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Host Culture Re-entry

We have all studied culture shock and reverse culture shock (adjustments on returning home). But there continue to be changes and unexpected events if one returns to the field for a second, third, fourth time. Every time it is different. You may be married this time, or have children at different ages, or be empty nesters. Your assignment may change. Even culture changes over time. Here are some thoughts for returning to the field.

1. Don’t just settle into the same routine.

Even if your assignment is the same, look and see what changes have occurred in your friends or ministry area. How has God been at work? Is there a new opportunity? Is there any different way your children can be a part of the community or ministry?

In successive terms. you will continue to learn culture and language bringing more helpful insights and also realizations of past errors. Apologize if you feel it necessary. Give yourself grace. Laugh. Remember the apostle Paul said, “I press on…”. None of us is perfect. Even in our own cultures, we make mistakes and learn new skills over time.

2. Give yourself permission to grieve loss.

Leaving family is not always easier the second or third time. Or it may be, but then it will be hard again when you have to leave your own children in your passport country. Sometimes ministry colleagues move on or pass away while you are gone from the field. Cross-cultural workers face loss in many ways, and it is healthy to find ways to say those goodbyes or express sadness.

You don’t have to always have a strong exterior. In a poor country, people may not feel they have a lot to contribute to a foreign worker. But when you are able to (appropriately) show an area of weakness, it gives them an opportunity to minister to you. 

3. How can you express appreciation or honor upon returning?

Every culture is different but consider if it is appropriate to bring a gift for your local colleagues or the top church leader. Early on we did not think of these things, but now we always bring a small item for the staff we work with at the Bible College and for the Church Superintendent. It can be something small they do not usually buy for themselves like a bottle opener/screwdriver tool or a plaque for their office. It could be a book or a pack of pens.

A second thing I was not conscious of in my early years was my lack of public affirmation of local leaders. Several times a year in church conferences, the leaders would publicly express appreciation for our coming to work with them. I would say something polite and sit down. But I began to realize that I needed to reciprocate and tell them that it was an honor working with them and express something specific that I appreciate about their efforts too.

I pray today that whatever season you are in that God would “give you complete knowledge of his will…. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need… May you be filled with joy.” (Colossians 1:9-11) 

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Making Disciples or Marketing Jesus?

Few people start their missions journey as great disciple-makers. It doesn’t come naturally to many of us. So we look for training in how to share the gospel and how to disciple new believers.

Maybe it’s a class at your church or a video series from your favorite leader. Maybe you’re even studying to get a missions degree in college. Every training has a different approach, and we begin to build a suite of discipleship tactics. We learn punchy questions to ask and catchy methods to share truth. We practice and time ourselves so we can get our gospel pitch down pat.

“I was taught — albeit subconsciously — that our task as disciple-makers is to market Jesus. But ... you don’t market the King of the cosmos.”

 

Then we cross cultures and expect our gospel salesmanship to win the day.

But there’s a problem. It doesn’t work.

I know because I tried it. I earned master’s degrees in religion and cross-cultural communication. Then I arrived in West Asia and learned that carrying a burden to convey Jesus is a recipe for burnout.

In my studies, I was taught — albeit subconsciously through our American worldview — that our task as disciple-makers is to market Jesus. We learned strategies to market Jesus the way we would market a business. But while capitalism may be a great economic philosophy, it’s a terrible way to do missions.

You don’t market the King of the cosmos.

If I think my job is to deliver Jesus to a needy market, I might as well be playing cricket on a soccer field. I’m living in the wrong mentality, and I’m going to ruin the very relationships I’m trying to form.

But what if my role is not that of an entrepreneur but an explorer? What if instead of working to start Jesus franchises, I’m to discover where Jesus is emerging and draw as much attention as possible to Him there?

The apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians that his work among them would not be complete “until Christ is formed in you” (4:19). We assume our job is to get the gospel message to [fill in the blank]. But it isn’t. It’s to nurture and grow what Christ is already doing, until that work is complete. Until Christ is formed in Galatia, London, Tokyo, and beyond.

