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Second Willow Creek Campus Pastor Resigns

By Julie Roys

Willow Creek Crystal Lake‘s Lead Pastor Marcus Bieschke today announced he’s resigning his position with the church, saying his “heart and values are not in full alignment” with the church’s current direction. Bieschke is the second campus pastor to resign from one of Willow Creek Community Church’s eight Chicago-area campuses this year. Just three months ago, Reece Whitehead resigned as lead pastor from Willow Creek Wheaton. 

Since March 2018, when several women accused former Willow Creek Senior Pastor Bill Hybels of sexual misconduct, the church has been in turmoil. An independent investigation earlier this year found that the women’s accusations were credible. But attempts at reconciliation by Willow Creek’s new elder board has sparked additional controversy.

“I’ve longed for and encouraged Willow to pursue a different path toward healing,” Bieschke said. “But due to a difference of opinion on what that path should be, I believe I must depart.” 

Beischke said Dave Smith, executive pastor at Willow Creek Crystal Lake, will assume the role of interim lead pastor. Bieschke said he shared news of his decision at a core meeting today and said he would share the full announcement with the congregation at services on October 20. 

Below is the email Bieschke sent to the church today:

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11 thoughts on “Second Willow Creek Campus Pastor Resigns”

  1. Wait…so you are resigning because you can’t pastor to the best of your ability…but you’re not leaving until December 1st? What are doing between now and then? And you are asking your sheep to support an organization that you yourself can’t support? This makes no sense…

  2. Twenty months…almost two years in a high level position to put up with something that bothers him. My heart goes out to those who are unable to share their hearts with board members and still be expected to deliver God’s word on a regular basis. The ministry and spiritual health here in this country has fallen so far that a real revival may not be possible, not because God isn’t able but because men rely more on themselves than on God to keep the church from going South spiritually. The length of time this man ministered and struggled with his burden should cause remorse in the heart of church leadership as to why someone didn’t encourage him to withdraw from his position if they were adamant in their beliefs and felt that they were right?. Why allow a stressful situation to wear someone down if a workable solution isn’t forth coming?

  3. Valuable insight, Susan and William. You would think talk of current challenges and what direction the church is going is addressed during a preliminary panel interview by the elders or even an observation through a sermon as a guest speaker. Confused…

  4. Please know that so much of what you are commenting on is without any good knowledge of the situation. Not remotely as simple as you are making it sound. I know that Marcus did not sit back and put up with anything and in fact fought for truth and transparency throughout all of this. He has carried a huge burden. At the end of the day, each one of Us has to wrestle with God and what He is calling us individually to do. We are each responsible to God.

    1. Yes, we are each responsible to God. But Pastors (Elders, biblically-speaking) are held to a higher standard and have greater responsibility when it comes to warning the sheep. The question is what should he do with the knowledge he has?

      At this stage of the Willow game, chalking up this decision to a difference of opinion, lack of values alignment, etc. seems somewhat disingenuous, or at least perplexing. Does Mr. Bieschke believe that Willow Elders/Leaders are acting in opposition to God’s Word? Or is this an “agree to disagree” parting of ways–a reasonable God-fearing Christians simply agreeing to disagree on a matter that’s not black & white? There’s a difference, and his congregants are left guessing.

      It’s clear that a rift of some kind is the catalyst for his departure. But because the letter is on Willow letterhead and uses PR-speak, we’re not sure if Mr. Bieschke is standing up to unholiness & unrighteousness. His message has obviously been “managed” and “approved.” That’s unfortunate, because it limits his Congregations’ (& onlookers’) ability to count his acts as righteousness, or even know what his righteous acts were.

      What we’re reading here is the outgrowth of a church-as-just-another-kind-of-business model. Is his choice borne of out of conviction about what the Lord requires…or is it simply a matter of style differences? It’s not clear. However, I’m willing to give Marcus Bieschke the benefit of the doubt, since I don’t know him or his specific situation.

      Still, after reading letter after letter like this one–whether from Willow or from Harvest–I suppose I’m craving some straight-up honesty, along the lines of, “Dearly beloved, I am leaving because I believe that the Elders of this church are wrong to refuse publicly naming Bill Hybels specifics sins and disqualifications from ministry. Moreover, I am heartbroken about & passionately oppose their choice to not publicly apologize to and correct the lies about the numerous women that Bill Hybels abused.”

      Continuing to fight for truth & transparency even in his resignation would be an honorable thing indeed.

  5. It would be very interesting to know precisely how his vision wasn’t aligning with the church’s. There is something scary when it’s in these generic terms, and that does not give the church, her members, and her officers adequate opportunity to examine their courses. Presumably leadership has some idea, but this is really, really vague.

  6. This saddens me greatly. After months of feeling something just wasn’t right at the barrington campus and then finding out about all allegations we left . It was very tough finding another church I could trust, like and wanting to get involved in again. Now this!!!!! I do believe that God says not to put your faith in man, however I just started to say this campus was home. I would like to know what Marcus meant by he and the church are headed in 2 different directions???? What does he mean when his heart is not in alignment with the church?????. I don’t blame him for following his heart. How can he stay? He has been convicted by the spirit. Please don’t lead us astray. Can someone please be honest this time around?

  7. It would be nice to know the truth and speak without us guessing what the hidden meaning is; which makes the issue worse. Are we playing charades? What does Marcus mean by “pursue a different path toward healing.” State what your path is and let us decide if it is the correct way or not.

  8. This blog only make Julie money. I am very disappointed how blogs like this exist and hurt the work that God’s people are trying to do. Maybe Marcus was a little off base and the Elders are working things out in a Godly way? What if he was part of the problem and it is good for him to go? What if that was the case with Reece too? What if they were the kind of pastors that don’t belong and they were part of an old regime? I wish them well in their ventures, leaving in a Godly way is fine. What if the Elders are doing a great job and trying to move the church forward in a Godly way and blogs like this continue to sew discord in the kingdom. Very sad and disappointed that Gods people keep things like this going only to get web site traffic at the cost of sensitive lives. Very sad. I say we put down the stones and get to real work, there’s people that need to hear about God, which is exactly what the people at Willow and Harvest are trying to do after a difficult time. Everyone is still a sinner, yes? Move on.

  9. I have been attending Willowcreek since 2004. I go to the Saturday night service. Ever since the Hybels scandal blew up the attendance has been down significantly. They closed the upper balcony for the Saturday 5:30pm and Sunday 9am services. They don’t publish the giving so I don’t but they have cut down quite a bit on events that they used to have. So they have this huge 7500 seat auditorium that is sparsely filled.

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