Dream of Destiny is excited to share news of churches across the country that have a vision for the full expression of reconciliation that a multi-ethnic church offers. In highlighting these churches, DoD hopes you’ll be encouraged by their testimony and will pray for their progress.
Today, the spotlight is on Westbrook Christian Church of Bolingbrook, Illinois. WCC has five weekend services with over 1,000 people attending in all. Thanks go out to WCC’s executive pastor, Rob Daniels, a graduate of Lincoln Christian University, who is serving as today’s guest blogger.
In the movie “Selma”, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the rest of the key Southern Leadership Christian convention leaders arrive in Selma, Alabama to check in at a local hotel. As Dr. King is signing the guest book a local resident calls out from across the room asking if he might meet Dr. King.
Graciously, Dr. King extends his hand to the man who then proceeds to punch King in the face, knocking him to the floor. As the rest of the SLCC leadership team scrambled to get Dr. King to his feet and away from the man who has just assaulted him, Dr. King can be heard saying, “That white boy sure has a punch.”
And so it is with racism, even when all seems to be calm and right, the embers of racism in our nation, never cool to the touch. In the blink of an eye, it would seem that we as a nation, have once again been sucker punched much as Dr. King was in that hotel lobby in Selma, Alabama. It is a denial of reality to believe that the incidents in Ferguson, Missouri, Staten Island, New York and Beavercreek, Ohio, just to name a few, do not find their genesis in the unique fabric of American life as it relates to race and racial tension.
In fact, the church in our nation has for too many years found itself complicit in exacerbating issues related to race and racism. An incredibly poor hermeneutic of scripture and an unwillingness to take a stand against the evil of racism has for too many years kept the church of Jesus Christ in our nation mute or at least somewhat complicit.
But there is a move among the church in our nation to take a long overdue stand against the evil of racism. It is with intention and purpose that churches like Westbrook seek to reflect the church as it began in Antioch in Acts 13, a place with a rich ethnic and cultural diversity.
Westbrook Christian Church was launched in 1996. Senior Pastor Mont Mitchell, his wife Christie, and their family settled near the fast growing community of Bolingbrook, Illinois, which is 35 miles southwest of Chicago.
When the church held its first service at Oakview Elementary school in October, the crowd that gathered was an incredible multi-ethnic tapestry! Mont recalls phoning his dad, Pete Mitchell, later that day, telling him that if today was his last day on earth that it would be just fine with him!
From those early days of Westbrook, through the next almost twenty years our congregation has continued to be intentional with regard to being known as a multi-ethnic congregation. A significant part of that intentionality has been expressed as we have purposely sought to have a multi-ethnic leadership team that reflects the diversity of our community.
I came to WCC in June, 2005, serving as Pastor of Spiritual Formation. After over three years in that role, Mont asked me in 2008 to shift in my role and serve as our Executive Pastor. Mont will tell you that he did not ask me simply because I am African-American, however the fact that an African-American is in a position of what is considered to be significant leadership has the desired effect of communicating to our congregation and the wider community that we are putting our “money where our mouth is” in seeking to be a multi-racial/multi-ethnic congregation.
Now let me close with something that may offend you, but I am going to say it any way. We live in a nation that has a tendency to lean toward racial separation. Speaking strictly on a social level, this is not conjecture but can be backed up with clear sociological evidence. Our neighborhoods, our schools, and, yes, our churches tend to be composed of people who are just like us.
The challenge for us at Westbrook is to maintain vigilance with regard to our multi-ethnic ministry. It is easy, even for us, to slip into complacency and think we have figured out all the challenges and nuances of multi-ethnic ministry. We have discovered the importance of living with a great deal of transparency, truth-telling and honesty.
We look forward to helping other churches and leaders learn and work through what it requires to grow multi-ethnic ministries across our country and around the world.
Rob Daniels serves as Executive Pastor of Westbrook Christian Church a growing, vibrant multi-ethnic church in Bolingbrook, Illinois. Having grown up in an ethnically diverse community and having a multi-ethnic family has shaped a unique perspective on issues related to race and ethnicity. In addition, having served on the staff of churches in Calgary, Alberta, Canada; Naperville and Carol Stream, Illinois and Indianapolis also has provided a wealth of practical insight on leadership issues in the local church.