastor of the South Barrington Campus from mid-2006 until Easter 2008. Appel's role allowed Hybels the ability to serve a more direct role in the Willow Creek Association, but Hybels has since resumed the direct role of leading the church.
Hybels frequently travels abroad, teaching church leaders how to manage and direct their congregations in more effective ways. He maintains a regular teaching schedule at Willow Creek. Hybels believes that "the local church is the hope of the world," and that is evident in his work around the globe.
The Global Leadership Summit
Hybels started the Global Leadership Summit (hosted by the Willow Creek Association) in 1995 as an annual training event for church, ministry and other leaders to sharpen their skills. The Global Leadership Summit exists to transform Christian leaders around the world with an injection of vision, skill development, and inspiration for the sake of the local church.
The Summit telecasts live from the campus of Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago, reaching more than 185 premier host sites across the United States. In the months following, the Summit moves into more than 200 cities in 70+ countries across the globe, via videocast. Summit 2010 attracted 122,000 leaders. That year Fast Company featured an article on Willow Creek and The Global Leadership Summit.
The Global Leadership Summit 2011 videocast events took place from late September through January 2012 and were planned to reach 268 cities within 75 countries. The Summit is translated into 34 languages. Over 165,000 leaders from over 20,000 churches worldwide experienced the 2011 Summit.
Each year this event features experts in the arena of leadership in lecture and interview formats, plus worship and dramas. Past speakers have included Bono (former Time Magazine Co-Man of the Year and U2 lead singer), Ken Blanchard ("The One Minute Manager"), Marcus Buckingham ("StrengthFinders"), Jim Collins ("Good to Great" and "Built to Last"), and Mike Singletary (NFL Hall of Fame linebacker for the Chicago Bears).
Hybels married his wife Lynne in May 1974, and has two adult children (Shauna and Todd) and two grandchildren. Lynne Hybels has been involved in Willow Creek's ministry partnerships in Latin America and currently serves as an advocate for those affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa. She is the author of Nice Girls Don't Change the World.
- "Bill Hybels." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (with minor edits), under GFDL.