May 21, 2007

The Joseph Zichterman Issue

I trust many have heard the news about Dr. Joseph Zichterman, a well-known man from Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) circles. On May 7, 2007 it was suddenly announced Joe Zichterman was leaving the IFB movement and would transfer his church membership to the Willow Creek Community Church (WCCC). Joe’s announcement and departure has apparently caught even his closest friends completely by surprise. Joe’s shift was announced by him at a new web site he opened to break this news. The site, which is now offline, was called Life of Faith Ministry*.

News of Joe’s departure was broke at Sharper Iron (a pseudo- fundamentalist blog) under this title: Joe Zichterman Launches Website (JZLW)**. This article and the discussion thread was removed by then SI site publisher Jason Janz. In that deleted thread was a comment written by a student from Northland Baptist Bible College now known as Northland International University. I reference his notes below.

The JZLW article and thread which followed generated well over 25,000 hits in just four days. This is pretty much unprecedented for a single article in the Christian blogosphere. I posted several comments in the JZLW thread, which I have republished here:

I do not know Joe and I am not familiar with what I see now appears to be his former ministry in Fundamental circles. I can see many are saddened by this announcement. I sense the loss.

From what I have read in the first few pages of this thread it appears Joe was fairly high profile and quite influential with young people. Joe’s transition could very well become a catalyst or bridge for others to follow him over to the Willow Creek mentality/ministry.

For the sake of those who Joe had an influence with, and while keeping the spirit of Colossians 4:6 in mind, it needs to be made loud and clear that membership with the Willow Creek church is wrong and especially why it is wrong
Another article with a thread discussion was opened as a follow-up to the JZLW article. Like the first, however, this was also deleted by SI site publisher Janz. It was titled, Crossing The Bridge!! There I contributed two posts, and these did generate a good reaction. Following are my two comments from Crossing the Bridge!!
Was it Known?
I am going to wonder out loud for a moment. Did some in positions of leadership over and/or in fellowship with Joe have some inkling, or even a strong sense that Joe's shift was possible, and may even be on the near horizon, while he continued, what we must conclude, was a facade ministry in IFB circles?
Showing Them The Way
Anyone can miss something boiling under the surface. In regard to Joe, however, it seems to me that he did not go to bed one Sunday night as a Fundamentalist and roll out of bed on Monday morning in the Willow Creek community. In cases like Joe’s there is usually a gradual slide from where he was (IFB) to where he just landed (WCCC).

Joe Zichterman was relatively high-profile, and well connected with many in leadership positions in IFB circles. Did this 180 shift take everyone by surprise?

How to respond: That appears to be ramping up in regard to how some might like to address Joe personally. If some men think they can in some way recover Joe I am all for it. My chief concern, however, is how we respond to Joe’s shift back here in our IFB circles. I think a type of Damage-Control is in order.

One need only read the post by Anthonydi (from NBBC) in the Joe Zichterman thread. He wrote, “I know that my opinion as a twenty year old matters little, but there are those students here that respect Dr. Z for what he is doing. Frankly this scares me.”

That post IMO was the most significant and prolific in the entire 20 page thread. That should scare and wake all of us up! Do IFB Bible college students respect Joe’s move to Willow Creek? I would hope the NBBC administration took note of that. We had all better take note of that. Anthony’s note sounds much to me like a cry for help.

Joe Z. did and is still having an impact on college students and his impact may linger and draw some of these young people to the WCC and Emerging Church Movement. I believe Joe has become another bridge that has the potential of showing IFB young people the way to the New Evangelical and Emergent Church movements.

Men, if we pass on addressing this close to home with our young people we are going to see a lot more of what we just saw with Joe Zichterman
My chief is concern is how leadership in Fundamentalism responds in our own circles to what has transpired. I am praying for those in a position who can do so, to take this event with Joe Zichterman to heart and set out to lovingly, patiently, passionately help our young people understand what has happened.

