“The history of humanity is defined in part by the migration of individuals, families and entire communities. Since time immemorial, natural disasters, economic need, armed conflict, political and religious persecution, racial and cultural marginalization — among other factors —- have generated relocation within national or ethnic boundaries or across borders.” Daniel Rodas.
One of God’s age old spiritual strategies to romance and challenge people to encounter and embrace Jesus is His sovereign placement in His sovereign time in sovereign circumstances. Paul said it this way when announcing God’s intentions on Mars Hill in Acts 17:25-27. “God is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He Himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man He made every nation of men, to inhabit the whole earth; and He determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God intended that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.”
I began to realize the sovereign placement, time and circumstantial links vocationally when we moved into the International Church ministry. Seems God needed to stamp the diaspora tutorial personally into my heart before I could see how the migration of individuals, families and entire communities was orchestrated from God rather than some haphazard fate coincidence. God is the Mastermind behind all people moving everywhere according to His time.
During the autumn of 1997 I began discussions with the Christian and Missionary Alliance about the possibility of an International Church posting. Options included Rabat Morocco, Warsaw Poland, Mexico City and Bandung Indonesia. Debbie and I had been missionary candidates for ten years and already served in three local churches: two in Canada and one in the United States. Our departure overseas had been delayed because of health challenges.
While delayed I was able to complete my doctoral studies through Leighton Ford Ministries and Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. This proved to be God’s way of providing “focus time” to what later evolved into the God sized dream of strengthening the International Church movement for missional impact. Any other location chosen, any other circumstance, any other time commissioned, would not have allowed, “focus time” for the International Church.
We landed in Bandung Indonesia and I was immediately contracted as an adjunct professor in Jakarta’s Robert Jaffery Seminary because my doctorate was completed. This posting provided legitimate immigration status to also function as the full-time Bandung International Church Pastor without daily commitments to a veneer visa. God’s timing, placement and context is always best.
I dreamed that the International Church should engage with the pre-believing world. I intended to communicate Christ so that Indonesian Muslims would be saved, discipled, equipped and commissioned. My actual question then was: “How does an International Church do evangelism in her own backyard?” My assumption and question was naïve.
Twenty years ago the International Church around the globe was like a religious camp surrounded by a security fence prohibiting outsiders from coming in or insiders from going out. This fortress mentality needed to be biblically challenged. The Great Commission was ironically not enough to change the International Church paradigm.
A broader Biblical foundation was necessary to begin the upstream educational journey towards strengthening the International Church for missional impact. So, I started in Genesis and later read the Hebrews commentary on the first significant migration narrative of an individual, family and community.
By an act of faith, Abraham said yes to God’s call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home. When he left he had no idea where he was going. By an act of faith he lived in the country promised him, lived as a stranger camping in tents. Isaac and Jacob did the same, living under the same promise. Abraham did it by keeping his eye on an unseen city with real, eternal foundations—the City designed and built by God. Hebrews 11:8 MSG
When I think through the lens of scripture I am more convinced, convicted and compelled now than ever that God has called the International Church to meet people on the move. God moves people geographically so they will engage with Him spiritually.
God moved one man Abraham, his wife Sarah and their community to create a nation that would follow Him. God is still doing this today. I am excited about the International Church today because I have learned that God moves people as a “set up” to encounter Christ that would otherwise not happen. God moves people so people can move to God. The International Church is smack dab in the middle of the journey of hundreds of thousands of moving people who can encounter Christ if we will seize the diaspora moment.
In 2 Chronicles 20:6-7, Isaiah 41:8 and James 2:23 we read three separate Bible writers defining and describing Abraham as “God’s friend! “What a legacy! What an epitaph! God’s friend Abraham is a diaspora narrative that speaks directly to the “set up” God orchestrates with “people on the move.” Abraham was God’s called coordinator, stage manager, choreographer. He was used to call a people towards God. God called Abraham “His friend” in part because he agreed to the diaspora means, God’s means. By obeying God’s call, Abraham was actively participating in God’s agenda. From Genesis onward, God is rewarding His value of lost people. God intends spiritually disengaged people to engage with Him through the diaspora. Abraham cooperated and and was used to help people encounter and embrace God.
