Bill Hybels may not be preaching at Willow Creek on Christmas morning – but he will be in church – at Salem Baptist Church where he’ll share the pulpit with Pastor James Meeks. Brother Hybels probably just wanted to experience the joys of the smaller church. Salem has a congregation of only 7,500.
Late last week, at a meeting with a small group of other leading Chicago area ministers, Meeks invited Hybels to spend Christmas at Salem after Hybels talked about the controversy that has arisen (mostly in the media) over the decision by Willow and a number of other megachurches across the country not to hold services on Christmas Day, which this year falls on a Sunday.
On Friday afternoon, Hybels, who was at O’Hare Airport waiting for a flight bound for Zambia in Africa, where he will spend this week at an AIDS clinic filming a pre-holiday sermon that will be beamed back to Willow next weekend — they call it “Christmas on Location” — e-mailed Meeks at the airport in Washington to say he’d be at Salem Christmas morning, with bells on, as it were. “I talked with my wife and children about the idea and they loved it!” Hybels wrote in an e-mail to the Sun-Times a few minutes before his flight to Zambia departed. “So, this will be a very memorable season for our family.”[link]
Other Pastors haven’t responded to the controversy quite as gracefully.
Southland Christian Church senior minister Jon Weece yesterday lashed out at the media, the devil and “a handful of misguided and jealous Christians” for second-guessing his congregation’s decision to close its doors on Christmas Sunday.
The minister also criticized “the entire Christian community” for failing to support Central Kentucky’s largest house of worship as it faces scorching criticism.
Ah, Christmas – the wondrous season of peace, joy and love (not to forget the Birth of the Saviour, of course.)