These concerns I have expressed are NOT about saving a movement (Fundamentalism); it is about preserving a generation to come. A generation who will understand the necessity of being stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, (1 Cor. 15:58). That they will see fidelity to God, His Word and proclamation of the saving message of Jesus Christ, His Gospel, as a sacred duty.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” (John 3:16).
Vance Havner said, “God has always been in the remnant business.” God does not need an organization or big crowd to accomplish His plan. Just a “faithful few on fire” are enough. We have a task ahead of us. If we don’t pass on to the next generation who sit in the college classrooms:

A passion for God,
Unshakeable desire for fidelity to the Scriptures,
Dedication to personal holiness, and
Heart for the evangelization of the lost;

God will raise up another remnant for His name sake and glory.


For Related Reading:
Purpose Driven’s Compromise of Scripture

Your First Step Won’t Be Your Last: Avoiding the Path to Compromise

*The Life of Faith site Joe opened to coincide with his move to the WCCC was deleted presumably by Zichterman sometime in early 2008.
**Sharper Iron blog also deleted the article in regard to Zichterman’s move.


  1. Dear Guests:

    This morning I received an e-mail from Joe Zichterman.

    In his e-mail he asked that I block this article from my site so that it can no longer be accessed. Apparently he made the same request of the administrators of Sharper Iron because the article there about Joe’s move to Willow Creek Community Church (WCCC) has been disabled.

    In any event, I replied to Joe earlier today.

    I made clear to Joe that I view the philosophy of ministry at WCCC as a contributor to the undoing of biblical Christianity and harmful to the cause of Christ.

    I informed Joe that my article will remain posted as is.

    I welcomed him to post personal comments in this thread. I do, however, reserve the right to edit or delete anything that I find unsuitable.


  2. All content posted on this site is commentary or opinion and is protected under Free Speech of the First Amendment.

  3. To Joe Zichterman:

    Joe you took pains to make your departure from the Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) camp public. Now you demand that no one publicly respond in a negative way. Furthermore, you want to make any and all trace of the public action you took disappear so as to create the impression the whole issue you created never happened in the first place.

    I have read my article here and other articles related to your move to Willow Creek. I saw no “derogatory” personal remarks directed toward you. Commentators were simply dealing with the issue of church affiliation, much like the media is dealing with Mr. Obama concerning his church affiliation.

    When one joins a well-known church like Willow Creek, they should be held accountable for the major views and positions such a church takes.

    Were you wrong for criticizing Willow Creek and others when you traveled the country at the expense of IFB churches? You certainly could dish it out then, but you seem unable to take it once you put yourself on the receiving end. That does not speak well for you.


  4. I have a lot of experience with those that attend Willow Creek as it is 15 minutes from my home here in Illinois. Pastor Bill Hybels certainly built a church that centered around what man wanted and not God. I had a boss that was not saved and he himself had a problem with that church. He said that the pastor basically gave a simple message that I guess wasn't even involving the Bible that day and that was also the only church he attended that had a dual drum solo as he put it.

    My sister attended that church for a while but left after noticing that the church library had an author that was New Age. She also attended a class that had some guy denying certain truths taught in Scripture as he held to a liberal view.

    I have met one that taught a class there at a health club. He was sucking down his booze and enjoying his cigarette. This man had more doubts about his salvation than he had assurance.

    I never attended that church once but I do get the impression that just about anyone can teach a class in there as they do not screen them very well.

  5. Dave:

    Thanks for the note on WCCC. The problem of “carnal” Christians is a problem in the church. IMO, we can probably find examples in most Bible-believing churches.

    As for WCCC, on the other hand, IMO most of the people who attend there have never been born again in the first place. WCCC does NOT preach the Gospel, they do not preach the sinfulness of man, the judgment of God, nor His redemptive plan for lost mankind. What they get is entertainment, a seeker sensitive sugar stick sermon so that they go home feeling good about themselves and no earthly idea that are headed for Hell.

