Willow Creek’s “The Practice” Blends New Age & Catholic Mysticism

“The Practice is an experimental gathering where we immerse ourselves in God’s dream for humanity, practice the historic disciplines that align us with His dream, and carry each other along the way.”

It would appear that the entire purpose of The Practice is to practice Spiritual Formation and all of its contemplative components, like Lectio Divina, a centuries-old mystical Catholic practice involving repeating a word or phrase from the Bible over and over until you reach a higher level of consciousness to “hear God speak” to you: “I think that lectio divina has connected most deeply with our community. This “divine reading” of the Scriptures has become such a powerful supplement to a more analytical/study/expository approach to the Bible.”

 

A Catholic priest and a New Ager walk into Willow Creek…

No, it’s not a joke waiting for a punchline. It’s an experiment called The Practice, and it’s the brainchild of Pastor Bill Hybels’ son-in-law, Aaron Niequist. Niequist is also the Worship Pastor at Willow Creek Community Church, and he calls a Jesuit priest his spiritual director.

Be warned; you are about to hear a lot of New Age lingo:

The Practice is an experimental gathering where we immerse ourselves in God’s dream for humanity, practice the historic disciplines that align us with His dream, and carry each other along the way.  PracticeTribe.com

Starting this Sunday, Niequist will teach you about “unforced rhythms of grace,” in which you will learn to align your rhythm with God’s rhythm, practice contemplative prayer methods like Lectio Divina, and learn from a Catholic priest.

The Practice has been a Sunday night ritual at Willow Creek church since 2013, after that summer’s Global Leadership Summit invited Vijay Govindarajan, Professor of International Business and the Founding Director of Tuck’s Center for Global Leadership, to speak about about innovation:

Niequist: Honestly without Vijay’s talk at the Summit, the Practice experiment could not have happened, because it gave us the language to navigate and frame what we needed to do. He spoke about his book, Beyond the Idea, and his three-box strategy. Basically, every organization, he said, has three boxes. Box One is about managing the present. It’s everything the organization is doing to maintain itself. Box Two is about making minor improvements to make Box One even better. But Box Three is about creating the future. It’s all about innovation. source

Note that Niequist does not mention Jesus Christ, the cross, sanctification or any other biblical doctrine as reasons to start The Practice. Just boxes and business management.

This season’s direction for The Practice:

RHYTHM: Learning to align our rhythms with God’s Eternal Rhythms, for the sake of the world.

Where does this idea of “unforced rhythms of grace” come from? Only one place: The Message, quoted extensively by Niequist:

Matthew 11:28-30 The Message (MSG)

28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Does that sound strange? Try a word-for-word translation like the English Standard Version:

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

(Side note: Rick Warren also blogged last spring that Jesus Teaches Unforced Rhythms of Grace.)

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