Moving Forward in Missions
Are you a missionary, or a church leader who supports missionaries? Are you on the staff of a missionary sending organization, or simply a local believer who wants to see God glorified among every tribe, people, nation, and tongue? Have you found your desires now confused and thrown into chaos due to the pandemic that has swept our entire globe?
In the past few months, our country and our world have been experiencing events never seen by this generation. The effects have impacted almost everyone on the planet. Hardships have come to local and global environments in countless ways. Almost every individual, business, and organization must now re-think what they are doing and how to adapt to make things better for their lives and the lives of employees.
What if God is doing something big through this re-thinking process? Could it be that He is using this season of complete unrest to challenge us to “think different” about missions? What if His heart for the nations has not changed but where He sends us to reach them has?
Would you take a moment to pray about and consider the people you, your church, or your organization were planning to move overseas to reach? Now, do a bit of research and investigate: are any of those people already here in North America? For example, you can move to Senegal to reach the Wolof people or you can move to New York City and enter a community of over 30,000 Wolof people who now make their home there2. This is the case in almost every major city in North America.
You might have been aware of unreached people groups existing overseas. However, when those people from unreached people groups leave their villages, cities, and countries and come to North America, they are still unreached. Just because they land in North America does not mean they are now automatically “reached.” Even though they are now across the street from us instead of across the world, they will still never have the incredible opportunity to hear the gospel or experience the loving community of the Church unless someone is intentional and willing to share with them and love them. The incredible thing about it is the fact that we can now share with them and love them without ever getting on a plane or boat to leave our country. We simply cannot afford to misunderstand this incredible opportunity before us, especially in our current global situation.
During this time, many missionaries and mission organizations have unanswered questions and are waiting for the world to go back to “normal.” Some missionaries have returned from host countries and others are waiting to go. There is an opportunity to reach the nations despite the new restrictions and unanswered questions.
Can I please suggest to you all, as well as the Church and all mission agencies to see unreached peoples in North American cities as an opportunity to reach? There is no need to sit around as missionaries waiting on things to return to “normal.” There is no reason not to continue mobilizing missionaries to reach the unreached when everything can continue with a simple strategy change that implements a focus on international refugees, immigrants, international students, and business people who now live among us from unreached people groups and places. If God has called missionaries to reach lost Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Tribal peoples, then we must realize that a global pandemic is not an excuse to sit back and do nothing because missions can happen among the unreached right here in North America.
As you consider this, could I also pose a question? What if one of the reasons for limiting travel and social movement at this present moment is God’s way of helping us see that the unreached are right down the street?
Reaching International Neighbors
Reaching out in love and friendship and sharing Jesus with our international neighbors is not only a Biblical idea, but God has a plan and a purpose for bringing them close to us. I have often thought that because the unreached are so hard to reach around the world, maybe God moved them right to us so that we have no excuse to reach them. My fear is we will just come up with new excuses during this time. Even now you might be thinking of international people you know or that you have seen at the store. You might even know other internationals such as coworkers, neighbors, or those you have seen at the park. Those people might be Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or even animistic. However, they are all in need of Jesus, and the opportunity that we have in front of us to share the love of Jesus with them is easier now than ever.
Before I continue, I do want to emphasis something. Ministering to unreached people groups is hard. That is why so many of these groups have remained unreached around the world (visit joshuaproject.org to see for yourself). There is little difference in reaching unreached peoples with the gospel here as compared to being a missionary and moving to their country and trying to reach them there. The only major differences that I can see are that the unreached are now functioning in your home culture, as opposed to their own, and they live close to you instead of a village only accessible by boat or a 24-hour airplane ride. Those who come to live here from unreached groups and areas of the world bring with them their original culture, worldviews, religious beliefs, experiences, and families. In a way, they bring a piece of Afghanistan or Somalia with them when they come.
As missionaries overseas, you must learn the language, understand the culture, and find contextualized ways to introduce them to Jesus and see gatherings of believers started. I do not want to surprise you, but this is the exact same process that you will need to go through as you reach them here in our North American cities. It is not an easy ministry task, but I assume you would agree that it’s a crucial one. If you choose to engage the unreached here, which I hope you do, you will find that you must balance the comfortableness of living in your host culture, while also learning to bridge and adjust into their foreign culture.
Food for Thought
Now, can I ask you a final question as an individual or family? What will you do now? Where will you go from here? Would you be willing to take steps out in faith and boldness to engage the unreached in your city? Would you be willing to move to a different city or state (which is a relatively short and easy move as compared to moving overseas) in order to live close or among a community of international peoples so that you can be the one that introduces them to the love of Jesus?
Can I also ask a few final questions to you as a church or mission organization? How will you respond to this time in our world? What would it take to turn more of your strategy and focus to reaching the unreached in North American cities? What steps could you take now to begin mobilizing and sending new and current missionaries to the unreached peoples that live in our North American cities?
If I can be of any assistance to you, your church, or your sending organization as you consider how you will implement this new focus and strategy, or about how to connect with churches and organizations that are already working in North American cities, please feel free to contact me at my email listed below.
By: Jordan Smith