“If I think my job is to deliver Jesus to a needy market ... I’m going to ruin the very relationships I’m trying to form.”

 

What does that look like, practically?

When I lived in the marketing mentality, I walked out my door each day with a burden to deliver Jesus to everyone I met. Conversations sounded like this:

  • Let me tell you about…
  • You need to hear this…
  • You don’t understand about…

But when I walk out my door looking to catch a glimpse of Jesus anywhere I can, I’m eager, expectant, and hopeful. Now, conversations sound like this:

  • Your experience reminds me of…
  • See the glory of the King in…
  • Look how these connect — I think Jesus is chasing you.

One a way of obligation, and the other is a way of wonder.

Which will you choose?

This article was originally published at crossworld.org.

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Adult Talk About the 5 Phases

One of my richest memories from childhood was gathering around my grandparent’s table for some dinner, birthday, holiday, event, etc. Gathered in as well was usually a whole host of people, including cousins, aunts, uncles, and friends. Having grown up in a divorced family meant I had four different grandparent homes within which to make these memories. Each one was unique and continues to hold a special place in my heart.

Particularly on my mom’s side of the family, my uncles, aunts, and cousins all gathered in nightly for good ole stove perked coffee and store-boxed dessert after dinner. My grandparent’s home was continually a hub of activity and constantly filled with the aroma of coffee and the sounds of chatter and laughter.

If you walked into their single-wide trailer on any given night, you would look to the right and see gathered around the kitchen table all of the adults in the family, circled around their coffee and dessert. If you looked to the left, you would see all the children (and teens) gathered around the television in the living room. And, if we were lucky, you would see us with some of that night’s dessert as well.

There were not many “rules” to follow when it came to these regular, family gatherings, but there were a couple that I still remember today. One in particularly was the old phrase, “children are meant to be seen and not heard.” In other words, no matter how loud the adults got in the kitchen, we were not allowed to raise our level of talking, nor the television.

The other “rule” I remember quite fondly is “children do not belong in the kitchen because that is where the adults talk.” I still probably do not know everything that implied, but my take, then and now, is that children talked about childish things while adults talked about grown-up things; things which children had no business knowing about nor needing to be concerned with.

Why do I share such a memory with you? I know you did not come to this blog to hear about my childhood. You came looking for some nugget of truth pertaining to our GP strategy. The good news is that you have come to the right place. I am actually already doing that because during a recent conversation with one of our national leaders I was brought right back to my grandparent’s trailer and that second unwritten rule, “…this is where the adults talk.”

In the midst of this recent conversation, I was asked what I knew about the apparent lack of missionaries in the two Areas of Ibero-America and Africa. A rough paraphrase of their concern was that compared to years ago, there seems to be hardly any GP missionaries left in these fields. Mind you, being relatively “new” to the field (honestly, I am not sure where 6 years on the field actually ranks, but it seems short), I went into this part of the conversation having a certain impression. I was under the impression that in the same way that we as GP missionaries have been inundated with the “5 Phases” and all the nuances therein, our national leaders have also been a part of this same conversation all along.

Imagine my surprise when I started talking about the “5 Phases” and I had to be interrupted to explain what even that meant. As I shared to the best of my ability the vision behind the strategy, a description of each phase, and eventually why there are now seemingly less GP missionaries in these two Areas, imagine again my surprise when instead of what I shared being received with enthusiasm and acceptance, it was met with shock and concern. Perhaps that reaction was due to a poor level on my part of understanding the nuances of the “5 Phases”, or an inability to adequately articulate them in my second language. Or, perhaps the shock came from this being the first time this national leader had ever heard of the “5 Phases” or that GP had a specific strategy to reduce/eliminate the need for GP missionaries in any given field. While it could definitely be some of the first, I believe their response was largely due to the novelty of the “5 Phases” to them.

