Bill Hybels

Who is Bill Hybels?

Bill Hybels is a Christian and the long-time pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barringotn, Illinois. Under Hybel's leadership the church ha consistently averaged over 20,000 every Sunday.

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. 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.

Hybels and Willow Creek Community Church

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.

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.

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.

  1. "Bill Hybels." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (with minor edits), under GFDL.