Editor’s note: As the Willow Creek Association’s 2013 Global Leadership Summit just concluded last weekend, we are running one of Matthew Soerens’ previous blogs in which he reflected on the 2011 Global Leadership Summit. Last Thursday and Friday, along with tens of thousands of Christian leaders at satellite sites across the country (the rest of the world gets to participate in the coming months), I attended the Willow Creek Association Global Leadership Summit. This was the second time that I’ve had the opportunity to attend the event, and once again I’ve come back to my office refreshed, challenged, and inspired to lead more effectively in the work and ministry to which God has called me. I wanted to provide a few brief reflections on the content of the Global Leadership Summit, especially as they relate to immigration, the topic of this blog. It’s hard to condense 24 pages of single-spaced, 11-font notes into a single blog entry, but I’ll do my best to hit the highlights. Bill Hybels began the Summit with five strategic leadership questions. One was whether, as leaders, we were naming, facing, and addressing the problems that exist in our church, business, or organization. It’s much easier—especially when an issue is sure to be messy and uncomfortable—to pretend that it’s not there, but good leadership requires that we name and respond to the challenges that we face. Bill and other leaders at Willow Creek Community Church recognized a few years ago that their local church had a problem in that they did not know how to appropriately respond to the issues raised by the many undocumented immigrants who were part of their Spanish-language service, Casa de Luz, and who were being served by their Care Center. Evangelical churches all across the U.S. are facing these questions because, while they are thrilled to see so many immigrants coming to Christ, they’re unsure of how to engage with the questions of law and public policy that persistently arise when interacting with immigrants. While the average church—overwhelmed by the complexity of the issue and fearful of how the congregation might react to addressing something that many inherently see through a partisan lens—simply avoids it, Willow Creek has very systematically engaged. That process included:
- Allowing their leadership to study the issue intensively and from multiple perspectives (humbly recognizing, as Summit speaker John Dickson noted, that being an expert in the Bible does not make you an expert in immigration laws, and visa versa),
- Providing training for their entire staff, with Bill and the senior leadership casting a vision for how the church could engage the issue and providing the opportunity for staff to ask questions and voice concerns,
- Adjusting their ministries to more effectively and sensitively serve immigrants and to better integrate the Spanish-speaking and English-speaking members of the church,
- Inviting in guest speakers to educate their congregation (including Danny Carroll, author of Christians at the Border, and my colleague Jenny Yang and me), and
- Speaking out to elected officials on the importance of fixing a system that both sides of the partisan divide believe is woefully broken.