Come join us this weekend as we celebrate all God has done through Willow over the past 39 years!
There are so many great stories that happen within the ministries at Willow. And, one of the best ways to celebrate Willow’s 39th anniversary is to tell the stories of how God works every day in the lives of people in our church. Here are just a few personal stories of lives being transformed by God through the ministries of Willow Creek.
Section Communities – Grandpa’s Life Changed
Ted* had a terribly distorted view of the church based on his life growing up with an alcoholic, abusive father, who would put on a show every Sunday for church and then physically abuse his family after they returned home. Needless to say, Ted, now well into his sixties, avoided church his whole life. His grandson, who attends Willow, was being baptized and Ted reluctantly came. The section where the family member sat welcomed, supported, and loved him – and now Ted attends Willow every week. Ted attends workshops and even wants to become a member. What do we learn about God from the Sections Ministry? That God cares deeply for us and is faithful in tangible ways through the church and through community in Sections.
Alpha – Addicted Pro Athlete Comes to Faith
A golf professional found his way into a crack-cocaine addiction and eventually became entrenched in that world. His life was coming to an end and collapsing all around him. This pro golfer started Alpha on the suggestion of some friends, found Christ and the Holy Spirit! He even got baptized this year. And now, he leads his own Alpha group, and his family is attending Alpha as well. What do we learn about God through the Alpha Ministry? God makes a way for us to find Him, and then He gives His Holy Spirit to live within us. God doesn’t ever leave us.
Elevate – Middle-Schooler Finds Acceptance
This past weekend, a new seventh grade girl came to Elevate. After the program, the system that helps place new people into small groups put her in a small group. The girl lived about thirty minutes from Willow – which decreased the odds that she would know a single person from her school in the small group. In middle school, this is a big deal. The girl was nervous about walking into a room full of strangers as the volunteer walked her to the place where her small group was meeting. When they opened the door a seventh grader in the group said loudly, “HEY! You go to my school! I know we’ve never met, but you’ve GOTTA get in here!” In middle school, that’s a fantastic (and relieving) welcome to get. What can we learn about God with this story from Elevate? God gives unexpected surprises and good gifts even when we don’t ask for them.
Student Impact – Student Comes to Faith – Becomes Youth Pastor
Mike* visited Impact last year. He wasn’t a Christian and only promised his friend he would check it out. He came once, then again, and again, and pretty soon six months had gone by. Then one time, his heart was so stirred, he gave his life to Christ. This was just a few short months before he headed off to college. Once in college, he realized that God so hijacked his heart he decided to change his major and go into ministry to bring others to Christ. Currently, Mike is serving as a youth pastor in a small church and continues to be on fire for God. It is an incredible thought that just a year ago he didn’t even know Jesus. And now Mike is impacting the world for Christ. What can we learn about God from Student Impact? That God transforms us and has a plan for our lives that is bigger than we can imagine.
Care Center – Former Inmate Finds a Job
“God really showed up at the Job Fair last week,” says ministry leader Josie Guth. Forty-one employers participated and at least 180 job-seekers came. The number of conversations that happened between employers and job-seekers in the atrium of our church was 825, with potential placements of 238! Another leader reported, “I saw four people I knew from the Prison & Jail Ministry—two were hired on the spot. One of the job-seekers that was hired is on probation and must wear an ankle bracelet. After being hired, he was so moved because he didn’t think it was possible to get a job after what he had been through. We were both practically crying! The other two from the Prison & Jail Ministry were scheduled for interviews.” What do we learn about God through the Job Fair hosted by the Care Center? That God redeems any situation – regardless of how the situation happened, He is faithful and able to redeem it.
Pastoral Response – Recover – Life Restored after Abuse
His parents divorced when he was two years old, and he was raised in a home of generational alcohol abuse in a family environment of raised voices, threats, and fear. He grew up wondering if he was loved and if he belonged. He tried harder and harder to be noticed. He excelled in sports and in social settings to get attention. But despite his outer “success,” his inside world was rocked and his innocence lost. This created a whole set of unhealthy relational patterns around performance, people pleasing, and insecurity. That person is me, a Christ follower, a pastor for over 25 years, a family man. And what I have in common with those that come to Recover is that we all have found healing through Willow’s Recover program, which I have the privilege of leading. What do we learn about God from the Recover Ministry? That our God crushes shame, understands our pain, invites us to a better future, and heals our hurts.
Be sure to come to the 39th anniversary services THIS weekend to celebrate these and thousands of other stories showcasing God’s work through the ministries of Willow Creek. Also, plan on staying a few extra minutes after the service as the sections have “Quick Connects” to celebrate!
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
*Name has been changed to protect identity.