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Loving God, neighbor and the foreigner among us

Posted by David Manske , 25 October 2013 · 1244 views

My family is a “typical American” family. One side of my own genealogy goes back to the late 1700s, the other side begins with German immigration in the mid-1860s. My wife is a second-generation American. My son is foreign born. My daughter is a “third-culture-kid.” America is rooted in immigration, (see attached graph) yet the American church is slow to love her new neighbors. Fewer than 8% of US evangelical churches are truly “multi-cultural” (Spiritual Formation and Multiethnic Congregations by Kevin Gushiken in the Journal of Spiritual Formation & Soul Care, V4,N2)

Some pundits state that by 2050 (others say 2030) there will be no majority ethnicity in the US. This country receives four-times more immigrants than the second highest recipients of immigrants. There are about 43 million immigrants in the US (http://peoplemov.in/#t_US). We hear the facts. We see the stats. How is the church doing at loving her neighbor?

Recently, I heard a great challenge by Leith Anderson, current NAE president. He challenged us by citing 3 commands to love from the Old Testament. The list is short. Only three “people” are we commanded to love -- our God, our neighbor, and the foreigner (immigrant) among us! (listen to the podcast) Anderson gives a great challenge to the church. Actually...a challenge to each of us.

George Garner of the NAMB wrote in his “white paper” entitled, “Reaching Rural America” that the church must “strategically identify every pocket of lostness” in it’s community. This means reaching the “new-comers, up-comers and old-timers,” which he described as: new-comers being immigrant, up-comers as next generation, and old-timers as unreached who are “sour” on religion.

Last year I was speaking in a church about church planting and missions. After I finished, someone complemented me by calling my message “courageous.” Hmmm, after years of sermons, that was the first time I’d heard that descriptor used. I asked the lady to unpack her comment...and then I understood. My message had called for the congregation to love their neighbors, many of whom are Somali immigrants. Then, a greater realization fell on me...if we can’t love our neighbors, nor the foreigners in our land, how can we truly have a missionary heart? Sure, we can send IWs. We can send money. But, do we really “get” it? Do we really understand “why” we embrace the missionary enterprise with compassion (or passion)?

A year ago I heard a popular evangelical speaker allude to the fact that the future of the evangelical church in the US may very well depend on the newcomers’ (immigrants’) faith! As an example, he pointed out that in 2011, nearly 67% of conversions in the US were among Spanish speakers. Two weeks ago I sat next to an Ethiopian pastor in our District, who humbly translated what was being said,”He’s reminding us that every Saturday morning we pray for God’s Spirit to revive the churches of the Twin Cities.” Wow! This group is praying - weekly - for 5-6 hours for God’s Spirit to visit us. What a contribution from our Ethiopian brethren! There’s more I could cite, but I think you get the picture!

Would you join in my prayer, and action, so that our local church and our Alliance is more reflective of the multitude reflected in Revelations 5? ...obedient in loving our neighbor and the foreigner in our midst? ...passionately pragmatic in our missionary commitment to reach all peoples with the glorious Gospel?

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