From its very first day, the church of Jesus Christ has been called to witness cross-culturally. Jesus’ final words to the Apostles, according to Luke, were, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8b, NIV) As the Father sent Jesus on the ultimate cross-cultural journey, so Jesus is sending his church. To join Jesus in his mission means taking up this calling.
For much of the last 2,000 years, this mission has required women and men of faith to leave their birth cultures and engage people in different, often far away lands. However, in the last decade, God has been doing a new thing. Today the people groups of the earth are moving in unprecedented ways. And for believers in North America, this mass migration means that God has created cross-cultural mission opportunities right here—opportunities that are often right on our doorsteps.
Here are five cross-cultural mission opportunities available to most North Americans without their even leaving home.
1. Engage diaspora communities in your home town
The “global diaspora” is a common way of referring to the amazing migratory shift that has taken place in the last decade. Almost a quarter of a billion people now live in countries other than their birth countries. And the US has the largest number of global diaspora members of any country in the world. This reality means that almost every city or town in North America has one or more groupings of non-indigenous population clusters. The small town of Clarkston, Georgia for instance, a community in metro-Atlanta, has people from 145 different countries and 761 different ethnic groups living alongside one another. The possibilities of engagement are almost limitless. Churches are establishing intentional outreaches and ministries that are contextualized for specific cultures. Individuals are volunteering in, or even moving into, these ethnic enclaves to live and work missionally among people of different cultures. And most cities in the US have entire ministries dedicated to mobilizing believers to serve these populations.
2. Engage Muslims
The growing Muslim populations in North America have caused some believers to react with fear or alarm. But many of our Muslim neighbors are not only deeply spiritual people, they are also often very interested in having Christian friends and in engaging in conversation about Jesus. Some North American Christians are surprised to learn that the Qur’an speaks very highly of Jesus, Who is revered as a great prophet by Islam. This means our common starting point of respect for Jesus can be a great launching pad for friendship and conversation about who Jesus truly is. Intentionally befriending our Muslim neighbors (with authentic friendship) is one of the most fruitful starting points for living missionally in North America, and is something almost any believer can easily do today.
3. Engage local churches
Mission is the reason the church exists. Unless it is on mission, the local church is nothing more than a vaguely spiritual Rotary Club. Sadly, most North American churches are not on mission. There is, however, a growing movement among clergy and laity to help local churches recover their missional focus. Becoming a part of the mission leadership of a local church and helping to mobilize that church for mission is an excellent way to live missionally in North America.
4. Host and/or partner with international missionaries
North America has now become a “mission field” in the eyes of many emerging churches in the Global South. From Nigeria to Korea and Brazil to China, many former mission fields are now sending missionaries to North America. And in the same way that North American missionaries look for women and men of peace in overseas contexts in order to partner in the mission work, these “foreign” missionaries on North American soil need men and women of peace to partner with here. Hosting, housing, supporting, encouraging, and working alongside some of these missionaries from other lands who are living and serving here is a great way to partner with Jesus in His North American work today.
5. Engage in Refugee Resettlement
The news is filled with reports of the global refugee crisis. Although many migrants in the world are not refugees, there are millions who are. And the needs of the refugee populations are both extensive and unique. These vulnerable populations are being settled in communities all around North America and are always in need of friends who can love them unconditionally and help them practically. Jesus often reveals Himself most readily to people who are in the most dire need. Many refugees are not only discovering lifelong friends through our missional efforts, but also discovering new life in Jesus Christ.
Revelation 7:9 which paints a picture of the kingdom of God with people from every tribe and tongue and ethnic group all worshiping the Lord together, is one of the most hopeful and beautiful verses in all of scripture. How amazing that the Lord has given believers in North America the opportunity to participate in helping this verse become a reality without even leaving home! Won’t you join Jesus in His mission?
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