So, there I sat at the table with my friend having “adult talk,” and all I could think about was how long this national leader had gone being relegated to the living room with all the other “children”, while all the “adults” had been gathering at the kitchen table having “grown-up” talk.

As much as I am aware that there could have been many factors that led to my specific take-away from this conversation, I am also aware that this one conversation is not meant to be an indictment nor meant to be exhaustive in the sense that it is speaking for every leader in every country in which GP is actively engaged. But, this conversation does raise certain questions for me that I am not sure I have the answers for. What say you?

  • Do/should we share our “5 Phase” strategy with our national leadership? If so, at what point and how do we begin doing that?
  • How could we get to a Phase 5 field and still have national leadership thinking that they are “losing” missionaries instead of seeing their work as having been naturally transitioned to national leadership? What went wrong and how do we “fix” it?
  • Do our national leaders see our strategy through the same healthy and life-giving lens that we do? If not, whose perspective needs to change and how?

Thanks for taking the time to read this and for contributing your thoughts to the above questions. I am not claiming to have all the answers, nor any for that matter. I just believe it is time to make sure that everyone is at the kitchen table together.

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Connecting the Dots – Diaspora, E2E, Facilitators

I have been reflecting on these terms and trying to understand how they relate. Here is what I have come to understand.

Diaspora – let us begin with a very basic understanding. Diaspora is any group or person who has been relocated from where they originated to live in another place. This occurs for a number of reasons.

  1. It can be forced. This took the form of slavery, indentured labor, and today falls under the heading of human trafficking.
  2. It can be cause by outside forces. These are in the form of disaster, war, political and religious oppression, and ethnic conflict.
  3. It can be for economic reasons. To improve ones economic situation, to gain a better education, and to find more opportunities for skills already possessed.

This is a basic overview but it leaves out one critical category. It leaves out the diaspora that is caused by changing one’s religions belief. This is actually what happens when a person converts from one religion to another and in that moment the person becomes part of a type of diaspora without changing their physical location.

The most common example of this is when a person becomes a follower of Jesus and is given a new citizenship. Paul uses this concept in Ph 3:20 in stating that our citizenship is in heaven. We are called to focus on the things of heaven and not the world (Co 3:1-3). We can see this in the promise of Jesus that he is preparing for us a place in heaven and that we are not to focus on the treasures of this world. There is much more that could be said and so many more texts that can be used to help us see this but these should be enough.

So what does this mean? It means that when you choose to become a follower of Jesus you become part of the diaspora of the family of God in the place where you are. There is no need to relocate physically for this to happen. It is a transformation at an emotional and spiritual level. (See Paul’s comment about being transformed, Ro 12:1-2). As a result we have become displaced in relationship to the world and have before us the task of sharing with everyone around us. This is the heart of mission.

This action of going can be going to those in our immediate sphere of influence, our former culture. It can mean go to those that were part of our former culture who are near us and not so near, but now different (Jerusalem and Judea), the diaspora of the world that are in our sphere of influence (Samaria). And going to those of the world far from us (world).

Going to the world can take several forms as we are beginning to understand. We can use many means to get there. This is a second act of being the diaspora of the kingdom of God.

  1. Employment – using our skills to gain access to other parts of the world.
  2. Business – we can use our business to gain access to other parts of the world (marketplace multipliers).
  3. Humanitarian – we can offer humanitarian resources as a means to gain permission to enter another world.
  4. Cross-cultural ministry – we can become short to long term residents in another culture with the specific focus of evangelism and discipleship.

So E2E is defined as everywhere to everywhere. That is a great concept but in the light of the definition of the body of the church as the diaspora of the kingdom of God to the entire world that is not enough. It suggests that I have to leave a place to go to another place. And while this is true in all situations and contexts, my near neighbor, the other person is another place, we tend to think of this in terms of from here to a far place on the map. A place with an international border or significant cultural border between us.

