Journeyman Project Dispatches from the Life of Patrick Fowler: Christianity Explored


Willow Creek’s REVEAL study: Revisited

It seems a bit odd to be revisiting a blog topic from a year ago, but I still hear the same topic being used completely out of context by Christians after all this time. Worse yet, the people who are now misrepresenting the news are seminary professors and theology students.

It seems there is a deep-seated hatred of the "seeker-sensitive" church by many who would consider themselves "better" Christians. They portray the strategy of tailoring the Sunday morning worship events of the church toward non-Christians as being manipulative, unspiritual, and incorrectly representing the gospel message by not clearly portraying "fire and brimstone" to hell-bound sinners.

Too often, I believe they fail to realize the most people come to faith because God is shown in light of the love and kindness He has extended to sinful men. They fail to realized that the "seeker-sensitive" model is not about watering down the gospel, but about communicating the gospel in language that is familiar to non-Christians, and avoiding words that do not hold meaning for them, like: "sin, perpituation, redemption, etc."

In my classes, Willow Creek church is characterized as having apologizing publically for pushing an incorrect strategy in their emphasis on seeker-sensitivity and small groups. This is entirely incorrect.

The Reveal study ( is another example of how Willow Creek is using the best of culture and academics to refine it’s mission to reach lost people. It does not in any way apologize for the major thrusts of Willow Creek’s past strategy toward being Seeker Sensitive, or promoting small groups. It instead shows that these strategies have been extremely successful in reaching the non-Christians and growing Christians of their church and the churches of the Willow Creek Association. What it apologizes for is its failure to lead people successfully through the stages of maturing Christian growth. It shows that they have failed to teach spiritual disciplines, or to show maturing Christians that they should stop looking to the church programming as the next step in their spiritual journey. Their failure is not a culture adoption problem at all…in fact, cultural adoption is still the key to much of their success in reaching new generations moving into the Chicago area. Their failure is keeping “older” believers motivated to grow in Christ, but not providing the most effective means for them to pursue that growth.

See my original post, here:

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