I am currently staring out the third floor window of my new home, overlooking the busy, downtown streets of Washington, DC. Well, it is my new home for half the week, at least.
This is why:
Since the dawn of modern international missions, this task has largely seen people leaving the United States in search of foreign lands absent of a gospel proclamation. While the above manifestation of the Great Commission is still paramount, a new day dawns in sharing the gospel with the nations. Once, an ocean separated us from the peoples of the world. Today, the nations increasingly come to us.
This is an excerpt from a blog post I wrote as part of an ongoing research project at my seminary. I would suggest you go read that post, called Nations in our Midst, if you plan on finishing this one
But since most of you did not click on the link to read that post, I will try to sum it up for you in a few sentences.
For the past year, I have been running point on the development of an international church planting strategy at Southeastern. However, this international church planting strategy is different from any I have ever seen in one way. It is not taking place internationally. This church planting effort is happening right here in the good ol’ US of A.
“Then why call it international church planting?” you may ask. The answer is simple, because the name of the task has far less to do with location than audience.
For me, this all started out in a hut in Africa. In that part of the world, moving to America was the dream. You could trek into the jungle for days, leaving electricity, running water, and civilization way behind, and still be guaranteed to meet two things: a Coca-Cola and some poster of 50 Cent or Madonna tacked to a mud wall. In their estimation, America was the land of opportunity.
And in truth, it is a land of opportunity.
When you come from a country where the average pay is less than a dollar a day, minimum wage is big money. And contrary to our expectations, the goal is not simply to get here and become rich. While that may be on the back of some minds, the primary reason is typically one of support.
If your village is starving, it tends to change the motivation behind your actions. Countless West Africans have moved to the United States in search of a better life, not for themselves, but for their family and village back home. These immigrants will usually send up to half of their income back to their home village in order to support the needs of family.
Honestly, many do not like being here. Sure, there is an excitement in the adventure of coming to America, and many young men and women are perhaps star struck by the tales of the United States. Nevertheless, they get here to realize they are in a new place with people from a very different culture. Our culture is fast, busy, loud, and isolated compared to their comfortable warm and slow-paced environment. Many from developing countries find themselves more alone than they have ever felt. The average international student that comes to the United States will not enter the home of an American the entire four years they are here.
Why? Because they are not invited.
And as Christians, we should care about that. In some divine sense of irony, it appears that God has brought the nations to us. The average urban center in the United States boasts over a hundred different people groups (some of these with thousands of people). Here in DC alone, there are an estimated 192 different people groups represented.
These people need the gospel.
Many of them come from unreached, unengaged areas of the world, areas where it is virtually impossible for us to send a missionary. And yet, they have made their homes a few blocks from some of our biggest churches here in the United States. If we are actually going to take this task seriously to reach the nations, then we must not neglect the ones God has brought to us. Churches have a responsibility to share the gospel and plant churches where these people can gain something far more important than money during their stay in America.
Furthermore, these people have not lost their connections back home. Many are currently supporting their village, which makes them of extreme value to our missionaries on the field working with that village. In a lot of ways, these people are the ones who cannot be persecuted for their faith. They are the purse strings, and they are very influential.
Imagine, reaching these visitors with the great news of the gospel, only to send them back home to their own people as a native missionary.
That is why I am sitting in DC, staring out a window. Over the next several months, I hope to use the research we are gathering in order to find and engage these people. My work will have me travelling back and forth every week from Raleigh to DC. This is a big task with a big team of partners. People are involved on many levels, and our hope is to eventually equip the local churches here to plant new churches amongst these people groups in the District. And eventually, if it works here, we can use this strategy all across the country.
Please pray with me that God will use this work to bring glory to Christ through the spread of the gospel. Pray that his name will be known amongst a people where it once was not.
If you would like to read more about this project, you can find my other posts at NACPN.com. Be sure to check out the city data profiles under the “Resources” tab. Also, if you are interested in keeping up with the progress, click the Twitter link at the top of this page to follow me there. The hashtag for this work is #ICPinDC.