Immigration a Local Church Issue
By Bill Hybels, Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill.
Article originally appeared on NAE Newsletter
Five years ago, immigration was a subject to which I’d only given minimal thought. As a pastor, I was certainly not looking for a controversial issue to engage. Gradually, though, it became evident that immigration is more than a political and economic issue: It’s a reality that impacts the local church in too many ways to ignore.
Several years ago at Willow Creek, we launched a Spanish language worship service in response to the rapidly growing Hispanic community that lived within the 30-minute footprint of our main campus in South Barrington, Ill. That service, Casa de Luz (House of Light), quickly grew to about 1,000 people each weekend. Many of the individuals at Casa de Luz were immigrants living unlawfully in the United States, and we began to hear more and more stories of families within Casa de Luz – people who were members of our church – in which a father or mother was facing deportation, often after being stopped for a minor traffic violation.
Willow Creek’s elders and I determined that we would be guided by two key biblical principles as we engaged this tough issue. First, we would take seriously Jesus’ words in Matthew 25: By welcoming a stranger, we welcome him, and by shunning a stranger, we reject him. We would not turn our backs on our immigrant neighbors. Second, we would be guided by respect for the rule of law, which Romans 13 makes clear is a Christ-follower’s responsibility. In consulting with legal experts, we found we could minister effectively to our undocumented neighbors – proclaiming the gospel, meeting tangible needs and advocating for more compassionate, sensible immigration policies – and still be fully within the bounds of the law.
Link to original post: http://www.nae.net/resources/nae-newsletter/spring-2014