Above, we see one of the many charts that highlight Willow Creek's understanding of the Gospel and how it drives their approach to mission and feeding their flock. Scripture undoubtedly talks about the process of sanctification whereby the true believer is brought closer to the likeness of Christ through obedience to God's Word and enablement by the Holy Spirit. But the idea of this sliding scale of people (some of whom are unbelievers) who are "exploring" (or seeking), and getting closer to Christ is without biblical basis.
The unregenerate man is dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1) and dead men can't move in any direction. Dead men must be born again - they need resurrection life! This requires more than making the "narrow gate" into a wide one. It requires a miraculous transforming work of God Himself - the God Who asked Ezekiel if those dead bones could live! RC Sproul had this to say:
Evangelicals today have unconverted sinners who are dead in trespasses and sin bringing themselves to life by choosing to be born again. Christ made it clear that dead people cannot choose anything, that the flesh counts for nothing, and that we must be born of the Spirit before we can see the kingdom of God, let alone enter it. The failure of modern evangelicalism is the failure to understand the holiness of God. If that one point were grasped, there would be no more talk of mortal enemies of Christ coming to Jesus by their own power (The Holiness of God p182-183).
Getting the Gospel wrong at this level leads only to an exponential unfolding of further disaster where we end up housing large groups of goats and try to coach them to act like sheep. I recently heard a visiting missionary say that "people are getting saved, but there are also miracles happening" as he proceeded to spend the whole hour talking about supernatural healing. Emergents like Rob Bell and Brian McLaren often disdainfully remark that is the Gospel only about salvation or is there more? These attitudes reveal a complete failure to recognize the miracle of conversion. As long as it remains, in there eyes, as something that happens when people pray recited prayers, or just decide to live like Jesus then they will persevere with this perverted view of what happens when God regenerates a man who is dead in sin.
Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them (Ezekiel 36:25-27).
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new (II Corinthians 5:17).
Preach that which is "unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness. But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God" (I Corinthians 1:23-24). Let people leave the meeting convicted, converted, or angry . . .