In a recent blog, I commented on the diversity among the speakers at the recent Willow Creek Association’s Global Leadership Summit. Some might dismiss this intentional effort to include women, blacks, Hispanics, and internationals as affirmative action or “quota” programming. I see this more as an attempt to address an oversight and move toward a change is practice and attitude.
Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, has explained that church leadership suddenly realized one day how homogenous they were and how heterogeneous the Church was meant to be. They began to intentionally seek out African-Americans and members of other races to become part of their lay leadership, their worship teams, and their staff. They not only wanted to be more inconclusive but they wanted to visibly communicate their desire to be more inclusive.
Here again, you might criticize this approach, but there is a management axiom which applies here: “What gets counted gets done.” If you want to make a change, you have to keep track of your behavior. A person who is serious about an exercise program keeps a record of walking, running, or other activity as a means not only of documenting progress but to provide a level of accountability.
When people started seeing diversity in the life of Willow Creek, they knew that their friends of other races or ethnicity were welcome and started inviting them to attend services. Visitors of various races realized that this was a place where they would be accepted. By modeling a desired situation, the church grew in a new direction.
I think this is one of the values of the Martha Stearns Marshall Month of Preaching that is promoted by Baptist Women in Ministry. Whether church members will admit it or not, many are uncomfortable about women preachers because they have never heard a woman preach! Many women in ministry today testify to the first time they heard a woman in the pulpit and the affirmation it provided to them to pursue God’s calling in their lives.
Some have suggested that one route to discipleship is “behave until you believe.” In other words, if you practice something long enough, the habit or practice will become an important part of your life. Perhaps if we practiced diversity and equality more, they would become part of our churches’ lives.