    I have preacher friends who have gone to WCCC services to see what it is all about. They purposely sought out counselors who were supposed to be able to share the Gospel. Not one WCCC staff person had any idea how to share the Gospel so that a lost man would under why he is lost, and how he could be saved.

    A few months ago “Hybels admitted that his Seeker-Driven Philosophy is flawed. After completing a multi-year study on the effectiveness of their programs and philosophy of ministry, the leaders of Willow Creek Community Church have admitted that what they have taught millions of pastors, church leaders, and converts to ‘do’ is ‘not producing solid disciples of Jesus Christ.’ Pastor Bill Hybels confessed, ‘We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become self feeders. We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their Bible between services, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.’ Talk about a big ‘oops’ on that one.” (adapted from Sharper Iron)

    So, what does Hybels do?

    1) Goes to another even more dangerous extreme by holding hands with the Emergent Church Movement.

    2) Signed the letter that seeks to unite Muslims and Christians. “The Christian document asks for forgiveness from Muslims and the ‘All-Merciful One’ (a Muslim term for god) for sins committed by Christians against Muslims in the past, citing the Crusades, and in the present, citing excesses in the war on terror.” (See Al Mohler’s: Evangelical-Muslim Letter Troubling)

    There are several articles at the Sharper Iron blog that directly or indirectly address various issues with WCCC.


  6. Lou,

    Thank you! I didn't know all of those additional things about the church. I have questioned whether they ever hear the true gospel. Talking to one guy, he told me that their Wednesday night service is centered around believers if my memory serves me correctly. I'm not sure if it was this church but I believe it was called "Seeker Sensitive." On Wednesdays, it was for the purpose of educating the believer in the things of the Christian walk.

    I did talk to one man that teaches in the church that is clueless about the Bible. I asked him as to how he can teach when he doesn't really even know the basics? He said that the church gave him some book(s) to read and he has a lesson plan.

    Thanks for the info!

  7. Glad the info I provided is helpful.

    What good is to have one (possibly unsaved) man who attends the church and is “clueless about the Bible,” trying to teach another lost man anything from the Scriptures, which are to him foolishness in the first place?


  8. Lou:

    I noticed a discussion on the internet about Joe Zichterman being
    considered at Multnomah Bible College. Do you know if he’s teaching there now?

  9. Dear Abiding:

    No, and I was not even aware he was being considered.

    I have noticed quite a few hits on this article over the last 4-6 week though. Not sure if there is any connection.

    Thanks for letting me know.


  10. He is there,

  11. Michael:

    Thanks for confirming this- Biography of Dr. Joseph Zichterman

    Maybe I just couldn’t find it, but I am always concerned when there is no doctrinal statement displayed by a “Christian” organization.


  12. To All:

    I received an e-mail from a man who wanted to share some personal thoughts in regard to the subject of this article and discussion thread. He asked or anonymity, which I am happy to oblige. You will see from his opening remarks that we are acquainted with one another and I was happy to hear from him. I appreciate his providing the link to the doctrinal statement that I could not find.

    Hello Mr. Martuneac,

    Hi, I’m a former student of yours from the early 90’s. You taught a salesmanship course in the 90's, Mr. Martuneac. I remember having you for this course. Thanks for your teaching nearly 20 years ago now. I enjoyed the course. Especially enjoyed doing some actual selling for ads in the college calendar.

    Multinomah does, in fact, have a doctrinal statement, which can be viewed via the link.

    They seem to have a good, biblical stance on the important issues.

    I’m so happy for Joe that he’s gotten this position at what seems to be a quality institution (going by their website—don’t know much else about the college).

    He’s a talented lecturer, certainly a stronger person for the adversity he’s gone through, learning from mistakes no doubt as well and putting this unfortunate incident behind him.

    Professor L.

