Scot McKnight: “The [Willow Creek] elders could benefit from revisiting this job description”

McKnight Willow

Scot McKnight’s word cloud of the Willow Creek Senior Pastor job ad

Some of you may recall our blog posts about the tragic fall of Bill Hybels, the founding pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in Barrington, IL.

Hybels is now gone and Willow Creek is looking for a new Senior Pastor.  Scot McKnight has posted the job ad at Jesus Creed.  He has also offered some commentary.  Here is a taste:

First, no Jesus, no Christ, no Bible, no gospel — that is, in the main words. They are buried into tiny words or they are not there. Amazing. Jesus appears twice. Christ once. God four times. Bible not at all. Gospel not at all. What’s a pastor job description without these terms prominent?

Second, the focus is “Willow” as in “We are Willow Creek.” Also Barrington, Chicago, and South (as in South Barrington). This is an advertisement seeking someone who can carry on the Willow Creek brand.

Third, the biggest two words of substance in the job description’s Word Cloud are “pastor” and “leadership.” Leadership is hardly a significant term in the NT for the calling of pastors. Both leading and pastoring are functions performed by various other people found in terms in the NT like elder, bishop, deacon, apostle, prophet, teaching, evangelist. Still, I like the term “pastor” but I get nervous about “leader” as it took the church world by storm in the wake of pastors focusing on the leadership models in the business world. (In the 1980s, I think.) This led rather abruptly to the sudden appearance of an adjective “servant” as in “servant leader” to correct the business model. The term “leader” from the business world, in other words, was not good enough: the pastor is a “servant” leader. That term “servant” appears once in Willow Creek’s job description. Eugene Peterson’s entire complaint about pastors in the last quarter of the 20th Century was that the business leader model had taken over. He has been ignored in this job description’s emphases.

Fourth, Willow Creek wants a leader who is both theologically grounded and (or but) that person does not need a theological degree. That’s a very very rare combination. So rare that this Willow Creek job description is stomping recklessly on thin ice. Two decades in a seminary have shown to me that we seminary professors are not naive about what can and what cannot be accomplished in a seminary. Rare is the seminary professor who thinks we can turn people into flourishing pastors. I’ve not met that “rare” one. Seminaries do not turn people into pastors but we can enhance the gifts of the pastor. Pastors need a theological foundation and the surest way to get it is through theological education.

Read the rest here.

Another take: This is precisely the kind of job ad Willow Creek wants to run.