If you were at the summit in Nashville last week, then you have already seen this video. For the rest of you, Dr. Akin takes two minutes to explain the Peoples Next Door project at Southeastern and issue a challenge to churches, association, conventions, and others to get involved in the reaching the nations here in North America.
You can also find the video on the Peoples Next Door Facebook page. Click the icon in the bottom corner of the video above and share it to your Facebook page so your friends hear the challenge as well.
Will you be in St. Louis next week for the Southern Baptist Convention? I will, and if you are interested in discovering and engaging people groups in your community, then we should talk.
I will be attending the convention representing Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and, in specific, the Peoples Next Door project. Over the course of the week, my goal is to make myself available for those who are interested in this important work of engaging the nations here in North America. I will have time during the week set aside for personal meetings and consultation at the Southeastern booth in the exhibit hall, and I would love to talk with you about different strategies for diaspora missions.
Below is my tentative availability during the convention:
Sunday, June 12 – Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders (SBCAL)
Monday, June 13 – Southeastern Booth (11 am – 1 pm)
Tuesday, Jun 14 – Southeastern Booth (11 am – 1 pm)
Wednesday, June 15 – Southeastern Booth (10 am – 12 pm)
Of course, I will be at several other events during the convention, but the above times are ones I have set aside for conversation about the Peoples Next Door project and working with the international peoples here in North America.
If you are interested in meeting, feel free to email me ahead of time at email@example.com or to stop by at one of those listed times above. We have meeting space in our booth, and I would love to hear about your work!
This has been a long time coming, but today I get to announce an all new look and functionality for the Peoples Next Door website!
Over the past few months, we’ve been dreaming up some new functionality for the site and our goal was to have the site ready for the upcoming Southern Baptist Convention. Today, I am rolling out the new design. The new site is cleaner and quite a bit faster, so it should cut down on those wait times for articles. The sight is responsive, and it should render as well on your smartphone as it does on your computer. In addition, we brought new focus to the page.
Articles to the Front Page
In the previous design, the front page was basically a scrolling “about me” section that detailed the blog, it’s purpose, some stats about urbanization and immigration, and a description of the Peoples Next Door project. When I first launched, it made sense to put that information up front, as it was a new endeavor. However, over time, I’ve noticed a consistent and growing base of readers who return for our articles. Personally, I was uncertain in the beginning if the articles would be the biggest feature, but they have proven to drive most of the site’s traffic. With that in mind, I moved the articles to the front page. The goal is to make it as easy as possible for you to get to the content you want.
Since the articles have become the focus of the website, a cleaner, easier-to-read style was needed. With this new theme, I believe that has been accomplished. The fonts are now easier on the eyes, and the overall look of the blog renders articles better. This should be an improvement for those of you who come back regularly for content.
New Resources Page
Finally, I added a new feature to the site, and I am pretty excited about it. Since the Peoples Next Door project is, at its heart, a resource and equipping project, I wanted somewhere on the site that provided access to our growing set of resources. Well, that is now a thing.
As we create new resources for this work, they will land on this resources page. Some will be completely free, such as the Strategy Guide that is available there right now. Others will necessarily require a small cost due to the nature of the resource and the amount of time necessary to produce them. Finally, there is even an option on the resources page for personal consultation. As the Peoples Next Door project has grown, the seminary has had people from many different organizations reach out for personalized help developing strategy. We are excited about the opportunity to form those partnerships and spread this much-needed work across North America (and even overseas).
Stay tuned in to the resources page, as there are several new resources I plan to upload in the coming weeks. In the meantime, let me know what you think!
Is your church thinking through how to reach the international people who live around you? Are you trying to cast a vision for this process? If so, this short video may be helpful.
In our efforts to equip local churches for people group discovery and engagement in their neighborhoods, we will be producing resources in the coming months that aid in that purpose. This video is one of the first.
Share it with your church, and share it with your friends. Let’s get people talking about this new day in international missions, about all the peoples next door.
The next interview in our series is a team leader for people group engagement in a local church. Marie works in a local church in the Raleigh area, mobilizing others to reach the West African Muslims that live around the church. Marie is not church staff. She is a regular church member who is catalyzing others in the church to join the cause.
As a PND team leader in a local church, what exactly do you do?
My primary role is to be an advocate for our West African neighbors’ spiritual needs and a facilitator equipping local believers to engage them with the Gospel. That looks like a lot of different things:
Raising awareness: I inform church members of where West Africans are in our community, show them how they already interact with Africans in their daily routine, explain opportunities and needs, and spur them on to love and good deeds among that community.
Walking alongside: For those wanting to be involved, I bring them to visit friends, introduce them to people in the community, encourage them to find new parts of the community, and give them information and resources to support their efforts.
Doing the work: I personally visit hair braiding shops (or other points of interest) in our area, equip African Christians with Bible stories to share with their Muslim friends, and celebrate deaths, births, and holidays with the African community.