With the idea of diaspora above I believe we should begin to think in terms of Everyone to Everyone. That will get us focused in getting everyone involved and helping everyone to see that we all are responsible to proclaim and disciple and baptize, and teach the entire teaching of God to everyone we encounter no matter where we/they are.

Now for the facilitator concept. This means that no matter who we are or where we are we need to facilitate this process. Further that everyone of us has something to contribute. Since we all are going we all can facilitate the process, either at a local level, regional, and international level. In fact if we are not willing to let someone from outside our sphere of influence the freedom to facilitate what we are doing and us them then we risk becoming egocentric and ethnocentric, a problem that has plagued the church for far too long.

We need everyone, or at least a very broad representation, at the table for the facilitating process to work. If not then we risk becoming the very thing we seek to overcome, egocentric and ethnocentric, with the process depending on our direction and guidance, a serious error to avoid. In fact our name Global Partners should be a constant reminder of this. We should be partners, equal partners in the process of facilitating. A network of partners that responds, not just with needed resources, but critical insight and partnering as well.

Think about it this way. If we truly want to be facilitators on a global scale and truly understand our status as the diaspora of God then should we not be open to calling people from other countries and cultures and sending them to the diaspora of this world, those three groups listed at the beginning of this short paper. For example. Find a person in one of the Muslim ministries who has become a follower of Jesus and sense a call to go to the Muslim diaspora. Then send them to the Detroit Project to work or to some other Muslim community in Europe or the USA or even another Muslim country.

We actually see this happening in the Hispanic community. I know of several from Ibero-America that sense God calling them to the USA to work among this diaspora. I have been reluctant to accept this. I don’t like losing good workers in the region. But then I am reminded that Antioch took their best, Paul and Barnabas, and sent them as diaspora workers. I truly believe God honored this and that God replaced them with other capable leaders to carry on the work.

And now all three are connected. We all as followers of Jesus, members of the family of God, have become the diaspora of God to the world. We all have the mandate of the E2E, everyone to everyone, and the key work of facilitating this process and being facilitated in it as well. Facilitating cannot happen if we don’t accept and understand the other two. E2E is not possible if we don’t understand who we are in this world and how that knowledge allows us to truly facilitate the process of mission. And if we are truly the diaspora then we must do and be what the other two imply.

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Language Learning in Diaspora Ministry

I opened up the door to the lobby and greeted the next patients back. The greeting, however, was not like my usual one. “Marhaba, Kiifkum ilyawm (Hello, how are you today?)?” The husband and wife both met me with smiles! The husband laughed and repeated a joke he said the last time we met, "Hah, this guy knows Arabic. We cannot speak bad about him because he will know what we are saying!" We laughed as we walked back to the patient's room to get checked to see the doctor. 

 

The wife was the patient that day, and her husband was there to help translate for her. This time, the interaction between the patient and me was different. She made more eye contact and started to speak with me in Arabic about how nice the weather was outside. My Arabic is very basic, and I asked her to teach me what word she uses for "weather." She told me the word she uses, and I told them what word I know for "weather." They approved of my vocabulary, and we continued on with the appointment. Throughout the conversation, there seemed to be more comfortability between me and the couple. We joked, laughed, and parted in a friendly matter. 

 

This is one of many interactions I have working with Arabic-speaking patients. I've seen God move when I’ve attempted to speak Arabic to patients and show them I am trying to learn their language. Since living and working in Dearborn, a respect and desire to learn more about different cultures and languages has grown in me. And, even though I work full-time as a nurse, I am still able to connect with and bless the diaspora community.

 

The willingness to learn another language, such as Arabic, and understand another culture, has been a meaningful way to connect with this people group. There is an openness from patients when I am able to use their native language. Asking questions like the origin of their name or if they speak Arabic has sparked unique conversations with patients in a setting they might not always expect, a doctor's office. The Lord has used the opportunity to learn a new language to bridge the gap between cultures. I have learned so much from the stories of the patients I come in contact with. My eyes have been opened, and I now recognize that I have the ability to impact a community, even in my workplace. 

