Thursday, December 26, 2013

Reasons I came to Willow Creek and chose to stay

“What church do you go to, Inti?” asked Ivan, my brother-in-law, a summer Sunday morning, a few weeks after I had moved to Illinois. “I started going to a Willow Creek campus here in Huntley. Wanna come with me today?” I replied. “If I’m gonna listen to a Willow Creek message, I’d rather just drive 30 minutes to the main campus and get the full experience,” he responded. I tagged along. After all, I could gain bragging rights for visiting one of the largest churches in the nation.

As I walked out of the service with Ivan and my sister, Killa, I thought, “Is this really the megachurch everyone talks about? How come I didn’t feel intimidated by its supposed megasize? Why did I like it so much? Maybe this was just a fluke. I will come again next Sunday to see if it’s consistently good.” It’s almost 2014 and I haven't stopped attending Willow Creek services. In fact, around September I started coming to Midweek (a Wednesday evening service of balmy worship and in-depth teachings targeted to more committed believers). Though I have to drive further on Sunday, I’d rather be in a suave South Barrington service than in a rushed Huntley one. 

For the very first time in my life I crave going to church. I grew up attending church, which I hated with a passion through most of my teenage years, skipping Sunday school because classes were so dull and awkward. My elementary and high school was Academia Los Pinares, a strong fundamentalist Christian school in the hills of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, my home town. I did my undergraduate studies in Houghton College, a Christian liberal arts school in Western NY. While there, I attended dozens of churches of all denominations; when in Honduras, scores more. All this to say, I’ve known God and his ways since very young. I know the verses, songs, hymns, greetings, rituals, thought processes, and attire of the average churchgoer.

My walk with the Lord began late in high school, was well fed through college, and was truly tested once I returned to study and practice law in one of the most corrupt and violent countries in the world: Honduras. So far in my life, I have never felt as spiritually alive, committed and emboldened as I am now, thanks to the teachings and life examples I’ve found in Willow Creek. Eben-ezer! This is the church I always dreamt of. It has the social justice and activism component, practical and useful teachings straight from the Bible, world-class worship teams, transparent finances, and leaders that demonstrate godly humanness—they are open about their vulnerabilities. I find a right balance between love and grace with justice and holiness. I want and need this in my life, for which I have been giving back part of my income and time to serve the Lord in this church’s ministries. 

I joined the Huntley “Axis” group, designed for 18 to 20somethings. It’s only four of us but we get along really well. While I wish the group were bigger—I have talked to the campus leaders about it—it’s kind of difficult in a town chockfull of retirees. 

The Willow Creek experience is a blessing that I have been sharing with family and friends, who have attended church with me. For once, I’m in a place in which I don’t feel hesitant about inviting a seeker/outsider.

I still have to find in Willow Creek the light and accommodated Gospel that many people have told me about megachurches. I don’t see it here. The theology is sound, the worship is biblical, and the organization stewards human potential as, I think, God intends it. My friend Pat Brennan from the Huntley campus sent me Bill Hybels’ Axiom ebook. I read it with much eagerness, moving to Rediscovering Church right after that. Hybels, the Senior Pastor, gets it. 

There is one thing that I’m still struggling with but hope to figure out: meaningfully connect with more people my age group. I have attended several “Axis” groups all over Chicagoland, I sit in the “Axis” section, I visit the Garage every Wednesday after Midweek, etc, all in hopes of meeting new people my age. In other words, I’ve done all things possible to network, but this process isn’t going as fast or deep as I’ve experienced in other places. With barely a dozen peer connections in over four months, I feel disconnected from those my age group. Granted, since very young I’ve always enjoyed interacting with older folks because they were more interesting and insightful—no wonder most of my current friends and acquaintances in the area are no younger than forty.

I want to become a “participating member.” But with life so uncertain for me at this point, I’d rather go through the process once I know I’ll be in the area for a while. One of my personal rules is to visit a different church at least once a month (before or after a Willow Creek service) to spice things up in my life. So far I’ve visited Greek Orthodox, Seventh Day Adventist, and United Methodist churches. I can’t wait to see what the Lord has in store for me in this transition process from Honduras to the US. I love it here, and being part of Willow Creek certainly has made my experience all the better!

Authorship - Autoría

The contents of this web log (blog) were authored by Inti Jordán Martínez Alemán, unless noted otherwise or that it is obvious that it belongs to a publicly recognized entity of any kind. 

Todo el contenido de este blog es de la autoría de Inti Jordán Martínez Alemán, salvo indicado contrariamente o que sea obvio que pertenezca a una entidad públicamente reconocida, de cualquier tipo.

Copyright - Derechos

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Living it the Best way I possibly can... by Inti Jordán Martínez Alemán is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
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