In our most recent headlines there are stories related to the Syrian Refugees, a group of at least four million who have left their home country for one reason or another. Most of us can recall other large groups of refugees migrating because of war. It awakens in us both compassion and fear. The right response in one Christian’s opinion is wrong in another Christian’s opinion. However, there is one thing all Christians can be sure of, God is working a plan to bring the unsaved to a saving knowledge of Christ. This is not all by accident; He has a purpose.
“From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
-- Acts 17:26-28 NIV
There are an estimated 215 million international migrants and more than 700 million people displaced within their home country. That’s close to a billion people! 42 million immigrants live in the United States. And that number is increasing with most new immigrants coming from Asia, not Latin America.
So we see that God is clearly up to something; and it is according to His plan to have all mankind know and love Him. As a worldwide Christian community He has gained our attention. We need to realize the opportunities He has placed before us; He has brought Missions to our doorstep. Those who were “there” are now “here.” What is our response going to be?
People are moving to large urban centers all over the globe. Places like Hong Kong, Delhi, Nairobi, Lagos, London, Paris, Sao Paulo, Mexico City, New York, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles. A primary reason for the move is economic. Moving from under developed and often impoverished locations, international migrants are sending hundreds of billions of dollars back to their families and communities in their home countries. It is said that this transfer of wealth is the most effective means reducing poverty worldwide. All of our attempts at poverty alleviation, pale in comparison to this cash flow.
Could it be that God is in control of the world economy? Could it be that He is redirecting resources to help alleviate suffering? I don’t have the answer to these questions. What I do know is that hard-working, family-oriented people are among us. These are two Biblically based values we respect as Christians. That gives us something in common with our new neighbors.
Also, when these people leave all that is familiar to them, their family, their language, their culture, their regular religious practices, and their normal way of thinking, they become much more open to new ideas. That places us with a certain responsibility, doesn’t it? If we, as Evangelicals, don’t do anything to influence newcomers, others will. That is not always a good thing. The Mormons and Muslims are taking advantage of the opportunity. This is something we need to address. And I will offer some guidelines for you in the next few months’ articles.
In the meantime, this shift in populations has had a significant impact on how Missions is done. It is less about national borders and more about unreached or under-reached people groups. It is recognizing that God has raised up His Church in previously unreached parts of the world. This is due, in part, because of the global mission work that has been going on for nearly 200 years. 100 years ago most of the world’s missionaries came from Europe and North America, where most of the Christians lived. Now more than 50% of the world’s missionaries are not from those areas and 70% of the Christians in the world live outside of Europe and North America. The church has shifted from the West to the East, and from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern Hemisphere.
Western missionaries, therefore, are not needed as much to lead the way. Instead, we find ourselves in the role of coming alongside God called, Holy Spirit filled, brothers and sisters in Christ. Our role has shifted from leadership to capacity building. And it is working well. With Evangelical Church Missions, we see this in our relationships with Bolivia (with more than 300 churches), and Liberia. New Mexico is increasingly becoming Native-American led, and Brazil is working towards that end. Our partners in Japan, India, and Fiji are under great leadership and do not require missionaries to grow. They do, however, want missionaries to come in support roles such as teaching, administration, and IT.
I am appreciative of the missionaries we have with ECM and the nearly 100 additional Evangelicals serving as missionaries working with over 20 agencies in more than 25 countries. Some of these great people are working to reach out to our newest neighbors among us. Together we are reaching the unreached. Together we are alongside our international partners. Together we are helping build His Kingdom.
For more information on Globalization and Missions, visit www.lausanne.org