 

Learning a language is a simple way that God has been able to use me in my work setting to connect to the diaspora. Sometimes it can be overwhelming when we want to serve, but our time is very limited. The reality is, we all have an opportunity to connect with the diaspora if we choose to live intentionally. A simple way you can build a bridge is by learning a language, discovering a culture, asking questions, and hearing stories. Being limited by time, opportunity, or resources does not need to keep you from impacting a community. Imagine the kind of transformation that can come from those moments of impact. My hope is that this might be an encouragement to those who want to reach out but feel limited by their current job, location, or circumstance. Know that God has put you in the place you are for a reason, and everyone has the ability to positively impact a community for Christ.

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Practical Ways to Reach Diaspora/Immigrant/Refugee Populations

Most of us can look around in our everyday life and see how the nations of the world have appeared overnight in our backyard. A visit to certain cultures that used to take a travel agency and extensive planning can now be accomplished by just doing normal life things. One could bump carts with a completely veiled Yemeni Muslim woman at the grocery store or wait at the bank behind someone who immigrated from Eastern Europe. It’s actually pretty crazy -- and for someone who has the heart of God, it’s almost too good to be true!

But too good to be true doesn’t mean that it is necessarily easy. We know heaven will be filled with those from all nations, from differing tribes and tongues. But, how exactly do we get from greeting a neighborhood Sudanese family to Revelation 7:9? Here are some practical ideas that could spark a new, Gospel-centered relationship: 

  • Start by praying. It’s cliché because it’s true. It honors God and sets a posture of humility from the get-go. Someone once said, ‘before you take Jesus to your friends, take your friends to Jesus.’
  • Do a little research. Find out what people groups predominantly live in your area. Are there pockets of immigrants or refugees that you didn’t even know about? 
  • Brush up on your small-talk.  A simple, well-timed question or comment can knock down walls and give an incredible sense of ease. It’s amazing how ninety percent of my conversations on the playground start by simply asking the question, ‘so, how old are your kids?’ From there a floodgate of relatability opens up and conversation takes off. 
  • Don’t put your hesitations onto someone else. Often our insecurities eclipse the reality of the actual situation. We will pull back from talking to someone because ‘maybe they don’t know English’, or probably wouldn’t be interested in talking anyway. Chances are, others are more desperate for human contact than you might think!
  • Learn greetings in a new language. After you learn about (or meet!) someone from a new culture, have them teach you some simple phrases… and then use them! Imagine the sweet sound of someone communicating small things in your heart language when you are constantly surrounded by foreign  sounds. What an effort of love!
  • Pay attention to settings  you are already in. What about immigrants who are nestled into your workplace, your kids’ school, your gym, your favorite restaurant? It just takes a new lens to see them. There could be incredible overlap for life and relationship together. 
  • Don’t be afraid to share  spiritual things. It is way less taboo than we think to talk about spiritual matters in other cultures. Don’t read this and think you need to divulge your life’s testimony on a first interaction, or try and debate someone into God’s Kingdom. But, instead, jot down some things God has been teaching you, ways He has showed up in your life, or specific areas where you are finding peace and hope. Dwell on those so they are on the tip of your tongue when you next run across someone from a different culture or faith background. 

All in all, none of these things are an exact recipe for success, and very few things in life work out in a formulaic way. But coupled with a heart that is open and sensitive to God’s Spirit, these efforts could be so fruitful!

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Keys to Reaching the Diaspora

It was a dreary winter afternoon when I pulled up to Alaat’s apartment. She had invited me over for lunch for the first time and I was excited and a little nervous as I anticipated our meal together. The only interactions we had were over zoom so a meet-up in person was new territory. I entered her home and was greeted with a warm hug. She introduced me to her children, showed me around her home, and then we sat down for our meal. She prepared an incredible meal of Capsa, Fatoosh salad, smoothies, and all the sweets you could ever imagine, just for the two of us.

