G. A. Pritchard, a Ph.D candidate in 1989, decided to write his doctoral dissertation on the most influential church of modern times, Willow Creek, near Chicago. For a year he researched every facet of the ministry of this huge church. The result would be, “Approximately two-thirds of this book is a description of what Willow Creek is doing and why” (p.15). This section was largely an uncritical account of the methods, philosophies and programs at Willow. The last third of the book would be a critique of the Creekers.
I found this work extremely fair and on target. Creekers are doing many things right. Their objectives and motives seem to be honorable, and they are not without their “successes.” But Willow Creek fails in its first step – they begin with man and his need rather than with God and His Word. This ultimately distorts and corrupts everything they do from the preaching of the gospel to attempts at sanctification. This is perhaps the definitive study of Willow Creek and the church growth movement that it represents. Anyone interested in this area of study, or contemplating developing a Willow (or Saddleback) clone should read this book first.