Notes and Critique on

"Reveal, Where are You?" by Greg L. Hawkins and Cally Parkinson, 2007, Willow Creek Resources, 67 E. Algonquin Rd, Barrington, IL 60010,,

by Dwayne Phillips, January 2009




Instead of asking, "How many?" as in "how many people attended this, participated in that, actively serve here or there, etc." p. 7

Try asking, "Where are you?" as in "are you moving closer to God?" p. 8

Does increased attendance in ministry programs automatically equate to spiritual growth? To be brutally honest: it does not. p. 13

It becomes a simple equation: increased attendance = people growing. We're not poor leaders when we think like this; it's just that we don't have any other practical way to measure growth. p. 14

They used a simple structure based on three questions:

  1. Where are we?
  2. What do we see? (vision)
  3. How do we get there? (action plan)

...we embarked on what would become a three-year process of study and research... p. 23

We wanted to find evidence of spiritual growth in people, and then figure out what types of activities or circumstances triggered that spiritual growth. An increasing low for God and for other people was our working definition of spiritual growth. p. 29

...we headed into the research with three hypotheses to guide us: p. 31

  1. There is a migration path for spiritual growth based on church activities.
  2. The most effective evangelism tool is a spiritual conversation.
  3. Spiritual relationships are a key driver of spiritual growth.

What we did not find: pp. 32-33

  1. Gender does not impact spiritual growth in any significant way.
  2. Age does not appear to have a significant impact on spiritual growth.
  3. The pattern of spiritual growth does not differ significantly by (local) church.

What we did find: six discoveries

  1. Involvement in church activities does not predict or drive long-term spiritual growth. P. 33
    1. But there is a "spiritual continuum" that is very predictive and powerful. p. 33 ...this continuum centers not on church activities, but rather on a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. p. 36
  2. Spiritual growth is all about increasing relational closeness to Christ. p. 38
  3. The church is most important in the early stages of spiritual growth. Its role then shifts from being the primary influence to a secondary influence. p. 41
    1. That's where the second external element of spiritual growth comes into play: personal spiritual practices...prayer, journaling, solitude, studying Scripture - things that individuals do on their own... p. 43
  4. Personal spiritual practices are the building blocks for a Christ-centered life. p. 44
    1. This fourth discovery brought with it a pair of key observations: p. 44
    1. (Observation 1) The human spirit is wired by God to search for him, just like birds are wired to fly south for the winter.
    2. (Observation 2) The research strongly suggests that the church declines in influence as people grow spiritually.
    3. (Our Conclusion) Our conclusion based on the data is this: The church doesn't need to handhold people who are moving strong in the later stages of the spiritual continuum.
  5. A church's most active evangelists, volunteers and donors come from the most spiritually advanced segments. p. 45
  6. More than 25 percent of those surveyed described themselves as spiritually "stalled" or "dissatisfied" with the role of the church in their spiritual growth. p. 47

The Spirtual Continuum p. 37

  1. Exploring Christianity
  2. Growing in Christ
  3. Close to Christ
  4. Christ-Centered

The Stalled Segment emerges in the early to middle growing stages of the spiritual continuum. p. 48

The Dissatisfied Segment - the people who are most unhappy with their church - tend to come from the segments that are more Christ-focused. p. 50. The higher the level of engagement, the more likely it is that satisfaction with the church will be lukewarm. p. 51.

But at the heart of their unhappiness may be the fact that neither segment seems to realize that much of the responsibility for the spiritual growth belongs to them. p. 54

...the church being too preoccupied with the early growing years, leaving the spiritual adolescents to find their own way... p. 55

A new vision and strategy p. 64

  1. Our message to the congregation has to change p. 64
  2. We need to coach next steps p. 65
  3. We need to extend the impact of our weekend services p. 66

We want to move people from dependence on the church to a growing interdependent partnership with the church...Our people need to learn to feed themselves through personal spiritual practices that allow them to deepen their relationship with Christ. p. 65

We believe it is essential for us to help everyone answer the question, "What's next for me?"

Three practical next steps you can take pp. 67-68

  1. Ask more than "how many?"
  2. Go beyond "How are you?"
  3. Ask "How does that help someone grow?"

Here are some questions that could open up healthy dialogues:

  1. How is your relationship with God?
  2. What's helping you grow spiritually these days?
  3. What ministry is making a difference in your life? How?
  4. What could the church do differently that would help you grow more?


Willow Creek has done us a service by performing the research and publishing the results. They could have, however, given their work more legitimacy with a professional report.

This contains useful information. I struggled to read it because of the problems I noted.

The Spiritual Continuum is the foundation for this report. I struggle to understand the continuum. I would appreciate specific examples of what separates one area of the continuum from another.

"Spiritual growth is all about increasing relational closeness to Christ. p. 38" They call this a "discovery." It more seems to be a basic definition than a discovery.

The (funded) researchers conclude on page 59 that what is needed is more (funded) research. Most researchers conclude this, but few ever state it so blatantly. This reduces the affect of their research report as it shows they have a conflict of interest.

One point that the authors do not state explicitly is: do not assume motivation, which is often unseen, when you see someone doing something. This is elementary, but is often lost. As to motivation,  different people have different reasons for doing the same thing. For example, a man can help an old lady cross a street out of love for people in general or out of hate for his own mother.

The authors are loose with the English language,  

  1. "How do we get there?" Incorrect us of "get."
  2. Many instances of wordy phrases that should have been shortened by an editor, e.g." we embarked on what would become a three-year process of study and research" could be stated "we researched and studied for three years." 
  3. Don't understand the difference between "data" and "datum." (p. 29)
  4. Don't seem to know the difference between honesty and candor. p. 13
  5. Don't seem to now the meaning of the word "impact." pp. 32-33
  6. I won't go on.

This "book" is a 20-page report that was swollen with the usual techniques (thick paper, wide margins, large print, extra large figures).

This "book" does not have an ISBN. This is an obvious tip off of less-than-professional work.