We sat in Saturday night to hear Gene Appel, lead pastor at Willow Creek Community Church, explain to the 20-something ministry called Axis what the leadership sees as the next “evolution in Axis.” The Saturday night Axis service will be no more. Axis ministries have been morphed into the larger Willow minstries and weekend services. Ministry to that age-group will continue, though we’re not quite sure what that will look like.
We feel sad because it was an important ministry for our daughter when she was in her early and mid-20s. We will always be grateful for Axis ministries and its weekly service. She met her husband, Mark, through an Axis ministry small group. We know there are hundreds of similar stories wandering now around the halls of Willow.
I’ve always been in favor of Axis and all its ministries, not because I’ve been involved (for I’ve not done anything with that ministry), but there have been some subtle and not-so-subtle shifts at Willow over the last two years that gave us the impression Axis’ weekend service had numbered days.
In his tactful and clear address to about 500 Axis service attenders, Gene talked about the inevitability of change, and that change is what Willow and Axis have always been about. (That’s the truth.) More importantly, Gene pointed out that in 1995 the Axis ministry and the Weekend services were dramatically different, justifying two kinds of services. In the last two years or so that dramatic difference has decreased enough to call into question the viability of Axis having a separable service. (This is also true.)
And even more importantly, the more service-oriented, or missional, focus of Axis ministries has now become a staple of the rest of the church community, and Gene Appel over and over said that it was Axis that had led to dramatic changes in the rest of the church. It had changed the trajectory of the whole church, he said.
He also emphasized that Willow needs to recover its original intergenerational focus. [This comment was added due to comments I’ve read elsewhere.]
As a result, the differences between the weekend services and Axis are no longer of sufficient degree to justify a separate Axis service. Axis has been diffused, or morphed, into the larger weekend service.
It should be observed that Axis has served as a template for many ministries around the world, and has in some ways been part of the emerging church movement.