October is Pastor Appreciation Month and I think it would be a good time to talk about pastors I appreciate. Now it should be said that I’m not much of a “fan boy” in general. It takes a lot for someone to earn and keep my respect, but there are a some pastors who have been real inspirations to me over the years and I’d like to acknowledge a few of them.
The first pastor that comes to mind is Bill Hybels. He doesn’t have a clue who I am but he has had a profound impact on my life.
Bill Hybels is a man that has been passionate about the Church being an “Acts Chapter 2” community for a very long time. His overwhelming concern for the Church, as well as his deep devotion to reaching people for God, bleeds through everything he does.
Over the years I’ve heard him speak on these two themes many, many times and I’ve been brought to the verge of tears every single time simply because of his deep love for God, the Church, and those far from God.
Not only is Hybels a passionate pastor but he’s also one of the greatest leaders around. His books on leadership and the yearly Global Leadership Summit have inspired and equipped countless leaders from all walks of life, including pastors like me.
When I first heard of Hybels and the innovative church he pastors, Willow Creek Community Church, I was blown away and relieved at the same time.
I was blown away by their unflinching work to reach people that were far from God. They never veered away from God Himself or the Bible but they were not shy about tossing aside useless traditions so they might reach more and more people for God. It the process they rediscovered what church was supposed to be all along and helped all churches understand what a modern church could look like.
If you attend or enjoy any sort of “contemporary” church, you owe a debt of thanks to Bill Hybels and the pioneering efforts of Willow Creek. Everything including drums in worship, drama in the service, visual elements, casual dress at church, and much more was brought to the contemporary church in part or in whole by this amazing group of sold-out people.
Many of you simply will not be able to understand how radical some of these ideas were at the time. In fact, this wonderful church was originally shunned by many people within the Christian community. Eventually though, the fruit of this powerful ministry spoke so loudly that most could no longer ignore it.
I was so relieved to hear about Bill Hybels, Willow Creek, and all that God was doing there because I had long thought that something was missing in the churches I attended. Due to the fact that I didn’t start going to church until I was 17, I understood like few could what a huge jump it took to start attending most traditional churches at that time. The barriers were large and numerous and kept many people who desperately needed God from finding Him, and the help they needed.
When God used Hybels and Willow Creek to rewrite the “rules” of how church was done – actually bringing the church back to more of an Acts Chapter 2 ideal – I immediately felt like I had found my tribe.
When I attended my first conference at Willow, I almost cried the entire time. I couldn’t get over how so much that I saw there were things of which I had only dreamed. They were quite literally putting names to things that I had only thought about privately. They were doing the very things I had longed to do but thought were impossible. I was relieved and inspired, and I still am.
In recent years Bill Hybels has transitioned into the role of an elder statesmen within the Body of Christ. He’s not elderly by any means but his wisdom and never-diminishing passion have put him in a special place in the hearts of pastors around the world.
His long track record in the ministry is inspiring and, though he’s been at it for a long time, he’s still pushing the church he pastors, as well as the Church as a whole, forward in amazing ways.
I can say quite confidently that I would not be in the ministry today if it were not for his zeal, passion, leadership, and mentoring by example.
I deeply appreciate Pastor Bill Hybels.