Immigration is changing how churches think about mission and outreach in North America, and rightly so.
People are slowly waking up to the new cultural landscape that surrounds them—a landscape that offers new opportunities for sharing the gospel, but also new challenges to consider.
While there isn’t space in this blog post to propose and unpack all the issues, I think it’s valuable to examine four ways immigration is impacting the church and its call to share the gospel with all peoples.
At its simplest, migration is the movement of peoples. Immigration is the movement of people into a place (the opposite is emigration). In this case, I am referring (at times) to migration in general, but in the U.S. and Canadian context, we are primarily dealing with immigration.
First, Immigration Puts Faces on Lost People of Different Races and Contexts
In the early 1900s, the population of the United States was largely made up of people of Western and Northern European descent.
Christians would hear of the “masses” in Asia, for example, who are lost without Christ. They would then form stereotypes—really caricatures—about what non-Christian people overseas were like.
Churches in North America sought to bring the gospel to those Asians living apart from Christ. But without many Asian neighbors, Christians perceived of a lost world through the lens of ignorance.
Now, “the masses” are not over there, but they are here. And, they are often kind and gracious people—not the caricatures of a century earlier.
For example, I have a Syrian Muslim neighbor just a few houses down from me. My kids play with their kids. We’ve walked the neighborhood together.
Not long ago, my daughter asked, using her words, how we know that “we’re right” and “Islam is wrong.” (It was the kind of question a girl should ask her father.) I talked about the gospel of grace and about religions of works-righteousness.
One hundred, 50, or even 25 years ago she could only have imagined “hordes of lost people” who need the gospel—people she would never see or know.
Now she knows Syrian Muslims by name because they live in our neighborhood. Rather than seeing “them” as far away, she wants to know why our kind neighbors need the gospel, when she probably would not ask that a century ago.
Immigration helps us to know people as people, not as stereotypes or caricatures.
However, that also impacts our evangelistic task.
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SOURCE: Christianity Today