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Two Ways To Live

Two Ways To Live - Draft6

The Battle, by Tara Obriecht

In a battle
Most can’t even see
Idols blind us, sell your morals
Just saying you believe won’t set you free

The armor is all around us
But we act too busy to wear
Desensitization destroys us
Slowly we no longer care

Foundations are cracked
Needing to fit in this world wins
Scripture gets twisted
Christians don’t even understand what’s a sin

Knowing your enemy is important
Read the Word seek and you shall find
Putting ourselves before our Lord and others
Makes us all so blind

Lives ruined by unrealistic expectations
Fed to us by media, movies and TV
We pick our own path
And decide my god is Me

So busy with so many material things
Yet empty we stay
There is a battle
Many lose each and every day

Take a moment and realize
There is much more here
Let go of your selfish ways
Open your mind and He’ll make it so beautifully clear.

A Warning For Willow Chicago, Part 9: Another Nudge

You can read this “Public Letter” in it’s entirety here.

You can download this entire “Public Letter” here.

The truth is we went into this process very uninformed. We just followed the Holy Spirit and trusted that God would make everything clear. Like so many, we blindly loved Willow Creek, and even now that we’re more informed, we still do. There are just some serious issues that need to be resolved in order for Christ’s church to fully flourish spiritually, not just in terms of money raised, members, or attendance.

One thing God did make clear throughout this process is that along with many member of the congregation, several Willow Chicago advisory board members left the church when Jon was hired. Apparently Willow Chicago had been looking for a new pastor for over a year, and had several amazing candidates in mind. The vetting process was tedious and thorough, until the idea of Jon being the pastor was introduced. From what I understand, many in the congregation were confused and upset. They had serious concerns regarding Jon being the pastor and agreed with the Bible that a unilateral decision on this matter was inappropriate.

I don’t know all the factors that have lead to the hands off approach Willow takes to homosexuality, but I can tell you that the situation Jon finds himself in today is the result of such a hands off policy. If Jon posted one of the eight counter Biblical items contained in the “Elders Letter” to his Facebook page while pastoring at the church’s of Dr. Erwin Lutzer (Moody Church), John MacArthur, Dr. David Jeramiah, or Alistair Begg, there would have been an immediate uproar. The contrast between Willow’s politically correct approach and these men’s bold, loving and public stance has always perplexed me. They all have large, spiritually healthy churches, but these men of God have found the Biblical way to lovingly tell the truth to the LGBT community.

Jon has been hung out to dry by his church’s selective approach to Biblical truth. And in turn Jon has left his congregation out to dry the same way Bill has left Willow as a whole to fend for itself as the wolves (radical homosexual activists) come in preaching tolerance for a lifestyle and behavior that is counter Biblical and destroying lives. While these same wolves (radical homosexual activists) call all Bible believing Christians bigots for standing up for Christ. While the wolves (radical homosexual activists) destroy our families. While the wolves (radical homosexual activists) exploit the involuntary sexual confusion all LGBT individuals experience, in order to turn them into pawns for the cause that normalizes the very thing that’s destroying their lives. While those same LGBT individuals are thirsty for truth, but the church, the only place they can get such truth, is too concerned about numbers and political correctness, to worry about their salvation.

People cavalierly ask Tara and I all the time, “why don’t you just leave Willow if we’re in such disagreement?” The reason we don’t leave Willow is because Willow isn’t Bill’s church, it’s not Jon’s church, it’s Christ’s church and we’re all told by God to protect His word and His church. We don’t leave Willow because we love Willow. We don’t leave Willow because of the amazing relationships we’ve formed there. We don’t leave Willow because we’re dependant on it for the ministry God has blessed us with. God lead Tara, myself and our ministry to Willow, and until He tells us to leave or someone makes the decision to force us to leave, we’re going to do everything we can to make Willow a better place.

All the issues in this letter can be boiled down to one thing. When you don’t take a repetitive, public and bold stance as a church, for all of God’s Word, there will be divine consequences. We serve a gentle God, and a God that has no doubt given Bill gentle nudge after gentle nudge in regards to all these issues.

When as a church you never mention the words gay, abortion, heresy, false teachers, hell, repentance, rapture and rarely mention words like sin, sanctification, rebuke, wrath and judgment there will be confusion and muddy waters. You’ll be forced to admit that the plan isn’t working, and people aren’t becoming fully devoted followers of Christ, as Willow did several years ago. That you’re going to try something different, when there is nothing different. The plan has been in the Bible for almost 2000 years. It’s time to give Willow’s congregation solid food. Grace is only half the story. Jesus talked about hell more than anyone else in the Bible. It’s time for Willow to stop worrying about numbers, donations, attendance, polls, metrics, marketing, how to make it easier to follow Christ and what might happen if they stop being politically correct, and start using its God given influence to preach the full gospel of Jesus Christ.

