Dan Willis, the pastor of Lighthouse Church of All Nations, shared his story today at the Society of Church Consulting. He planted the church thirty-five years ago at the age of seventeen. It is now a multi-cultural church with 3,500 in attendance on the south side of Chicago. Dan, born and raised in Chicago, is an Anglo leader, with a church that is 70% African American. The congregation represents over 60 nationalities.
Dan unpacked a top ten list of how to grow a multicultural church in a city that is number one in racial homicide. He stated again and again that his primary contribution as a pastor is his simple focus on unconditional love. His most passionate statement was: “We wanted to make what was abnormal in our city, normal in our congregation- LOVE!”
- Make prayer the common denominator. “Prayer is the heating pad for a congregation of love.”
- Create an atmosphere of hospitality. “We shower them with warmth; hugs, smiles and pats on the back. We give gifts and food as they leave.”
- Study the culture of the community and the cultural nuances within the community. Dan did 28 weddings in the last few months and had to learn completely different ceremonial nuances.
- Respect and celebrate the differences of the cultures. “We create unity by how we see the diversity.”
- Serve outside the walls of the church. They cancelled their Wednesday services to serve the community instead, wearing yellow shirts labeled, ‘Soul Patrol.”
- Engage the arts. The regularly practice the “art of worship” in programs of their church, with creative segments and expressions. Teens and kids are able to “act out” of the creative impulse in ways that are not typical.
- Rally people toward participation. “Get in where you fit in and fit in where you get in.”
- Be okay when people don’t get it [the vision]. “Not everyone gets it. We can’t please everyone. We are all about bridging the gap and bringing together the races in Chicago. Each church has their assignment. This is ours and some people don’t like it. That’s okay."
- Don’t give up. A multicultural vision takes time.
- Focus on love as the guiding motivation. Always.