Encouraging: I help those involved share prayer requests, insights, challenges, and ways to be involved with the rest of the church.
What are the hurdles you see to motivating lay people in your church to find and engage people groups?
Before beginning to engage people groups, time is always a challenge for church members. We live in a city where our members’ schedules are stretched thin and people just don’t have time to spare. However, God has brought opportunities in things that members were already doing.
Once beginning involvement, people can also quickly lose heart when faced with the challenges of ministry. Though West Africans excel in showing hospitality to those around them, planning and consistency are not their fortes. So, we have had to be exceptionally dependable and flexible in our relationships with them. Muslims interested in learning about Christ also have to struggle with what accepting him may mean for their cultural identity. Many have seen the beauty of the Gospel and can articulate it well. However, they hesitate to give their life to Christ because of family pressures. This tedious work with a lack of visible fruit can be very discouraging for lay people.
What are some of the creative things your church has done to engage people?
During Ramadan, we gave dried fruit and nut baskets and broke fast with our Muslim friends. We attempted to start French Bible studies and storying groups. We play soccer with them, dance at baby-naming ceremonies, and learn to cook from their ladies. In general, we join with them in their lives and include them in ours.
What are the benefits for your church to be involved in this?
It has opened our eyes to the lost all around us. When we began to look and pray for opportunities, some of our members found they were buying groceries from West Africans and working alongside them every day. All they needed to do from there was simply be a good neighbor, coworker, and friend.
It has also helped us better articulate our faith, separate our cultural traditions from real biblical truth, and break down barriers which have kept us from engaging the lost. For example, we must think through what it communicates to a Muslim when we give them a gift basket during Ramadan. Are we endorsing their works-based religion or simply showing them that we care? We constantly have to pray and seek wisdom on how to meet people where they are culturally and religiously while drawing them towards truth. These issues produce a good tension in us which strengthens our faith as we grapple with it.
What is some advice you would give someone wanting to lead their local church in this work too?
Pray! This is the Father’s ministry, not ours. I cannot make our congregation care about West Africans, and I cannot make West Africans care about Christ. So, I must go to my knees and trust it to God.
Get out there. Get to know what peoples are in your area, and begin to make friends. Ask good questions about who they are as a community and who they are as individuals. Share thoughts, life, and space with them.
Don’t give up. It can often be difficult, disheartening, and frustrating work, but it’s well worth it. “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
The following post was written back in August of 2012, in the beginning stages of the Peoples Next Door project.
It is called Little Kurdistan.
Not a fifteen minute drive from honky tonk bars and the Country Music Hall of Fame, the largest population of Kurdish peoples in North America goes about their daily lives. Largely the result of refugee resettlement, Nashville’s Kurdish population has ballooned to somewhere between 10-15,000 over the last several decades.
A reaction to genocide in their native countries, the first refugees made their migration to Nashville in 1976, starting with a small group, no larger then 50 people. Since that time, several waves of Kurdish refugee resettlement resulted in thousands moving into the Nashville area.
But why Nashville?
In a public television documentary, Little Kurdistan, USA, commentators suggest Nashville’s strong economy and open policies concerning refugees contributed. However, many factors play into the development of this self-sustaining micro-community in Nashville. Remarkably, Kurdish residents claim they enjoy the warmer attitude of Nashville residents to other areas in America, and that even the climate feels similar to the one they left back at home.
This phenomenon has created a cultural home for Kurds in the United States. In this community, Kurds are able to live and work in much the same way they did at home. Shops sell traditional goods and the smells of Kurdish food waft out of the open doors of little restaurants. Driving down the road, many signs wear both English and Arabic lettering.
What is more, Islamic community centers continue to sprout up in converted storefronts. In 1998, the Salahadeen Islamic center opened as the first Kudish-speaking mosque in North America. The area is one of the few neighborhoods in America where a truly Kurdish expression of Islam exists.
For the church, opportunities exist all over America in places like Little Kurdistan. The Kurds are the largest people group in the world without a designated state. They live in small enclaves in Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran, but they have no official place to call their own. Furthermore, the states where Kurds currently reside are often hostile to an American presence, particularly Christian missions.
Yet, as God draws the nations into our borders, the church gains unprecedented access to these peoples. Nashville has one of the strongest evangelical footprints in America, with many churches and religious organizations located in the area. With such a solid church network already established, the resources are in place to execute a church planting movement amongst the Kurds of Nashville, TN.
May the Kurds placed in the shadow of the Southern Baptist Convention’s home offices see the glorious light of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“Necessity is the mother of invention.” At least, that’s what people say.
For the last couple of years, Southeastern Seminary has worked on our Peoples Next Door project. Peoples Next Door exists to help train and equip local churches to discover and engage the unreached people groups in their communities. We do this by providing resources and partnering with state conventions, associations, missions agencies, and especially local churches. This project continues to grow, and we now need a home for it on the internet.
