What do we do about the immigration explosion? God has brought people from half the world to our doorstep. Over the decades up to 2016, almost a million refugees and immigrants from 96 countries — from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe — will have arrived in the Twin Cities. This number could almost double by 2040. 80% of immigrants don’t know Christ. This presents an unprecedented opportunity for the city’s 3,600 churches. We have discovered the Bread of life (John 6.35) — we would be heartless not to share it!
Will the church rise to the challenge? The biggest obstacles to mission might be our busyness, indifference or complacency. In Acts chapter 8, we read how the Holy Spirit had to get the newly birthed church out of its comfort zone to be Jesus’s witnesses, and spread the gospel. On the other hand, the apostle Paul risked life and limb for the gospel, contending with shipwreck, robbers, angry Gentiles and Jews, heresy, sleeplessness, hunger, thirst, cold and exposure, as well as imprisonments, beatings, lashings and stonings, which on occasion left him nearly dead (just read 2 Cor 11.23-28!) In more recent history, Adoniram Judson (missionary to Burma — modern Myanmar) and Jim Elliot (missionary to the Huaoroni people in Ecuador) left their comfort and safety for the sake of the gospel. Will we?
Could we boldly pray for the nations as Christ’s heritage? To Christ, the Lord says, “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage” (Psalm 2:8). Some considerations:
- Embrace God’s vision. God’s vision is enlivening and spirit-giving: inspiring awe, uniting, and guiding our endeavors. God is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us — Eph 3.20. Institutions without movements are lifeless. Start a multiplication-oriented gospel movement that will have an exponential impact. Research shows that new churches are five to eight times more evangelistically effective than older, established ones, so church planting is the most effective way to reach new people. To keep pace with population growth in the USA we need to plant 7,200 new churches a year — that’s just to keep up, let alone advance! The Twin Cities is an influential, strategic location, so in partnership with others, let’s plant and water and let the Lord provide the increase (1 Cor 3.6-7). Costly buildings and large overheads are not needed. If churches like Summit in Durham, NC, can successfully plant hundreds of churches, we can do it here too.
- Rely on God’s power. My word…shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it — Isaiah 55.11 As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me — John 15.4. As these passages show, God’s people rely on God’s power to accomplish God’s purposes.
- Use God’s gifts. You are not lacking in any spiritual gift, Paul wrote to the Corinthians (1 Cor 1.7). As churches engage and mobilize all Spirit-birthed gifts, callings and passions in the Body, people will discover outlets for their use amongst people flocking to our city. Find opportunities for God’s people to live out their faith amongst immigrants in all cultural domains, from education to medicine, government, business, justice, and recreation; or find opportunities to serve in areas of brokenness amongst the homeless, orphans, prisoners, unwed mothers, and school dropouts.
- Disciple children & young adults. Mission isn’t something we do — it’s who we are. Instill God’s vision for multiplication into our children. Let high school and college students spend a summer living and serving with a church planting team, so that they can learn what God is doing in our world and how they can be part of it. Use this time for intense discipleship, instilling spiritual disciplines such as Bible study, prayer and evangelism, as well as developing leadership through managing teams and planting churches. Passing the baton through leadership development is essential to the long-term success of the mission.
- Avoid paternalism like the plague! We are simply hungry beggars sharing Bread. Learn to be a true servant. Come alongside non-Christians to help solve problems together. This is a great opportunity to share common grace, learn from people with other experiences and world views, and develop long-term relationships characterized by friendship, service and prayer.
- Catalyze small groups for mission. Small groups and group leaders are the heart of an effective church. Provide training and opportunities for small groups to move into strategic areas together to sow and water, to help plant churches and bring about an outward-focused, inviting, authentic Christian community.
- Invite immigrants into our homes. It’s an easy thing to do. Many immigrants and refugees never develop friendships with Americans. 80% of international college students never set foot in an American home throughout their entire academic career! World leaders come to study at American universities, including the best and the brightest from closed countries — this presents a huge strategic opportunity for the Kingdom. Let’s not miss it!
How can Village Schools of the Bible help?
Village Schools comes alongside local churches as a partner and a catalyst, helping churches across the Twin Cities connect and mobilize, through Word-centered discipleship. God’s Word is God’s power (Heb 4.12). Therefore our core focus is to disciple people through God’s Word from Cover to Cover. In addition, we help people in practical ways apply their faith, every day, whatever their stage in life. Our goal is exponential impact through multiplication: to help churches make disciples who make disciples, and raise leaders who raise leaders in every walk of life. Every follower of Christ, and every church, was born to reproduce (2 Tim 2.2).
As we consider how rapidly the Twin Cities is changing, we’re pleased to have, among our teaching staff, a city researcher of the caliber of Dr. John Mayer, author of the annual CityView Report. This 185-page analysis of the Twin Cities is a powerful tool for cross-cultural outreach, strategic church planting, and movement development. Dr. Mayer’s consulting capabilities are sought after across the nation.
Village Schools of the Bible sees the changing face of the Twin Cities as a challenging — but exciting — opportunity for ministry, and, in partnership with others, we’re eager to help! We desire to partner with your church or organization to disciple the nations.
Ask of Me and I will make the nations your heritage. (Psalm 2.8)
- Downs, T. Finding Common Ground. Moody, 1999.
- Greear, J.D. Gaining by Losing. Zondervan, 2015.
- Mayer, J.A. CityView Report. City Vision, 2015.
(Written by Warwick Alcock, Director of Strategic Operations, Village Schools of the Bible.)