Reece Whitehead's grandparents gave their lives to Jesus Christ in 1959 while listening to Billy Graham give a stadium altar call in Melbourne, Australia. As a result, Reece and his siblings were raised to know Jesus, and he and his brother Darren ultimately found themselves in pastoral roles at Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago. Darren recently left Willow Creek to work at a church in Nashville, but Reece was commissioned as Willow DuPage's permanent campus pastor this morning, mere miles from Graham's former stomping grounds.
"I bore my soul to a Christian counselor last summer, and asked myself, 'What life am I waiting to live?'" Reece said during the morning service. "I'm standing before you today to say I'm all in with you here at Willow DuPage."
Whitehead received a standing ovation from a local congregation composed of residents from suburban Chicago communities including Naperville, Wheaton, Winfield, and West Chicago who have been waiting months for the installment of a permanent campus pastor. Tyler Grissom was also welcomed to the church's leadership team as the Community Life pastor.
Approximately 20,000 people attend church services at one of Willow Creek Community Church's seven sites around the greater Chicagoland area every weekend. I began attending Willow Creek's North Shore and downtown Chicago campuses during my time in graduate school at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism last year. I was baptized in the lake at Willow Creek's South Barrington campus in June 2011 before leading a small group of high school freshmen girls through a summer of South Barrington's high school ministry, Student Impact, and just started attending the church's DuPage campus in September 2012.
Many people wonder why I'm interested in attending a church that streams many of its sermons via videocast from the main campus at South Barrington, but I love the 20-somethings small groups I'm a part of at both North Shore and DuPage, and look forward to engaging with the Willow DuPage congregation that is much smaller than South Barrington's arena-sized Sunday morning gathering. I attend and support Willow Creek's South Barrington campus (the one that welcomes over 9,000 individuals to their weekend services and plans to complete a $1 million+ Care Center this year), but am excited to engage with the smaller and more intimate DuPage gathering at Wheaton Academy that will be focused on "outreach, outreach, and outreach."
After praying over Reece and hearing from he, his wife, and two small children, I can't help myself - I'm all in, too!