That afternoon as we sat and talked, she began to share very openly that she was aching for home and struggling to care for her children alone. Her husband had recently returned to Yemen without them, leaving her to be the sole caretaker of their three children. She missed how life used to be and the stability she once had. She always ended each statement with such hope and optimism, but you could hear the struggle in her voice. Things were not easy and there was still a lot of pain.

She is an incredible person with dreams and goals but has had little control over her life for a long time. She is lonely, missing home, and yearning for what life used to be. As I left her home that day I so badly wanted her to understand that she is a beloved child of God. God is her provider, deliverer, and hope. So often I feel like I need to say all the right things and heal her wounds. Offer advice or a way out of the struggle, but that is not my job. My job is to love her, to hear her story, and point her back to Jesus. I am not capable or meant to do any of the healing or transforming power. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in her life and the strength of the Lord that will turn those wounds into beautiful scars.

I have learned that in working with the diaspora I can do nothing out of my own strength. I cannot be the change they need. God is the one true deliverer, I can be a vessel! When I hear the stories of pain, loss, frustration, and struggle, my heart aches and I think about all the other people whose stories could be similar. What can I do to help? I will never understand their pain. I will never experience the same kind of loss. How could God use me?

What I was struck with after leaving Alaat’s house was, she didn't need me or ask me to fix anything. She did not seek a solution or change. What she needed was a friend. She needed a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. She needed someone who would commit to pray for her. All of the things I try and conjure up, fix, and perfect are worthless if God is not in them. Sometimes the one thing God asks us to do might be the hardest. In those places when it feels better to just get to work and fix it, he wants us to sit with it and cry. What could it look like if we stopped fixing and tried listening?

It is in those moments of listening, that Christ-followers can offer the gift of hope. They can help their friends discover that they can leave their pain, grief, and loneliness at the feet of Jesus. If we as believers avoid the diaspora because we do not understand, we miss the opportunity to offer the hope. If we fear offending someone and don’t share, we hide a beautiful treasure from those we love.

Since working with the diaspora, I am learning that being a Christ-follower has little to do with me and everything to do with others. Philippians 2 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” In order to share the gift with our friends, we must submit our selfishness and fully surrender ourselves to put others' needs before our own.

What could it look like to think of others before yourself? What if God put the diaspora in our lives intentionally to teach us about true and humble sacrifice and the tangible hope that Christ has to offer.

 

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The Long Reach of Diaspora Ministry

“I have a confession to give you,” my Yemeni friend told me in his still-improving English. Amir and I were at the local library going through an English as a Second Language (ESL) lesson and practicing some vocabulary. When Amir arrived a few years before, he knew very little English. But since arriving, he worked hard, learned conversational English, became a US citizen, and had just purchased his first home!

“Ok, what’s your confession to me?,” I asked him. He said, “When I first left my country to come to the United States, everyone in my village warned me about people like you.” He continued to tell me that every Friday at the mosque, he would hear sermons about the evil West and the Christians who rule there. Amir was told Americans hate Muslims and, though many Americans are Christians, they don’t really follow Jesus. 

However, the opportunity came for him to relocate to the United States, and despite the warnings, he moved over. His confession to me was that when he first came to America, he was skeptical of “people like me.” However, since arriving, he experienced something very different. Sure, there were many people that rejected him, but there were also many Christians who befriended Amir and loved him well. And that day, Amir wanted to say sorry for believing those things about Christians.

Before we left the library, Amir wanted to take a picture together to post on Facebook. Through the magic of Google Translate, I read the post that he tagged me in and he sent out to his friends all over the world, including the Middle East. He said, “I was told to not trust Americans or Christians, that they only want to hurt us. But, it was the Christians that helped me learn English. It was the Christians that helped me become a citizen. It was the Christians who helped me buy a new home. Don’t believe everything you’ve heard! Listen to me. I know that real Christians love others.”

