Engaging Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen―in Dearborn, Michigan

By Jonathan Swift
Engaging Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen―in Dearborn, Michigan

When my wife and I moved to Lebanon in 2007 as Converge missionaries, we had no idea we would wind up back in my hometown of Dearborn, Michigan. Since 2013 our family (my wife Christie and our five children) has been learning how to settle back into life in Dearborn while starting a new church.

What accounted for the turnaround? While missionaries in Lebanon, we invited our home church, Faith Bible Church, Livonia, Michigan, to pray with us about a question that was on our hearts: “What if we could plant a local gospel-driven and missional church that reached out to families from all walks of life and cultural backgrounds. At the same time, we could advance strategic global church-planting by recruiting and equipping internationals to spread the gospel back in their Muslim homelands―all without leaving our own backyard?”

The backyard we had in mind was Dearborn, home to the most densely populated Muslim community in the U.S., where all these opportunities are packed into this uniquely culturally diverse city. At least half of Dearborn’s residents originate from Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen. Through much prayer and discussion, our FBC family came on board and the vision for a new church plant was born: Christ Community Church Glocal (Global/Local) Ministries. Soon, like so many of our Middle Eastern neighbors, we migrated to the USA, and we began to re-settle. Because of our experiences in Lebanon and return to Dearborn, I felt more indigenous to my hometown than I had when we had left it.

Intentionally diverse―by God’s power
The mission of Christ Community Church is to engage every corner of the diverse Dearborn community, with Christ as our focus. We are pushing back against the "Homogenous Unit Principle," most often followed in mission and church-planting strategies, in which a specific people group or culturally distinct community is identified and targeted for outreach. Rather, our vision is to eventually see the congregation and leadership of CCC reflect the diverse demographics of our city. This is not easy to do, but it seems like what the church of Antioch was all about (Acts 13:1) and like what Paul and his mission activity was all about. It is certainly something we must trust God to bring about.

Whether on Sunday mornings, or engaging neighbors in the public parks or at the coffee shops, there are a few things we always keep in mind. First, we are always aligning our hearts with the gospel. When we see ourselves and others simply in light of the cross, we are empowered to love others no matter who they are. The grace of the cross enables us to see our Muslim neighbors not as enemies or terrorists to be feared, but as neighbors in need of the love, grace and forgiveness found in Christ alone.

Also, more than employing simple one-on-one evangelism, we try to do most of our evangelism in the context of community. When we launched our Sunday morning services in 2014, we simultaneously launched mid-week “Gospel Communities” in homes. There we share a meal and pray and study the Bible together. We also invite our Muslim neighbors into the midst of these gatherings. This is not only biblical, but strategic: Muslims live much more in community than we do. When our Muslim neighbors see us loving one another in community, the gospel is displayed and our message is made powerful and more attractive.

It’s working
We have already seen this bear fruit. Three years ago, two sisters from a Muslim family began attending one of our GC’s. During those two years, the younger sister, “H,” had begun to fall in love with and belong to our people as if we were family. She was hearing the gospel weekly. She also was falling in love with Jesus in our midst. Then she decided she wanted to attend worship on Easter. She came and was so taken with the worship of God’s people that a few months later she came to faith in Christ.

Last spring she took her public stand and was baptized. Four Muslim classmates came to church that Sunday and heard the gospel and then H’s testimony at her baptism. She has experienced persecution from her parents, but God has been faithful to her and they are beginning to soften. May God grant us more fruit like “H” and build his church.

    Point - Summer 2018

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