Hand Bells? At Willow Creek? Huh?

gls_logoWillow Creek Community Church, on the heels of its annual Global Leadership Summit, featured Dr. Henry Cloud as the speaker for its weekend services on Saturday and Sunday.  So far, so good.  No big whoop.

Willow Creek Community Church, for its pre-message corporate worship, used–wait for it–hand bells.  Hand.  Bells.  At.  Willow.  Say what?

Just as soon as we make the decision at Judson University to sell our long-dormant octaves of hand bells, Willow goes and uses them in Big-Church worship, portending a wave of retro-cool hand bell usage throughout the contemporary American church.  Soon every Willow Creek Association and Willow-wannabe church in the world will be ponying up $10-20K for a set of bells.

But it doesn’t stop there.  In short time, buoyed by the success of the once-despised bells—those vestiges of boring, liturgical worship—Willow will lead the way, as it always does, for the first-ever megachurch purchase of a $300K, 100-rank, 500-stop pipe organ.  Other megachurches will soon follow suit, and all the mid-sized wannabes will do their best with the budgets they have, resigning themselves to in-home Wurlitzers or the sampled pipe organ patches on their now-unhip synthesizers.  And, in no time, ultra-cool worship in the contemporary American church will look just like . . . what Willow left behind in the 70’s as dull, dreary, and in need of repair.

OK.  Probably not.  But for those of us who have occasionally bemoaned the tendency of megachurches and all other trying-really-hard-to-be-culturally-relevant churches to throw the baby out with the baptismal font water, the following clip has to bring a smile (the bells appear around the 19-minute mark): Willow Using Hand Bells.

Seriously, hats off, once again, to Willow, for pushing the envelope.  The fact that they’re pushing the envelope backwards in recent years is yet one more reason I admire their collective efforts.

The Lord be with you!

About Warren Anderson

Emmaus Road Worshipers is written by Dr. Warren Anderson, Director of the Demoss Center for Worship in the Performing Arts at Judson University (Elgin, Ill.), where he also directs the Judson University Choir. A Judson alumnus, he has served his alma mater in a number of capacities over the past 30+ years, especially the chapel ministry, which he led for 22 years. From 1982-2016, Dr. Anderson served six different churches--American Baptist (X2), Converge, Evangelical Free Church of America, Roman Catholic, and United Methodist--as a "weekend warrior" worship musician/pastor. He is a former member of the editorial board of Worship Leader magazine. The views expressed in this blog are not necessarily the views of Judson University.
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