Sincerely,

Justin and Tara Obriecht.

P.S. Please pray for Jon, Bill, Scott, Chris, Willow, Tara, and myself. Pray that God would do an incredible work in our hearts that would leave all of us stronger and closer to Him. That the full Word of God would begin to be preached at Willow Creek and God would be glorified.

If you’d like to discuss this further you can email me at justinobriecht@gmail.com

Updates can be found here.

A Warning For Willow Chicago, Part 8: All Of God’s Word Is Equal

You can read this “Public Letter” in it’s entirety here.

You can download this entire “Public Letter” here.

Conclusion

After almost a month had passed since our last meeting with Scott and Chris, A month filled with us praying for God to do a powerful work in Jon’s heart and bring him to repentance. After praying that God would take this from us. After praying every night that God would give us a sign if He wanted us to go public or not. Even though God lifted my final hesitation about going public (Bill’s confirmed awareness), I still had human fear and uncertainty.

That was until yesterday morning (I originally wrote this around the beginning of October 2013, and have had patience, grace and hopeful prayer until now) when I started to pray as I do every morning, and my mind was flooded with thoughts to put into this letter. I couldn’t write them down fast enough. They were clear, concise, and definitely not from me.

After the thoughts stopped, and I finally got to praying, I asked God for the hundredth time to give me direction on what he wanted me to do. Almost immediately, a clear thought popped into my head saying, “I’ve already told you to follow the Matthew 18 process, and you have one step left”. The silence I’d been hearing from God on this subject finally made sense. He’d already sent us down this path and given Willow, Jon, Scott and Bill every chance to act appropriately, and now He was left with no other option.

Chances that in addition to our efforts, included warning signs like the hundreds of emails described by Scott waiting for him in his inbox in regards to Willow Creeks handling of homosexuality. Chances that included God forcing Bill on stage at the 2011 Global Leadership Summit in order to make his church’s position on same-sex marriage clear (You can watch Bill’s comments here). A chance Bill wasted by taking the most politically correct position possible while still lining up with the Bible. A position that does considerable damage to the LGBT community and is the opposite of loving.

Combine that with the fact that you can’t learn Willow’s position on marriage without calling their office and requesting a copy of their Elders Statement. An Elder’s Statement that doesn’t mention homosexuality, and takes the most hands-off approach possible on such a destructive, confusing, current, clear and Biblical issue.

All this while the yearly series about stewarding your resources, walking across the room, or how to be more generous kicks off, same-sex marriage dominates our culture, headlines and courts and very few members of Willow Creek know how to react.

It’s hard to understand why a church would be so clear and accurate on parts of God’s Word, but be silent on others. All of God’s Word deserves equal attention and is equally important.

If you’d like to discuss this further you can email me at justinobriecht@gmail.com

A Warning For Willow Chicago, Part 7: The Last Hesitation

You can read this “Public Letter” in it’s entirety here.

You can download this entire “Public Letter” here.

- August 27th 2013: Did Scott Meet With Bill As Promised?

Before I made the decision to warn the church and make this public, I sent an email to Scott asking if he had a chance to sit down with Bill. Eight days later Scott responded with the following email:

Hello Justin,

Sorry for the delay.

I was mistaken when I told you two weeks.  Bill’s return was this week.

I have sent him a note and will get back to you as soon as I hear something.

Thanks,

Scott

 

Remember, Scott told us during our second meeting, that Bill took the following two weeks off after the leadership summit. Tara and I knew that wasn’t the case because on August 17th (5 days after our meeting) we attended the Next Level retreat at Willow Creek Barrington. The retreat concluded with everyone attending the Saturday service in which Bill spoke.

- September 13th 2013: Scott confirms that Bill Hybels and the Executive Team have reviewed the “Elder’s Letter”.

Sixteen days after my initial email, I received the following email from Scott confirming that not only has Bill reviewed the “Elder’s Letter” but so did the Willow Creek Executive Team. You can read that email below:

Hello Justin,

Thank you so much for your patience.

Your letter has been reviewed by the WCCC Executive Team (including Bill).