  13. Lou:

    I was surprised to see this post about the Zichterman situation by
    Professor L. I’m wondering if this professor is a separatist?? I
    personally know someone who is very knowledgeable about Multnomah who
    has told me several things:

    1. Multnomah is open to egalitarianism and has recently hired a female
    seminary professor.

    2. Multnomah promotes inter-denominationalism and many of their students
    and faculty are members at charismatic and emergent church congregations
    (including Imago Dei, which is near the college).

    3. A former President was one of the most influential supporters of
    Billy Graham’s ecumenicism and Multnomah has a tribute exhibit to Billy
    Graham on campus.

    4. They allow Christian rap in the college chapels.

    Here's an interesting link:

    Brother Lou, considering the fact that you are an independent
    fundamental Baptist and have a separatist stance, I’m surprised that you
    permitted this post from Professor L, which appears to be endorsing a
    New Evangelical (“quality”) institution. What are your thoughts?

  14. CncrndH:

    All good and legitimate concerns.

    I will give you a reply, but it needs to wait. I'm at work and highly involved right now with another debate over the Crossless gospel of the Grace Evangelical Society.

    I'll get back to you hopefully tonight, more likely on Friday.

    For now, in light of Joe's abandonment of the IFB movement and obviously its biblical principles it does not surprise me he would be comfortable at Multnomah as you described it.

    I was not fuly aware of those things.

    Kind regards,


  15. OK, I’m Back:

    I appreciate the concerns you noted and I’ll address each as I am able from what knowledge I have about what you have referenced here.

    Is Professor L a separatist? As you may have noted I know him from my time at PCC, which was 17 years ago that I left to go to South Africa. I don’t know for certain if he considers himself a “separatist,” or to what degree on various issues- personal and/or ecclesiastical he would practice biblical separation. More below…

    Multnomah? Until I heard JZ went on faculty there I knew almost nothing about the school. Not much more until your comment above. I don’t have the time or sense that the Lord would have me look into Multnomah’s issues. If even half of what you detailed is true, it is a sad and tragic example an allegedly Christian based school having gone over to the world. I’d suggest they drop any reference to “Christian” or “Bible” in its literature, for the testimony you describe is a blight and open sore on the name of Christ and His church.

    If at the time of Professor L’s posted comment I knew then what I seem to know now about Multnomah, I might have blocked it. I might have discussed the issue. As a courtesy, however, I will leave it as is.

    Make no mistake about it- If what you noted is true I would strongly encourage any Bible-believing church or family to withdraw any young person they have at Multnomah. I would also caution all others to avoid becoming entangled with Multnomah.

    Thanks again for the comment.


  16. Lou,

    Thanks for your response. Did you read the article link I posted:

    It is an interview with Multnomah’s Bible department chairmen in which he discusses at length his support for Evangelicals and Catholics Together.

  17. Thanks for the follow-up.

    I have not had time to read the article you linked me to. All I need to know is that he endorses E&CT and I'd separate from him and the college.

    KInd regards,


  18. Hi Lou,

    Since you note in your 4/3/2008 post that "All content posted on this site is commentary or opinion and is protected under Free Speech of the First Amendment" . . .

    I'm curious to know if your outlook on Joe's leaving Northland is different now that the actual events surrounding his wife's molestation at the hands of her father and brother (the Janz's—one of whom was responsible for Sharper Iron at the time you wrote your comments in 2007/2008).

    The reason why he left is clear and, as you said in your original 2007 post, "For the sake of those who Joe had an influence with, and while keeping the spirit of Colossians 4:6 in mind, it needs to be made loud and clear . . . " as to what happened.

  19. Tim:

    My major concern then (2007) and now with Joe Zichterman was not where he left, but where he went. On the unconscionable and inexcusable abuse of his wife, that is topic I am not comfortable allowing for comment here.


  20. Sadly, Joseph is really into Bill Hybels. He really jumped into the fire from the pan when he went from IFB to neo-evangelical. That is sad.