Amazing, Disturbing Grace

Teaching Pastor Steve Carter and Senior Pastor Bill Hybels launched Disturbing Grace last weekend, a new series that unpacks five of Jesus’ parables. “We’re excited to see how God might stretch our hearts in order to grasp how far and wide His grace extends—a kind of Disturbing Grace that’s both surprising and humbling,” Steve says. “When I read Jesus’ parables, I find His definition of grace is so much more expansive than I ever imagined. Jesus both taught and embodied a grace that radically provokes, rattles, and unnerves the way I see God, myself and others. I’m praying it will do the same for each listener during the coming weeks of this series.”

“The series is already transforming the way we understand and live out the ‘Amazing Grace’ we sing about year-round,” says Heather Larson, Willow’s executive pastor. “God’s grace is applicable to everyone, and this series is for everyone. Extend extra invitations to those who haven’t yet experienced His amazing, disturbing grace for themselves.”

Meet Willow’s New Elder Candidates

Willow Creek is led by a board of Elders who provide spiritual oversight, accountability, and overall direction for the church. These godly men and women are nominated by the church and serve in four-year terms. Each spring, Willow’s congregation nominates Willow Creek members to step into the role of those Elders whose terms are concluding.

Meet this year’s candidates!

Meet Pam
Pam Orr and her husband, Barrie, live in Hoffman Estates and began attending Willow in 1989. They have four children: Hannah, Jake, Caleb, and Liz. Pam is the associate director for a local nonprofit organization that provides housing, financial training, and mentoring to single moms.

Pam served previously on the Elder board and has also served in Elevate, women’s daytime classes, Promiseland, and PADS. Her spiritual gifts include leadership, discernment, and teaching.

Meet Michael
Michael Riddle has been a part of Willow Creek since 1989. His years in Willow’s young adult ministry in the late 90s and early 2000s were deeply formative for him, helping him develop his character, catch the vision of an Acts 2 community—and find Jen, his wife. Michael and Jen live in Palatine with their four children: Autumn, Ashlyn, Benjamin, and Joshua. He earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from Northwestern University and works in the financial industry as an executive for a futures exchange startup company.

Michael has served in Sonlight Express (Elevate), Information Systems, the WCA, Axis, Blitz Build serving trips, Global Connections, and the Care Center. His spiritual gifts include leadership, wisdom, and administration.

Meet Brian
Brian Johnson has attended Willow Creek since he was in junior high school. He has had multiple volunteer experiences within Willow and at other organizations, and his spiritual gifts include giving, faith, and leadership. He works for a company that provides non-profit organizations, parachurch ministries, and churches with a technical platform solution to help them serve and grow the people they are serving.

Brian and his wife, Jorie, live in Barrington and have three daughters: Kylie, Avery, and Cameryn. Brian served previously on Willow’s Elder board, and has also served on other special projects and committees.

Thirty days to respond
According to Willow’s by-laws, members have 30 days to express any concerns about these individuals to the candidates directly. If no validated concerns are raised, the candidates will begin their four-year terms at the end of the 30-day period. If you are a member of Willow Creek and you have a concern about one of these candidates, please contact him or her directly by May 31.


Her Special Day

In just a few days, Willow Creek honors and celebrates moms and the women in our lives with a special service for Mother’s Day Weekend.

Special Guests
Author, blogger, and mother of five Jen Hatmaker—from the HGTV series My Big Family Renovation—visits Willow to deliver a message of humor, relatability, and depth. Christian recording artist Christy Nockels leads worship.


Special Moments
The Mother’s Day celebration doesn’t end in the Main Auditorium. After each service, enjoy a fun and festive atmosphere full of surprises throughout the church.

Special Invitations
Extend a personal invitation to your mom, daughter, grandmother, or the women who have marked your life for this unique, celebratory weekend at Willow.

“We’re praying this weekend isn’t just an experience that ends when moms walk out the doors—but instead provides the kind of inspiration, encouragement, and hope every woman can carry with them for years,” says Pat Cimo, Willow’s Family Life director.

Promiseland, Willow’s children’s ministry (infants–grade 5), is available during all services. Students in grades 6 and older are invited to join their parents in the Main Auditorium service, as there will be no Elevate or Student Impact on May 9/10.

Attend a regional Willow Creek church? Willow’s regional congregations have special Mother’s Day weekend experiences planned for the moms and women in their congregations.

