The 'anti-celebrity pastor': Why Christian leaders praise Willow Creek's choice for senior pastor

  • Dave Dummitt will become senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington next month, arriving from 2|42 Community Church in southeastern Michigan. Dummitt founded the church in Brighton, Michigan, 15 years ago, and today it draws about 10,000 worshippers to seven campuses every weekend. Here, he preaches during a 2|42 service.

    Dave Dummitt will become senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington next month, arriving from 2|42 Community Church in southeastern Michigan. Dummitt founded the church in Brighton, Michigan, 15 years ago, and today it draws about 10,000 worshippers to seven campuses every weekend. Here, he preaches during a 2|42 service. Courtesy of 2|42 Community Church

  • Dave Dummitt will begin teaching as Willow Creek Community Church's senior pastor the weekend of June 6-7. He gets high marks from Christian leaders for a warm, caring nature, an ability to collaborate with other churches and willingness to work behind the scenes.

    Dave Dummitt will begin teaching as Willow Creek Community Church's senior pastor the weekend of June 6-7. He gets high marks from Christian leaders for a warm, caring nature, an ability to collaborate with other churches and willingness to work behind the scenes. Courtesy of Willow Creek Community Church

  • Willow Creek Community Church's new senior pastor is coming into the job with a preference to work behind the scenes instead of trying to achieve celebrity status from the pulpit, according to some top Christian leaders.

    Willow Creek Community Church's new senior pastor is coming into the job with a preference to work behind the scenes instead of trying to achieve celebrity status from the pulpit, according to some top Christian leaders. Daily Herald File Photo

  • Dave Dummitt will become senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington next month. He's coming from 2|42 Community Church, which he founded in Brighton, Michigan about 15 years ago.

    Dave Dummitt will become senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington next month. He's coming from 2|42 Community Church, which he founded in Brighton, Michigan about 15 years ago. Courtesy of 2|42 Community Church

  • Dave Dummitt will become senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington next month, arriving from 2|42 Community Church in southeastern Michigan. Dummitt founded the church in Brighton, Michigan, 15 years ago, and today it draws about 10,000 worshippers to seven campuses every weekend. Here, he preaches during a 2|42 service.

    Dave Dummitt will become senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington next month, arriving from 2|42 Community Church in southeastern Michigan. Dummitt founded the church in Brighton, Michigan, 15 years ago, and today it draws about 10,000 worshippers to seven campuses every weekend. Here, he preaches during a 2|42 service. Courtesy of 2|42 Community Church

  • Dave Dummitt will become senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington next month. He's coming from 2|42 Community Church, which he founded in Brighton, Michigan, about 15 years ago.

    Dave Dummitt will become senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington next month. He's coming from 2|42 Community Church, which he founded in Brighton, Michigan, about 15 years ago. Courtesy of 2|42 Community Church

  • Former Willow Creek Community Church Lead Pastor Heather Larson speaks highly of Dave Dummitt, who takes over as the South Barrington megachurch's senior pastor next month.

    Former Willow Creek Community Church Lead Pastor Heather Larson speaks highly of Dave Dummitt, who takes over as the South Barrington megachurch's senior pastor next month. Daily Herald File Photo, 2018

  • Ed Stetzer, executive director of Wheaton College's Billy Graham Center, says Dave Dummitt is taking the senior pastor post at Willow Creek Community Church in what is a challenging time.

    Ed Stetzer, executive director of Wheaton College's Billy Graham Center, says Dave Dummitt is taking the senior pastor post at Willow Creek Community Church in what is a challenging time. Courtesy of Wheaton College

  • Tim Stevens is joining Willow Creek Community Church as executive pastor. He says incoming Senior Pastor Dave Dummitt has admirable leadership skills.

    Tim Stevens is joining Willow Creek Community Church as executive pastor. He says incoming Senior Pastor Dave Dummitt has admirable leadership skills. Courtesy of Willow Creek Community Church

 
 
Updated 5/31/2020 8:15 AM

Willow Creek Community Church's new senior pastor is coming into the job with a caring nature and a preference to work behind the scenes instead of seeking celebrity from the pulpit, according to some top Christian leaders who know him.

