Part Three of Move is the overall summary on what the authors believe churches can do to “move” people from the first category of Exploring Christ to final mature category of  Christ Centered.  The section contains six chapters with the first one serving as an introduction to the concept of “Spiritual Vitality Index” which is modeled upon the medical professions “Body Mass Index.”  The SVI serves as a measurement tool to gauge the spiritual health of a congregation.  The higher the SVI number, the better.

This number is very important for the methodology of Move because the best practices are determined by examining the ministry strategy and methods of the best practices churches.  Best practices churches are determined by those with SVI’s in the top five percentile.  The next four chapters highlight these four top practices:

  1. Get People Moving–The first best practice highlights a discipleship agenda that focuses upon the processes of spiritual growth.  Instead of small groups with varying curriculum, best practices churches use models similar to or identical to Rick Warren’s famous baseball diamond with the 101, 201, 301, 401 structure.

    Rick Warren’s Famous Baseball Diamond
  2. Embed the Bible–Examples are given  about churches that are able to lead their congregations to more frequent encounters with the Scriptures.
  3. Create Ownership–Churches that are able to convince their congregations that they “Don’t go to church, they are the church” are able to move them into more community activity and evangelism.  The idea is not one of controlling the church but of turning everyday life into ministry opportunities.
  4. Pastor the Local Community–The authors reject the classic divide of “is it the gospel or social action” and say both!  Churches that have healthier spirituality are involved in a myriad of community projects and ministries.

Part Three ends with a challenge to leaders to have a Christ-centered heart.  By that the writers and researchers mean church leaders must not see church growth or more numbers as the goal, but individuals who are growing in their personal discipleship.  They suggest this should be pursued even if it means your church shrinks in numbers.  The goal is better disciples, not more disciples.  Although, the caveat they offer is that better disciples will, in the long term, produce more disciples.

Reading Part Three and the Appendices, two things struck me.  One, the writers use the word “Paradigm” a lot.  I think they should probably reduce that.  Each chapter suggests that what they are suggesting is a paradigm shift, i.e. “Embedding the Bible into everyday ministry is a paradigm shift for most churches.”  They do that with all of these.  I fail to see the paradigm shift.  Involvement in the community, the Bible, setting discipleship criteria and goals, and encouraging people to be active in their daily lives for ministry opportunities are hardly paradigm shifts.  My suggestion is that we should view it as a reinforcement of classical Christian ideas.

The second thing which struck me is from the Appendices, p. 274 where the authors indicate how Willow Creek responded.  Willow was not among the best practices churches and decided they needed to change.  What they changed was their famous Believer’s Service on Wednesday nights.  Back in the dark ages when I was in seminary we were taught all about Willow’s adoption of “seeker services on Sunday” and then a “believer’s service on Wednesday.”  After the Reveal report and the Move study they threw that out the window in favor of a “university” approach featuring the 101, 201, 301, 401 on Wednesdays.   This “move” essentially replaces small groups in the weekly life of the church.  I find these wholesale changes rather amazing.

Read reviews of the other sections:

Part One

Part Two


I am reading through the new Willow Creek book Move with our ministry staff.  Yesterday we had coffee at a local bakery and talked about the first part of the book.  It is divided into three sections.


[UPDATE–TO check out Pastor Kendall’s take on the same book and the same discussion click to her blog. ]


Move is essentially the analysis of a study which emanated out of Willow Creek Church and their pastor, the awesome and amazing Bill Hybels.  They have a desire to see how effective they are in the work of ministry.  Several years ago they commissioned a study called REVEAL that exposed gaps in their ministry model.  After that initial report, they expanded the survey to 1000 other churches.  Move is the report and summary finding and analysis.

The first part of the book outlines the premise that there are four types of people who attend our churches.

  • Exploring Christ–This group of people are open to the idea of a relationship with Jesus, but have made no commitment yet.
  • Growing in Christ–These people have made preliminary commitments but are not yet living out their faith beyond the activities of church life.
  • Close to Christ–The third group of people are dedicated Christ-followers who are active in independent spiritual growth, serving through church, and spiritual engagement with the world around them.
  • Christ-Centered-The last group of people are radically committed to Christ.  The book calls these people “surrendered”.  What they mean from this is they have reached a level of engagement that they perceive God talking to them about their daily lives.

The authors of the book present this as a continuum along which people move.  Part Two of the book is about what makes them move from one level to the next.  But that is for a different report.

There were several findings which are curious and instructive.  First, a key concept of “challenge” kept coming through.  The people being surveyed were hungry for their church to challenge them more in the way of spiritual growth and behavior.  One expects that a the Christ-centered level, but it is true across the board.  Even those exploring Christ seem to want to be challenged in some way as to what they are hearing and absorbing.

Second, activities at church are not an indicator of spiritual health.  People can be very involved at church but have shallow spiritual practices and behaviors.  Ironically most churches gauge spiritual health by how busy someone is at church and elevates these people to leadership, thus, repeating the cycle.  Put Biblically, the church is built for and by Marthas but Marys the ones who get it.

Third, the longer a person attends church without making a decision to become a Christ-follower the less likely that person is to ever do so.

Fourth, There is a gap in the behaviors of the Christ-centered (fourth, most mature group) and two common spiritual behaviors.  Christ-centered statistically do not tithe nor serve as often as the Close to Christ group.  The authors put forward several reasons for this–but I have my own theory.  I’ve known church people for years and I lead many wonderful, and good people.  The more Christ-centered someone is, the harder on themselves they are and the more critical they become of their actions.  The REVEAL report and the book Move uses data gathered from self reporting.  I believe that the 4th group–the Christ-centered, is actually more honest and critical of their involvement and that is why they deviate.

I could be wrong, but probably not.

I’d like to add one more aspect to the book report thus far, and that is the way in which it feels devotional in nature as I read it.  The authors do a great job of presenting the material in a way that speaks to me as a Christ-folower, not just as a person looking for data and analysis.  I appreciate that.

Next week we will discuss Part Two, so, you can bet there will be a follow-up blog.