They are aligned with the process and conclusions of the Elder Response Team.

 

Again, I thank you for the passion and courage it took for you and Tara to communicate your concerns.

If you would like to pursue further meetings to facilitate reconciliation with Jon we would be happy to assist.

Blessings,

Scott

While this was extremely disappointing for Tara and I, it was also a blessing. See one of my biggest hesitations in making this public was the respect I have for Bill Hybels. That respect is what prompted me at every step to inquire about Bill’s knowledge of this issue, and urge the person to bring it to his attention. God answered my prayer asking Him to remove my concerns by confirming Bill’s awareness, which in turn lifted my final hesitation.

After meeting with Scott and Chris and reading the “Elder’s Letter” about his actions, Jon has not reached out to us in any way. Soon after our first meeting with Scott and Chris, Jon defriended me on Facebook, even though I have never interacted with him or his page on Facebook in any way.

Even if you don’t personally agree with me about Jon’s deceptive behavior, it’s clear from Willow’s exclusively reactionary approach, Scott confirming that what John did was “harmful” and Jon removing posts from his Facebook page, that they all found serious reasons for concern.

If you’d like to discuss this further you can email me at justinobriecht@gmail.com

A Warning For Willow Chicago, Part 6: Big Willow Decides No Action Is Needed

You can read this “Public Letter” in it’s entirety here.

You can download this entire “Public Letter” here.

- August 12th 2013: Second Meeting With Scott and Chris.

Tara and I woke up early to talk about the first meeting we had with Scott and Chris one month earlier and tried to get ready spiritually and mentally for this second stressful meeting.

We again drove an hour to Willow Creek Barrington for our 10am meeting with hopeful hearts. We’d prayed so hard that God would do a work in Jon, Scott, and Bill’s heart, and that we could finally be off the hook. We just wanted to move on with our lives and concentrate on our ministry. So we arrived at Scott’s office about fifteen minutes early, and sat with the lights off, alone, in the waiting room of his office.

A little before ten Scott turned the lights on, greeted us and asked if we needed anything. He mentioned that Chris had to work, so he might be late. Chris arrived right on time and we all sat down at the table. Scott immediately got up exclaiming, “I need to grab the file, I didn’t pull it out because I thought this meeting was tomorrow”.

Between the lights being off in the waiting room, Scott telling us that Chris had to work and might be late (but showing up right on time), and now boldly proclaiming, “he thought the meeting was tomorrow”, we quickly realized that Scott was trying to diminish us and these issues. The message was; you guys are making too much of this, Chris doesn’t even think enough of this to schedule things properly and be here on time, I didn’t even remember to turn the lights on or get the file out because this is so low on my list of priorities, I thought the meeting was tomorrow.

Again Tara and I acted as if none of this was happening. We hoped we were misreading the situation. But any hopes that Scott was being genuine quickly vanished ten minutes later as he pulled out a sticky noted, marked up copy of my letter, explaining how he’d been up the night before making notes and getting reacquainted with the letter in preparation for today’s meeting. Tara and I both knew what was going on, but again we just put our head down and hoped for resolution.

Scott asked us again if our sentiments had changed since the last meeting, and I told him that the letter still speaks for itself. Scott told us he wouldn’t be revealing much of what they talked about with Jon, but the meeting was extensive and they “dug deep”. Scott again started asking me where I get my confidence from and explaining how many people disagree with my view of scripture and this subject. He also explained the way in which I wrote my letter was self-righteous and dogmatic.

Scott told us that what Jon had done was “harmful” and “confusing”, but he didn’t think Jon did it intentionally or that Jon was being deceptive or trying to push an agenda. I asked Scott how that damage would be repaired, and he told me that Willow had no intention of removing Jon or having Jon give a message from the pulpit in regards to homosexuality. He made it clear that Jon wouldn’t be posting any clarification or retraction to his Facebook page. But as you can read in the “Elder’s Letter”, Jon selectively and strategically removed some of the posts himself after our only meeting with him.

Scott told me that if Jon handled homosexuality the same way I did in my letter, Jon would be fired. I asked him to expand on that comment, and he explained, Jon’s job description is to turn irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Christ. I explained to Scott that I was confused how a church could make up a job description for a pastor, especially one so counter Biblical, when the Bible is explicitly clear on a pastors job. And to think that anyone or any church turns irreligious people into “fully devoted followers of Christ” other then God is counter biblical in so many ways.