Slowly, I watched comments trickle in. Some agreed with what Amir said, based on their own experiences. Still, others rejected his claims saying Christians were only helping him to convert him or brainwash him. It was beautiful to see Amir engaged with them all. Comment after comment, Amir was speaking of the love of God shown through His church here in Southeast Michigan. God’s famous love was being scattered throughout the world!

We now routinely ask people we meet what they heard about the United States and Christians before they arrived. They all share some similar version of what Amir said. When I consider the number of people God has allowed to resettle in communities around the US, I wonder how many more share the same worries and fears.

I am learning that reaching the diaspora can have an immediate and distant impact. What the church has before us is the opportunity to either fulfill the stereotypes that others say about us, or we can show our immigrant and refugee friends what true, Christian love looks like. Consider this: What if even just one person read Amir’s post and began to believe that maybe not all Christians are bad? The ripple effect could be huge. 

What if God has placed diaspora people around us, not only so we can love them well, but, through the help of the Spirit, begin to lay the groundwork for the Gospel in other places and people we do not yet know?

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Megashift - Foreign Missions to Diaspora Missions

"Jesus commands us to go.

It should be the exception if we stay.”

Keith Green’s classic song is compelling – too bad it’s not true!

The problem is that Jesus never commanded us to go. The great commission (Matt.28:18; Mark 16:15) certainly seems to begin with a command to go, but both versions of the commission really only have one command – “make disciples” in Matthew’s gospel and “preach the gospel” in Mark. The “command” to go in both versions does not appear as a command (imperative) in the original language but as a participle. It could be more accurately translated as “Going . . .” or “As you go . . .”

Unfortunately, this misreading of the great commission has led to an overemphasis on going as being the way one is obedient to the commission. Our obedience should be judged by whether or not we are making disciples (of all nations) and preaching the gospel (to all people).

Yet going is part of the great commission. If not a command, how does going relate to the tasks of making disciples and preaching the gospel?

Could it be that the natural patterns of human migration (going) present significant opportunities for reaching the unreached that we have not adequately recognized? The early Christian church rapidly spread throughout the expanse of the Roman empire in the first century in part due to the missionary journeys of Paul and others but also to a great degree by the natural movement of peoples. The church got a “jump-start” in global growth on the day of Pentecost through converts from all corners of the empire (Acts 2:9-11) who returned to their homes taking the gospel with them. Subsequently, persecution of the church in Jerusalem caused the believers to scatter and “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” (Acts 8:4) Similarly, the believers in Antioch to escape persecution “traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews.” (Acts 11:19) Yes, the early church commissioned and sent Paul and others, but that is only half of the story behind the expansion of the early church in the first century.

The Seoul Declaration on Diaspora Missiology declares, “That the sovereign work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the gathering and scattering of peoples across the earth is a central part of God’s mission and redemptive purposes for the world.”[1] But it has not been a central part of GP’s strategy and mission.

Just as in the book of Acts, believers are being scattered around the globe for many reasons – including into places and among peoples where doors are closed to traditional missionaries. In the past, the Wesleyan Church of the Philippines recognized this reality and sought to make its members equipped to take the gospel with them wherever they went in the world. The emergence of the “Marketplace Multipliers” movement within the North American Wesleyan Church could be a catalyst for similarly equipping American Wesleyans for global outreach wherever they may go.[2][3]

Also, as in the book of Acts, unreached people are being gathered into places where they are more likely to come into contact with Christ-followers, making them more accessible for gospel witness. For example, “At 51% foreign-born, with 232 nationalities represented, Toronto is considered the most diverse city in the world. In Toronto’s Thorncliffe Park community, the top ten languages spoken in homes are: Urdu (3,975); Persian/Farsi (765); Gujarati (700); Pashto (465); Tagalog (460); Bengali (300); Spanish (295); Panjabi/Punjabi (255); Arabic (225); and Greek (205).”[4]  According to infographics produced by Missionexus, there are 1,500,000+ unreached people in Toronto[5] and 4,000,000+ unreached people in New York[6]. (See https://globalgates.info/ for more mind-boggling and heart-wrenching information about unreached people groups in North America.)