Enter the Peoples Next Door website.
Here on the website, you will find continued resources for discovery and engagement. Local churches around the country are seeing the need to engage the people groups cropping up in their neighborhoods and communities. Hopefully, we can help by providing both downloadable resources (such as documents, videos, and other helps) as well as syndicated content (such as blogs, articles, and maybe even podcasts). So if you are interested in reaching the people groups next door, then follow us and visit often.
Feel free to poke around the site and ask questions if you have any.
The ends of the earth are not as far away as you think.
In recent days, a swell of attention has been placed on the growing international populations in America’s urban centers. In fact, in many neighborhoods in America’s biggest cities (and even some of the not-so-big cities) you are less likely to find a native-born American than you are a person from some other country. America is earning her stripes as the melting pot of the world, and now more than ever she is home to a true cross-section of the world’s population.
This wave of immigration and resettlement comes at a critical point in the grand narrative of modern missions. Increasingly, American missionaries find themselves locked out of the darkest countries. Economic, civil, and legal restrictions continue to build walls between would-be international missionaries and the overseas fields of unengaged masses. Our missionaries are met with more hostility than ever, and doors for gospel access appear to be closing. Nevertheless, as going to the nations gets harder, God is bringing the nations to us.
With this new dynamic comes a fresh responsibility, and many are beginning to address the challenge. It is showing up on the internet, in sermons, and in books. Works such as J.D. Payne’s Unreached Peoples, Least Reached Places point to the need to engage the international people groups that are settling in our urban areas and J.D. Greear recently addressed the issue on his blog. Even people who aren’t named J.D. are talking about it.
As part of our mission to serve the local church and fulfill the great commission, Southeastern attempts to aid our sending agencies and local churches as they head off into this new frontier of international church planting in their neighborhoods. Enter the Peoples Next Door Project. Our Center for Great Commission Studies has spent the last two years researching this growing trend and has produced findings that will aid evangelicals as they engage the shifting urban landscape. You can read all about the project here.
If reaching the nations in your backyard is a concern, stay tuned over the next several weeks as we roll out helpful strategy and materials.
I don’t know anything about fill-in-the-blank culture! Can I even do this without some level of cultural expertise?
This is perhaps the most frequent question concerning ELCP. Without stepping onto a soapbox, this attitude is the unfortunate byproduct of the professionalization of ministry. We have falsely decided that gospel proclamation requires someone with a degree in the work or training in some missions equipping program. In this unhelpful paradigm, the clergy (or in this case the missionaries) are the ones who know how to reach people, and the lay person does not have what it takes. Such training is beneficial, but it is not necessary for the work of the ministry. That attitude kills the spread of the gospel.
Limited cultural experience is a good thing. We are looking for people with limited to no cultural experience. We are looking for people who are willing to learn. This work is really for everyone in the local church. Our hope is not to train someone in any one culture, but that you will learn how to engage different cultures by, get this, engaging cultures. In fact, a good missionary training program does not teach the missionary a list of cultural facts about a people group. It crafts an understanding for cultures in the missionary. In other words, it teaches a missionary how to think about culture, not the details of any one specific culture.
When a missionary first goes to the field, they do not know the language, the culture, or the worldview of the people. It is a process of discovery that teaches them these things and how to communicate with the people they are trying to reach. If done well, this means the missionary goes into this culture with humility and the attitude of the learner. This is the same thing you need to do to reach the international peoples around you. If you’re a “cultural idiot,” then you are dependent upon them to teach you about their culture. In our context in the United States, many of these international peoples have never had an in-depth conversation with an American. Perhaps they have never met an American who is genuinely interested in them and their culture.
If you approach international peoples as a learner, then a beautiful thing happens, they will most likely teach you how to interact with them and you will have yourself a friend.
You have home court advantage – Most church folk have heard some story about a guy going to Africa on a mission trip and offending the entire village when they reached out to greet the chief with their left hand. While most of those stories are overblown, there is a need to be culturally sensitive. That is what concerns most churches when doing this work. It is a good concern, but remember that you have the home court advantage.You do not need to worry about cultural norms and cues to the extent you would if you were in that person’s country. Remember, they are living in your culture, which means they will be more used to them, and even expect them. However, it is your job to learn their cultural cues over time, as it is how you will share the gospel in a way that is meaningful.
What is a point of interest?
A point of interest is any business or establishment that can be positively connected to a particular people group. For instance, if you come across an Afghan restaurant or a West African fabric store, then you may have found a point of interest. After speaking with the owner, attendants, customers, etc., you can find out which people groups own and shop here.
By finding and collecting points of interest, you will eventually discover points of engagement.
What is a point of engagement?