In the end, the only action Jon was willing to take, was to have people in leadership positions sign a “Lifestyle Agreement”, assuring the church that they’re beliefs and lifestyles were congruent with the Bible. We have seen no tangible change from the implementation of this “Lifestyle Agreement”. We believe the “Lifestyle Agreement” was put in place to show action on Jon’s part while making Jon unaccountable for the lifestyles of the leadership at his church. We also believe it allowed Jon to appear to take action, while also allowing Jon to keep this ordeal quite. One has to wonder if Jon has been transparent with his pastoral team and other leaders at Willow Chicago about the pressure he’s been under in regards to the issues we’ve raised, issues that you’ll read later made it all the way to Bill Hybels.

Scott explained that personally, Jon could only commit to being more careful in the future, no different then he exclaimed in our initial meeting with him.

There were several common threads or talking points Scott used in our two meetings. Two of these included asking me repeatedly where I get my confidence from, trying to make me question myself. Another was Scott describing me as self-righteous, which I explained can’t be true because I know any righteousness I have comes from God. He also described me as dogmatic and legalistic, many times asking me where my grace was. I explained, it’s hard to have grace when the person doesn’t think they did anything wrong and shows no humility. As far as being dogmatic, I doubt when I get to heaven Jesus is going to rebuke me for taking the Bible to seriously.

The new tactic employed at the end of the second meeting appeared to be Scott trying to play my wife and I against each other. It started out subtle with Scott downplaying my points or describing me as dogmatic, but slowly he was affirming everything Tara said, even when our comments were nearly identical. After the meeting, Tara and I discussed all the ploys and tactics Scott used, and we were very troubled. We realized at that point, God was still writing this story, and Scott’s ways of handling disputes, concerns and issues were to be brought to light for the glory of our Father and the affirmation of others who’ve gone down this same road.

As the meeting was winding down, I had some questions for Scott and Chris. I asked again if Bill was aware of the letter, and neither of them could confirm it, but Scott promised to sit down with Bill and get back with us. Scott added that it wouldn’t be for a couple weeks because Bill takes the two weeks off after the Global Leadership Summit. He finished with an assurance that Bill’s opinion on these issues were similar to his, but he would still sit down Bill and get back with us.

I then asked if the elders of either Willow Chicago or Willow Creek Barrington had been made aware of this issue, and Scott said no. Scott said it was the Elder Response Team’s job to handle these things, and their decision represented the board’s decision. He told us that the board doesn’t typically get involved in these types of matters.

We did everything in our power to bring the issues and comments contained in this letter personally to Bill, but that proved impossible.

So Tara and I were left with very few options. We’d followed Matthew 18 up until the last step, which is to bring it to the church. I knew of no other way to bring this to a church Willow’s size with out making it public. I also needed to follow Timothy 5:19, which as I quoted earlier directs Christians to reprove elders in front of everyone so that others can be warned. I was going to tell Scott about my plans to follow through on Matthew 18, but I was scared and not sure if I could or wanted to follow through on it. While I didn’t directly tell Scott that I’d be taking this public, I’ve made it clear every step of the way that we’d be following the Matthew 18 process.

If you’d like to discuss this further you can email me at justinobriecht@gmail.com

A Warning For Willow Chicago, Part 5: Waiting A Month For Big Willow

You can read this “Public Letter” in it’s entirety here.

You can download this entire “Public Letter” here.

- August 7th 2013: We Hear Nothing For 28 days.

After not hearing anything from anyone for twenty eight days, I sent Scott an email letting him know we’d be at “Big Willow” for the Global Leadership Summit the next day, and we were wondering if he could give us an update on their process. I explained that it had been a month since our meeting and this was still heavy on our hearts.

This is where things got really hurtful and weird for Tara and I. Scott responded with the following email:

Hello Justin. 

I typed out an email to you earlier in the week and judging from your email you did not receive it. 

I will check tomorrow and see where things got hung up. 

Chris and I have met with Jon and would like to reconnect with you and Tara. 

You should hear from me tomorrow. I am sorry for the delay. 

The next morning Scott emailed me and said, “OK, I can’t find the earlier email. I am sorry”.

Every thing in this saga had been reactionary from Willow’s standpoint, and now this? To hear someone who handles church concerns and issues for a living, tell me that he typed out an email, thought he sent it, but apparently something went wrong after a month of waiting to hear from him? I kept my feelings close to my chest and responded to him in a professional way as we shared emails working out the logistics for our second and final meeting.

If you’d like to discuss this further you can email me at justinobriecht@gmail.com

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