Dave Dummitt will become senior pastor of the South Barrington megachurch next month, arriving from 2|42 Community Church in southeastern Michigan. Dummitt founded the church in Brighton, Michigan, 15 years ago, and today it draws about 10,000 worshippers to seven campuses every weekend.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Despite the success of 2|42 and its attention-grabbing amenities, including a CrossFit gym, indoor soccer field and indoor play area, Dummitt never sought the spotlight, said Ed Stetzer, executive director of Wheaton College's Billy Graham Center.

"Particularly for a church of their size and prominence, Dave could have easily parlayed that into a national platform for himself," Stetzer said. "Instead, what he's done is he's collaborated with often-smaller churches than his so that they can help plant churches and help serve their communities."

But while not a household name, Dummitt is influential among evangelicals who are on a mission to serve, he said.

Dummitt was not available to be interviewed for this story.

But those who know and have worked with him say Dummitt's approach will benefit Willow Creek, rocked two years ago by the departures of founder Bill Hybels -- accused of misconduct involving women -- and his two replacements.

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Stetzer describes Dummitt as an intuitive leader who will seek feedback from church members before deciding the path forward during what is a complex time in the church's history, Stetzer said.

"There's still a lot of hurt in people and some relationships need to be reconciled," he said.

Tim Stevens said Dummitt is ready for the task. Stevens will join Dummitt's team as Willow Creek's executive pastor, after spending 20 years on the staff at Granger Community Church in Indiana.

Stevens said he first met Dummitt about 2 years ago through his work as vice president of consulting at Houston-based Vanderbloemen, which staffs churches and other Christian organizations. He said Dummitt has what he admires in leaders: integrity and an ability to consult with others "to find the wisdom in the room."

"You know, there's the celebrity pastor," Stevens said. "He's kind of the anti-celebrity pastor."

Dummitt's suburban ties date to his time at Wheaton College, where he met his wife, Rachel, and earned a bachelor's degree in Bible and theology. He was featured in a 2004 Daily Herald article in which he discussed plans to move from the West suburbs to the Detroit area and launch what wound up being 2|42 Community Church.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Dummitt was a leadership resident at Community Christian Church in Naperville before moving to Michigan, said lead Pastor Dave Ferguson. He later became involved in the church-planting nonprofit NewThing Network, which is headquartered at Community Christian.

"I could tell immediately upon meeting Dave that he was a sharp leader that would be highly successful in planting 2|42 Community Church," said Ferguson, who doubles as NewThing's lead visionary. "He did a stellar job launching that new church, bringing a great team around him to not just grow but to multiply locations and plant new churches."

Matt Schanz, executive director of New Churches of Christ Evangelism in Michigan, said his organization's board was among those to approve financial assistance for what became 2|42 Community Church. The vision and approach to ministry that organization leaders saw in Dummitt about 15 years ago are what will serve him and the members well at Willow Creek, he said.

"My sense of Dave is he is an excellent collaborator, works well with other people and teams," Schanz said. "In fact, when I heard he was going to Willow, I thought he was the perfect guy to go and help with some of the healing there, probably because I've always sensed him to be really consistent in his character, his demeanor."

Dummitt's appointment at Willow Creek came almost exactly two years after Hybels resigned from the South Barrington-based megachurch in April 2018 in the wake of misconduct allegations made against him by multiple women. His replacements were to be Lead Teaching Pastor Steve Carter and Lead Pastor Heather Larson, but they resigned about four months later as additional misconduct accusations regarding Hybels swirled.

Today, Larson is praising Willow Creek's selection. Since departing, she's continued to work in the suburbs after founding LiveGive, a philanthropy advisory firm that guides families and companies in strategic charitable giving.

"The elders were diligent and prayerful in their search process for the new senior pastor, and I am thrilled that God gave them unity of heart in selecting Dave," said Larson, who also is a leadership consultant for several companies and nonprofits. "Dave is stepping into a wonderful opportunity at Willow with many committed people in the church who want to learn, to grow, to serve and to demonstrate God's love in our world.

"Dave, Rachel and their children will be received with open arms by the Willow family. I know God will continue to be faithful to the church, and I believe Willow Creek is poised for a great future."

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