Points of engagement are different from a point of interest. Unlike a point of interest, an engagement point is not a business or restaurant. Instead, it is an apartment complex or neighborhood with a large concentration of a particular people group. Often times, finding the points of interest will lead the mapper to the places where a people group lives and plays. These are the ideal places to create a strategy of engagement. It is here that a local church wants to start a Bible study with the hopes of planting a church.
Do we just choose where to go, or is there a list of places?
Ultimately, yes you choose. However there is also a list of places. Your local church is free to determine its strategy, including where and with whom you want to work. However, wisdom says to find out other churches that are trying to reach that same area and people group. If churches are aware of each other in the mapping process, they will not duplicate efforts and will be able to partner instead of compete in areas of need.
What if we want to map around our church and it’s already mapped?
Then you should do so. Again, it is advisable to find out what other churches are working in your area, so that you can partner with them. In the Raleigh area, we already have stories of people in international communities coming to church representatives asking for fewer church vans to come to their apartment complex on Sundays. Ironically, it is not because they do not want their children going to church, but they are confused and cannot put their children on all of them. They simply want less options, as they do not want to offend. This type of paradigm is not best for the sake of the gospel.
In addition, there are many other areas in the Triangle that need attention. Perhaps your church would be willing to work in an area that is not as close buy has more need.
How do we avoid mapping on top of each other?
First, check in with churches around you. Secondly, study the resources and mapping material that have been made available so you can see what has been mapped. Third, record your information quickly. For the map of the Triangle to stay up to date, we need churches to fill out the point of interest form as soon as they find them.
What do I wear?
Again, the people groups you will work with are currently in America, so they are not going to expect you to follow their cultural norms concerning dress. However, let me caution you toward modesty. While they may not expect you to follow their standard of dress, that will not stop them from judging your morality and Christianity based on their standard of modesty. This does not necessarily mean women must wear a head wrap when working with Muslim peoples. It does mean that conservative dress is certainly advisable. It is usually best to err on the side of caution concerning dress.
How many people should go in a group?
There is no set number. It would be best to keep the number low (no more than 3 or 4). If you have a large group from your church that wants to start mapping, that is a great problem to have! Simply break them up into smaller teams to visit points of interest.
When people ask “why are you here?”
If you start mapping, this will inevitably happen. There is no one answer, either. Honesty is always the best policy, but remember that the way you speak the truth is often important. In many instances, walking into an establishment and telling the people you are taking down their information to record them in a database would be rather suspicious of even offensive. These people are not simply a project, but explaining the mapping unwisely can make it sound like they are. However, there are times when explaining that you are doing research is helpful. Please use discernment.
Most of the time, it is best to be simple with your answer and tell the most important reason that you are there. Say something like, “I go to fill-in-the-blank church here in the area. There are a lot of international people here and our church has realized this, and we want to get to know you. We want to know more about our community and how to serve it, so we want to find out about you.” After all, that is the long term goal, and it is the most important part of the mapping. It humanizes them and keeps them from sounding like a project.
When is the best time to go?
I hesitate to provide a “best time,” as I do not want people to think there is only one time to go. In fact, often times you will find a completely different set of peoples and activities if you visit the same place at different times. So, be encouraged to go throughout the day and week. Each place will be different.
Nevertheless, there are average times when people are more likely to be available for conversation. If you are going into a restaurant or other point of interest, many of those have slower hours between 2-4 pm. They will most likely be open, but will not have patrons visiting their establishment. This means it is often easier to strike up conversation with them after the lunch rush and before people get off from work.
Also, did we miss something? Let us know in the comments below.
Here’s some more posts regarding the People’s Next Door Project:
In short, this massive influx of internationals is settling not only in our city centers, but in our suburbs. City centers, with public transport and a primarily pedestrian lifestyle, may seem to be the preferable location for international resettlement, but due to a number of factors internationals are preferring the suburbs.
In addition to this suburban phenomenon, the focus appears to be shifting away from our biggest cities (like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago) toward smaller urban centers. In fact, a good number of these cities are in the Southeastern United States. The fastest international growth is actually occurring in cities like Atlanta, Nashville, and Raleigh.
This is big news for local churches. Not only are the world’s unreached pouring into our urban centers in the United States, they are choosing our suburbs and our Southern cities.
Now, where is your church?
Odds are, you live within an hour drive of one of these suburban centers. Consider the ramifications for the Great Commission.
Here are a few quick facts from the report:
Total number of foreign born people in the United States increased by over 500,000 from 2012 to 2013.
Nine urban centers (mostly in the Southeast) saw a doubling or more of their respective foreign-born populations. These include: Nashville, Knoxville, Raleigh, Charlotte, and Charleston.
In 2013, 61 percent of foreign born residents of major urban centers actually lived in the suburban areas around a city center.
In the last 14 years, over 75 percent of foreign born population growth has occurred in suburbs.