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.
- It can be forced. This took the form of slavery, indentured labor, and today falls under the heading of human trafficking.
- It can be cause by outside forces. These are in the form of disaster, war, political and religious oppression, and ethnic conflict.
- 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.
- Employment – using our skills to gain access to other parts of the world.
- Business – we can use our business to gain access to other parts of the world (marketplace multipliers).
- Humanitarian – we can offer humanitarian resources as a means to gain permission to enter another world.
- 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.