• John G. Stackhouse, Jr.

Does Your Board Know Its Business?

As the controversy continues surrounding Willow Creek Community Church’s pastor Bill Hybels, its Board of Elders has offered a public apology for how they initially responded.

Their response, as they outline it, was typical of embattled corporations: rallying ‘round the CEO (= senior pastor), denial of the validity of all accusations, denunciation of accusers, and insistence that their own lawyers entirely supported their position.

The Willow Creek elders now, to their credit, admit that they ought to have responded more pastorally, and are aiming to do better.

Having studied the governance structures of a number of Christian organizations, and having worked under, and consulted with, the leaders of a number of Christian organizations, my curiosity was piqued. I took a quick glance at Willow Creek’s website as it describes its elders.

From what I could read therein, the website indicates that the Board of Elders of this large, globally influential church features eight impressive people who are long-time members of Willow Creek and who bring a range of gifts and experiences to the Elder Board. All well and good.

Collectively, however, they list not a single year of theological education. Nor do any of them have experience in pastoral ministry.

One finds instead that most of them are executives and/or lawyers. And one begins to suspect that a certain mentality predominates on the board—a corporate one, rather than, say, a pastoral or theological or ecclesiastical one.

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