Like Mouw, I have concerns about how much they "seem willing to concede regarding the limited role of the local church in nurturing spiritual growth." He cites some background for his reasoning that I have little difficulty agreeing with, but find my own thoughts take on a far more instinctual reaction. Since I'm nowhere near as versed on Kuyperian thought as Mouw, this is probably only natural. But in declaring that some aspects of spiritual growth should be not found within the church, I wonder if perhaps Willow Creek is falling victim to a common misunderstanding of what a church is.
Perhaps they would disagree with me, and I certainly don't wish to malign Willow Creek, which has been home to some very good friends, and which I believe has done (and continues to do) a great deal of good work for the Kingdom of Christ. But as I read Mouw's article (and such fragments of other people's comments about Willow Creek's recent assessment), I get the feeling that Willow Creek is thinking of the church (and, thus, the responsibilities Willow Creek holds) in terms of their worship services, their programs, and such services as provided by Willow Creek's staff. And there is a real and valid sense in which it is appropriate for Willow Creek to say (in essence) "this is what we can do, and this is what we can't do." Willow Creek cannot, and should not, try to be all things to all people.
But I'm reminded of the words of a song I used to listen to while I was in college:
From "U Can't Go 2 Church" by AVB (Acappella Vocal Band):Spiritual growth has an individual component, to be sure, but it happens in the context of the people of God. That is what the church is, first and foremost: the people. To the extent that some of the people of Willow Creek are having difficulty in this area, it is the responsibility of other people in that community to help try to discover what can be done. We "bear one another's burdens," to use the biblical cliché (Galatians 6:2). Some of this will be (and is) done through the official agencies of the local church, but some will, and must be done by friends simply looking after one another. If people are failing to work toward their own spiritual growth, the church does bear responsibility here, because the church is the people of God.
You can't go to church as some people say
The common terminology we use everyday
You can go to a building, that is something you can do
But you can't go to church 'cause the church is you
'Cause the church is you
I don't want to get into the business of suggesting what a large church such as Willow Creek should be doing, in terms of programs and specific answers to the question of how to promote spiritual growth among its members. But I simply cannot shake the idea that they may be giving up this battle too quickly. I pray that God will show them ways that they can help the people within their community with their spiritual growth while they continue to focus on those areas of ministry in which they can be most effective.