Over the next four days, I’ll be posting excerpts from a book I have coming out next year—called Gaining by Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches that Send. This section deals with the increasingly relevant topic of racial and cultural diversity. What the world desires, the gospel alone can accomplish.
“If I could do it over again, I would pursue a racially diverse church even if it meant Willow Creek became only half the size it is today.” I heard Bill Hybels make that statement at a breakfast I shared with him back in 2006. And it’s quite a statement considering that Hybels has been a pioneer of the modern megachurch movement, practically inventing the “seeker service.” Hybels built Willow Creek, a congregation that has exceeded 25,000 weekend attenders, on the “homogeneity principle,” the idea that you can reach more people if you package your “product” for a particular slice of society—in his case, professional, middle- to upper-class white people in the suburbs of Chicago.
Knowing his heart for evangelism, I pressed him: “So you would be willing to reach fewer people just so your church could be culturally diverse? Greater diversity outweighs total number of conversions?”
Without skipping a beat, Hybels replied, “That’s a false dichotomy, because the corporate witness of racially diverse churches in America would be more powerful, and would likely result in greater total number of conversions, than a numbers surge in any one congregation.”