I really enjoyed the Global Leadership Summit this year. Those who have attended the Willow Creek conference over the years can attest that Bill Hybels and the Summit staff try very hard to steer away from politics and keep the focus on developing leaders through a Biblical model. It is a difficult proposition given the fact that sometimes they bring in political figures. And when they have brought political personalities in, from both the democratic and republican perspective, these political figures stay close to the topic of leadership or faith. Yet, of course when you are reaching literally thousands of people with your message, no matter what you say, you are bound to offend someone.
So it was this year, before the Leadership Summit even got underway, Starbuck’s founder and CEO, Howard Schultz, under pressure from a gay advocacy group, backed out of his speaking contract just days before the conference began.
Bill Hybels had to announce to crowd, many of whom were there specifically to hear Schultz, that he would not be speaking and why.
I thought Bill handled the announcement with grace and class. And yet he still received criticism from religious groups for not taking a strong enough stand against homosexuality.
Growing up in a conservative home and then developing my faith foundation in the Baptist church, one of the values that was instilled in me was to never be neutral. I was taught to take a stand and stay out of the middle, the moderate zone, that those who affect change in the world never reside in the middle. Change agents are always on the fringe. With that in mind, I think there are those Christians who would criticize Hybels for being in the middle, for not taking a strong enough stand against homosexuality.
I would say that if Hybels is in the middle on this, it is in the center of the will of God. Where you stand on any issue all depends on your ultimate goal, your desired outcome. If Hybels' objective was to teach that homosexuality is a sin, or to make a political statement, then he did not accomplish his goal, that he was not polemic (actual dictionary word for today). But if his objective is to reach the lost with the message of Christ, which I believe was his intent, then he was a long way from the middle, he was on the edge. If he cares more about evangelism than behavior management, about building relationships and bridges to allow one to share the Gospel than teaching right or wrong, then he met his objective. Those who are critical of this do so because they have a different focal point and they want their cause to trump others.
Whose cause is more important? Go to scripture. You tell me, what would Jesus do?