As we sort through the mess with Billy Hybels and the situation at Willow Creek, there are any number of responses we could have. There are both good and bad responses that we could have.
Don’t Respond This Way
One bad response to Billy Hybels’ fall from the super-pastor hall of fame is to gloat. There have been many people who have been jealous of Hybels’ success. He started a church from nothing and turned it into one of the most successful churches in the world. Willow Creek has transformed lives within their own community and have been involved in leadership development globally.
Some leaders struggling along in our little churches might feel a bit of jealousy/envy/resentment toward his success. Even if the feelings are not aimed at Hybels in particular, it may be aimed at the kind of pastor and church he represents. Seeing him fall might make us feel like he is getting what he deserved for being too successful. Time has proved that we were the ones in the right.
But that is not the right way to respond. There is nothing to gloat over. Not only is it a tragedy from every angle, what happened with Hybels was not unique to him. The same thing could happen to any pastor and we are deceiving ourselves if we think otherwise.
Respond This Way
So if our response shouldn’t be gloating, how should we respond? Here are three responses that are appropriate to the situation at Willow Creek.
- Have Compassion Toward the Victims. The victims of the sexual abuse are the ones that need the most attention. They must be believed and appropriate action must be taken to demonstrate that their abuse is taken seriously.
- Prayer and Love Toward Bill Hybels and His Family. As bad as what Hybels did was, he still is a human being created in the image of God and someone who identifies as a follower of Jesus. I can’t imagine what he and his family are going through. No matter the depth of his guilt, we must have compassion toward Hybels.
- Make Changes to the Church. All church leaders, pastors and otherwise, must work toward developing a culture where this type of abuse will not happen. We must address issues of power and authority. We must address relationships between men and women in the church.