Try Local to Go Global

by John B., Director of Converge Disapora Ministries
Diaspora

Transform 2017 hosted a missions pastors track. It was a helpful time of sharing and peer learning focused on the local church and global missions. We have many wonderful Converge churches doing phenomenal ministries around the world. Missions to the New American immigrant people groups was one of the many themes addressed by the group.

There are approximately 43 million foreign-born New Americans living among us, representing most of the unreached people groups of the world. While much current attention is directed toward the new Muslim communities (between 1 and 2 percent of the U.S. population), America is one of the largest recipients of the East Asian and Indian diasporas. There are now more Chinese and Indians arriving on American shores each year than Mexicans. Including these new arrivals and their American-born children in our mission plans can aid our churches’ mission ministries in several ways, especially if the church is just beginning its global missions program.

Let’s start with mobilization for missions. The local church, not the mission agency, is still the best place for missions mobilization. Mobilization is not simply finding people to go overseas. It starts with building awareness of and concern for the unreached peoples of the world. It moves the church into sustained prayer for these peoples and God’s direction in reaching them. It calls people to give of their resources, time and for some, their vocations to spread the gospel throughout the globe. Mobilization for missions is in everything a church should be doing.

There is no better way to mobilize a church for missions in all of its aspects than to connect them with the unreached New Americans in their local community. The awareness of the need for cross-cultural missions easily arises from the actual experiences of the congregation as they navigate the bewildering nuances of cross-cultural communication and friendship. The creation of cross-cultural friendships among unreached people groups leads to prayer for these people groups, both locally and in their homelands. Resources and personnel easily flow to where the heart is already connected.

Perhaps the most important reason for a church to start locally arises from the nature of hospitality. Hospitality, as practiced in the Majority World, is usually a stronger and more important social value than found in American Anglo culture. The experience of hospitality from another creates a desire and a moral obligation to reciprocate. The need to show mutual hospitality travels back to the extended family in the homeland. The love you show a New American family here will be replicated back to you if you visit their family in their country of origin. This is called kinship bridging.

Imagine short-term mission experiences in which teams from the local American church are met at the foreign airport, not by a missionary, but by the family leaders of the New Americans the church is befriending in its own community. What if our short-termers were welcomed as honored guests in the homes of an unreached community, instead of seeking ways to somehow explain their presence? What if the teams that were sent had already gained an advanced level of cultural awareness because of the cross-cultural experiences gained in the New American communities before they boarded the plane? Starting local can change how we do short-term missions.

Finally, starting local can change the way we send career missionaries globally. Local cross-cultural missions aids mobilizing long-term missionaries from the church body. It provides a kinship bridge when they arrive on the field. But it can also change how we prepare them to go.

Much of the remaining missions task includes fostering gospel movements among unreached and highly resistant people groups in the 10/40 Window. These movements are often built on simple church, Church Planting Multiplication and disciple-making movement models. However, our experience shows that sending untrained missionaries is ineffective in starting these movements. Starting local, among New American unreached groups, allows for the new long-term missionaries recruited from our local churches to determine if they have the aptitude and skill set needed before being deployed. Raising support, disrupting family and traveling thousands of miles only to discover a lack of preparedness is not a loving way to deploy the people of our churches.

Converge is in partnership with one of the best diaspora missions coalitions in the U.S. Converge can help embed potential global missionaries in the cultural experiences and church planting models they need to master before they move overseas. Working with Converge International Ministries, local churches can change for the positive the way they move globally. 

For more information, email John, johnb@converge.org.

    Point - September 2018

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