Bill Hybels and Mother Teresa


Leadership Summit 2008 Fairfax, Virginia, August 10, 2008 – Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church asked church leaders attending his annual Leadership Summit at sites across North America if they could be “fully yielded”[1] to God as Mother Teresa had been. Hybels had more than 50,000 leaders at the two-day conference stand up and repeat some of the proverbs Mother Teresa had lived by for over four decades of her life:

  • “God, I yield myself fully to you.”
  • “I will do your bidding without delay. I will refuse you nothing … I will seek to love You as You have never been loved before.”
  • “Even though I don’t feel His presence, I will seek to love Him as he has never been loved.”

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Hybels’ address was the result of months of studying Mother Teresa. He told the attendees that no one has affected him more deeply than Mother Teresa, and that the entire summit was worth doing extensive research on this woman of love and compassion.

Why would popular evangelical leaders like Hybels and Rick Warren (Purpose Driven Life, pp. 125, 231) feature a Roman Catholic nun to encourage evangelicals, when she:

Is an avowed universalist:
“I love all religions. … If people become better Hindus, better Muslims, better Buddhists by our acts of love, then there is something else growing there.” And, “All is God — Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, etc., all have access to the same God.”

Preaches a false gospel:
“We never try to convert [others]… to Christianity but in our work we bear witness to the love of God’s presence and if Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, or agnostics become for this better men — simply better — we will be satisfied… If that individual thinks and believes that this is the only way to God for her or him, this is the way God comes into their life — his life. If he does not know any other way and if he has no doubt so that he does not need to search then this is his way to salvation.”

Is devoted to Mary:
“Mary … is our patroness and our Mother, and she is always leading us to Jesus.”

Doubted her faith and God’s existence during the last 40 years of her life:
“As for me, the silence and emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear. The tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak.” (writing to a priest)

“Lord, my God, you have thrown [me] away as unwanted – unloved. I call, I cling, I want, and there is no one to answer, no, no one. Alone. Where is my faith? even deep down right in there is nothing. I have no faith. I dare not utter the words and thoughts that crowd in my heart.”

“I am told God loves me, and yet the reality of the darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul. Did I make a mistake in surrendering blindly to the Call of the Sacred Heart?”

Why do Hybels and other pop evangelical leaders frequently praise their non-Biblical, even non-Christian, heroes? Because their preaching frequently consists of man-centered moralisms (be “yielded” and do good works like Mother Teresa) and psychotherapy, devoid of Scriptural content. Because megachurch worship services are mostly man-centered, seeker-sensitive pop shows. If preaching and worship are all about human “felt needs,” why even expound the Scriptures? Expound Mother Teresa instead!

[1] Michael Horton writes about this 1870s Keswick “holiness,” “yielded life,” “surrendered life,” “higher life,” “abundant life,” “let go and let God” theology of a second blessing of the Holy Spirit, which usually leads to disillusionment because of failure to attain such a “victorious life”:

Evangelicals have done this, in part, by following the “Higher Life” version of conversion and the Christian life, in which super-saints (often involved in “full-time Christian ministry”) are “filled with the Spirit,” while normal (i.e., “carnal”) Christians make it to heaven, but without having any of the gifts of the Spirit.

“The Holy Spirit will fill us with His power the moment we are fully yielded,” declares Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ… It’s a tragedy that “[a]t the time of conversion the will of man is temporarily yielded to the will of God,” but “after conversion, the heart frequently loses its first love” and therefore requires us to seek another filling. Just as the medieval believer required some ritual in order to fill up the bathtub of grace that had begun leaking from a venial sin, Bill Bright urges, “If a Christian is not filled, he is disobedient to the command of God and is sinning against God.”

Of course, the Reformation heirs reply to today’s medieval heirs, that there is only one life that can please God, and that is Christ’s. And because his life is accepted and we are in him, hidden as it were, we are pleasing to God and are filled with the Spirit because every believer possesses everything of Christ’s.

Union with Christ is not the result of human decision, striving, seeking, yielding, or surrendering, but of Christ’s. While we are called to be “filled with the Spirit” (Gal.5:18), it is a figure of speech: “Do not be drunk with wine…but be filled with the Spirit.” In other words, make sure you’re under the right influence!

Therefore, let us distinguish conversion from justification and realize that initial conversion is a passive reception of God’s gracious acceptance of us in Christ, while the life-long conversion process is an active pursuit of holiness and righteousness, the very thing which the gospel promises that we already possess fully and completely in Christ (emphasis mine).

For more on this “yielded life” theology, see Horton’s “The Law and the Gospel” and “Union with Christ.”

Related reading:

“Mother Teresa’s Crisis of Faith by
“The Myth of Mother Teresa” by
Mother Teresa: Her Words” by

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