(RNS) — Willow Creek Community Church announced Wednesday (April 15) that David Dummitt, a megachurch pastor from Michigan, will be the church’s new senior pastor.
The announcement comes just over two years after Willow Creek’s founding pastor resigned after being accused of abusing power and sexual misconduct.
Dummitt, 46, is the founding pastor of 2|42 Community Church, a Michigan megachurch with seven campuses. According to a statement from the Vanderbloemen Search Group, which assisted with the search, the 2|42 Community Church was founded 15 years ago by Dummitt and some friends and now draws more than 10,000 people a week to services.
Willow Creek has eight campuses in and around Chicago and in the past has reported more than 25,000 attenders. Before in-person service stopped due to the coronavirus pandemic, the church averaged 18,000 in attendance. The church now draws about 18,000 livestream views each weekend along with an additional 15,000 on-demand views, said a Willow spokesperson
It has long been one of the most influential Protestant churches in America.
A graduate of Wheaton College who attended Asbury Seminary, Dummitt said in a statement he has long admired the work of Willow Creek. He called himself a “church kid who played in the handbell choir” while growing up and that Willow Creek taught him church could be different.
“As a freshman at Wheaton College, I’d heard about this church that was doing creative things to reach lost people,” he said in a statement. “We attended, and I can almost point to the seats we sat in that day. The service opened with a Beatles song. … I don’t know of a pastor or leader in America that has not in some way been shaped by the ministry of Willow Creek.”
Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, said Dummitt is the right person to lead Willow.
“David is a great choice for Willow — a Wheaton grad who has led a growing church that seeks to be on mission for its community,” he said.
Willow Creek’s founding pastor, Bill Hybels, was known for his high-intensity personality and his admiration for corporate culture and business practices.
Stetzer said Dummit is known as a “networker with a kingdom mentality — he loves people and loves connecting people for missional purposes.”
“Dave has a reputation for being a fun guy,” Stetzer said. “He takes the mission seriously but does not take himself too seriously.”
The search firm statement announcing Dummitt’s hire acknowledged that recent years have been difficult for Willow Creek.
Hybels, the church’s entire elder board and pastors Steve Carter and Heather Larson, both of whom had been named to succeed Hybels, all resigned in the fallout from the mishandling of allegations against him.
“Willow Creek was founded by Bill Hybels in 1975. He led the church for 43 years until retiring early amid multiple allegations of misconduct. The controversy left the church with lower attendance, giving, and multiple staff and elder resignations,” the statement read.
Hybels has consistently denied all allegations of misconduct. A 2019 report from an outside panel concluded that allegations of “sexually inappropriate words and actions” by Hybels were credible.
In a statement, the church’s elders thanked the congregation for their prayers during the search and asked for the church to pray for Dummitt and his family.
“We have spent many hours with Dave and his wife, Rachel, and we are grateful that God has called their family to serve at Willow,” the elders said. “Throughout the evaluation process, we continued to see Dave’s ability to lead with humility and strength, as well as his passion to equip and empower strong teams. His vision for the health and growth of Willow Creek and the kingdom at large, his high-caliber teaching ability, his humble and down-to-earth personality, and his willingness to engage in restorative work made it clear that he would be a strong fit for this position.”
Dummitt begins work in early June.
by Bob Smietana, Religion News Service