Hope for the Long Haul

The 10th anniversary of Celebration of Hope (COH) carries profound weight here at Willow Creek. Reviewing God’s faithfulness over the past 10 years spurs us to respond from hearts overflowing with gratitude—and this weekend’s special offering gives us the opportunity to unleash radical levels of compassion to the communities served by our global church partners in Africa, Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East.

“When we give through Celebration of Hope, we’re not just providing quick fixes,” says Mark Haugen, global director for Willow’s Compassion & Justice team. “The church partners we work with are investing in growth that is slow and healthy—and brings hope for the long haul. Ten years into Celebration of Hope, we’re able to look back and see so much fruit from investments we made in the early years of COH. It motivates me to give even more generously today—confident that God will bring even greater fruit in years to come.”

Willow partners with a network of churches in Oruro, Bolivia that rescue children living on the streets and empower them through children’s programs. “Many parents in Vinto—on the outskirts of Oruro—are struggling to make ends meet,” Mark says. “It takes both parents working to bring home enough food for the family, meaning their children are alone during the day—raising themselves either on the streets or in the tiny rooms they managed to rent for a night at a time.”

“But a church called Jesus es El Señor (Jesus is Lord) decided this had to change,” Mark says. “Since Celebration of Hope 2011, Willow has partnered with Pastor Arturo and his wife to help fulfill their mission of loving the children in their community. They opened up the doors of their church for crafts, music lessons, and tutoring several days a week.”

“I remember when they were just getting started,” Mark says. “Back then, they were serving just a handful of children in a run-down apartment. Their future didn’t look very bright. But Pastor Arturo and his wife refused to give up.”

After four years of dedicated care to these kids and their community, the Jesus es El Señor children’s program has grown to serve 60–70 kids each week, and more than 100 people now attend church in their new building, which also serves their community through a dental and medical clinic. “It’s just amazing what God does with people who lead like Jesus did—humbly and sacrificially,” Mark says. “And it begins with Him stirring the hearts of people here at Willow to give generously to Celebration of Hope.”

Unleash your compassion

This weekend at any service, you can be part of unleashing unprecedented levels of compassion to help church partners like Pastor Arturo and his wife. Come prepared to take part in a special Celebration of Hope offering at all services, or give online.

The Driving Force

Whether it’s time, energy, or resources, Celebration of Hope is all about giving generously. Seed-packing,  running the 5K,  giving resources:  every effort catalyzes the tangible, sustainable ministries of Willow Creek’s church partners. Your gifts help Willow’s partners share the hope of Christ and fight poverty in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia.

Mark Haugen, global director for Willow’s Compassion & Justice Ministry, visits Willow’s partner churches around the world throughout the year, meeting many of their leaders face-to-face. “These church partners are the driving force behind Celebration of Hope,” he says. “They face very difficult circumstances: lack of clean water, unemployment—even having enough money to sustain the operations of their churches, clinics, and community centers,” Mark says. “Yet our partners exhibit sacrificial leadership, entrepreneurship, and relentless vision in the face of these significant challenges.”

Hear how one church partner in the Dominican Republic transformed its entire community in just five years’ time.

Why fight poverty through global church partners? Here’s one example of how partnering with local churches around the world means maximal impact for every contribution to Celebration of Hope:

“Think back to 2010,” says Mark. “Our Celebration of Hope theme that year was ‘Thirst,’ and our congregation focused all of our giving on providing clean water to communities who desperately needed it. The gifts to Celebration of Hope 2010 provided 93 wells in Latin America and Africa and 17 water filtration systems to church partners, mostly in the Dominican Republic where existing water filtration systems served a mere 500–750 gallons of water per day—far below what its communities need.

Fast forward to today, just five years later. Most of those systems Willow invested in are providing 3,000–5,000 gallons of clean, affordable water per day to their communities—all through the local church. “The simple investments we made through Celebration of Hope 2010 resulted in huge water filtration plants with multiple trucks delivering clean water to local villages and communities,” Mark says. “These water plants have created jobs, too—up to 50+ jobs per system—which means sustainable wages for families. Because we have close relationships with pastors and community leaders in these communities, we know our investments are being maximized in the most effective ways.”

Our church partners in the Dominican Republic now deliver clean water to 10–20,000 people every day. Just five years after investing in the community through clean water, many churches have doubled and tripled in size—outgrowing the size of their church buildings. “Because of these clean-water initiatives, these communities see the church in a positive light,” Mark says. “People are saying ‘Oh, it’s the church that’s caring for the needs of the community.’ Providing water is a fantastic on-ramp for building relationships, spreading hope as Jesus did: around a well.”