Again, as in the book of Acts, people who come to faith in diaspora may be the instrument God uses to bring the gospel to their home country. For example, the Wesleyan Church in Mozambique has its origins in the evangelization of migrant miners in South Africa. Converted miners returned to their homes at the end of their contracts and won their family to Christ and planted churches.  

The move of the Holy Spirit in the first century to establish the church across the known world was accomplished through a combination of natural human migration activity along with intentional missionary sending by the church. Could it be that we need to return and embrace that same formula today? What shifts would need to take place in GP if we embraced a focus on diaspora ministries?

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[1] Rijnhart, C., Tira, S., Krason, F., TV Thomas, J., & Eriksen, S. (2014, September 22). The Seoul Declaration on DIASPORA MISSIOLOGY. Retrieved April 01, 2021, from https://www.lausanne.org/content/statement/the-seoul-declaration-on-diaspora-missiology

[2] Schmidt, W. (2021, February 08). Mega Shifts - Marketplace Multipliers. Retrieved April 01, 2021, from https://gpafrica.org/index.php/en/blog/52-mega-shifts-marketplace-multipliers

[3] Ward, B. (2021, February 17). Does GP need a new model for sending M’s? Retrieved April 01, 2021, from https://gpafrica.org/index.php/en/blog/54-does-gp-need-a-new-model-for-sending-m-s

[4] Tira, S. J. (2018, November 23). A diaspora mission strategy for local churches. Retrieved April 01, 2021, from https://micn.org/diaspora-mission-strategy-local-churches/

[5] https://missio-graphics.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/Volume+8/Diaspora-Greater-Toronto-Area.pdf?fbclid=IwAR0H1JZIZBfh056lPuw43Wt0rfR1T__fQuWLsxyL_gR5uXvQng3tSHuIyPU

[6] https://missio-graphics.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/Volume+8/Diaspora-New-York-Metro.pdf

 

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WHAT COMES AFTER THE 5 PHASES?

Recently while using my phone as a GPS my battery died and I was left not knowing about what road to take. It had served me well for a journey of several hundred miles, but now at a critical point in my journey its blank screen offered no suggestions for the way forward.

Similarly, GP has been guided well by “The Five Phases” to reach the point where we are today with the international church increasingly becoming engaged in missionary outreach. “The 5 Phases” has led us to the explosion of “Everywhere to Everywhere” across the Wesleyan Church. It has served us well. But where do we go from here?

Up to this point, international missions work in the Wesleyan Church has been primarily unidirectional (from North America to the rest of the world) and unicentric (with the North American church at the center). As illustrated above, E2E changes the picture radically. What the illustration fails to provide is any sense of how communication, cooperation, collaboration, or coordination between global sending churches should take place.

“The Five Phases” provides no help at this point – this is a step beyond.  Maybe it is the sixth phase of mission. We need something more than a blank screen, and that need is becoming increasingly urgent.

Instinctually we sense that GP and the North American church need to take a step back and allow the international church to engage as full participative partners in providing leadership. At they same time, we also sense that we too should remain engaged as full partners in the process without dominating or setting the agenda.

One might argue that the International Conference of the Wesleyan Church was designed to fill this role. But to this point it has not demonstrated the capacity or inclination to provide global leadership at the level that will be needed. GP continues to be the primary source of focus and direction for the ICWC. (One is reminded of businesses in post-colonial Africa where Africans man the front desk, while white men sit in the back offices pulling the strings.)

So, if not the ICWC, what other mechanism or structure can provide connection for the E2E movement with appropriate levels of engagement from across the international church? How does such a structure come into being without GP introducing it? How can we facilitate the process of moving into phase six without directing the process?

We need directions for getting to phase six; and we need them now!

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