There is a direct co-relation from God’s ancient diaspora strategy to today. The blue sky view of Biblical history describes God’s intent then and now in the Abraham narrative. Abraham and Sarah like 21st century expatriates were called by God to pick up and move to keep their eyes on the “unseen city with real, eternal foundations—the City designed and built be God. Where the International Church is established and impacting there are expatriates that traveled like Abraham and have spent extended time, effort and expense building into the city of God.
Linking into the sovereign appointments of God undoubtedly includes the amazing ways that God steers His will through good and bad, obedience and disobedience, gracious acts of kindness and diabolical intentions of evil.
This sovereignty of God is clearly seen in the historic context of the International Baptist Church (IBC) in Stuttgart Germany is a terrific example of building the city God. Follow the following story.
From exclusive American military chapel to International Church in post-modern Europe. From a US officer only to a thriving International Church with two standing room only services with accompanying linked in simulcasts. IBC Stuttgart is about to begin a multi-million euro building program.
Adolf Hitler’s personal decision to combine the foreign Brethren and Baptists respective statement of faith together to pay a percentage of their budget to the German Baptist Church provided legal IBC presence status from then until now.
General Erwin Rommel nicknamed “Dessert Fox” was implicated in the failed Hitler assassination attempt Operation Valkyrie. Due to Rommel’s status as a national hero in WWI through to and including WWII Hitler desired to eliminate him quietly and gave him a choice. Suicide via a cyanide pill in return for the assurance that his family would not be executed following a trial that would result in his disgrace and family’s termination He chose suicide.
Rommel was from the Stuttgart region of Germany and after WWI his son, Manfred, became the mayor of Stuttgart. In order for IBC to gain approval of IBC present land that needed rezoning, it had to have approval from the Stuttgart City Council. Without Manfred Rommel’s support and signature it would not have passed.
In this context people on the move since WWII have been used as a part of IBC to transition an exclusive US officers military chapel into an International church rescuing trafficked women because German recently legalized prostitution.
Lana Packer, wife of Senior Pastor David Packer at IBC started “Kainos:” a ministry offering “new birth” to women trafficked to Stuttgart. Lana writes, “We believe that God has brought the world to us with girls coming from Asia, Latin America, Africa, Europe! We are an international team, speaking many different languages, and reaching girls from around the world. It is not just the words that we use, but communicating culturally and non verbally in a way that they can hear that there is a new life available for them.” KAINOS: new life, totally new, not just redesigned.
How does this happen? Senior Pastor David Packer would tell you in part because some expatriates picked up, moved and stayed in Stuttgart. They realized God had moved them to build the “unseen city with real, eternal foundations—the City designed and built be God.
The Fellowship in Dubai United Arab Emirates is another example. From one independent White Western gathering of 39 Caucasians less than ten years ago to a multi service, multi-cite International Church composed of multiple countries, cultures, colours, and classes of people from around the globe. The Fellowship worships in hotel venues to accommodate 3500 ++ people from over 85 nations in the heart of Dubai UAE. The Fellowship is a burgeoning missionally minded International Church bringing light to the darkness.
How does this happen? Senior Pastor Jim Burgess would tell you in part because some expatriates picked up, moved and stayed in Dubai for the duration of the Fellowships transition from a docile single ethnos service into a multi-cultured mega International Church. Those expatriates realized God had moved them to build the “unseen city with real, eternal foundations—the City designed and built be God.
The International Church was first found described as a local church in Acts 13:1-3, Antioch was a meeting place where commercial trade of the day attracted journeying business people. These brief three verses of scripture again tell the diaspora narrative where Jews encountered Gentiles and together they reached the nations. Heaven will be people from every tribe, tongue and nation….the City designed and built by God. Linking into the Sovereign appointments of God requires awareness, intention and follow up.
QUESTIONS FOR CONSIDERATION:
- When was the last time you took a detailed inventory of the intersections of time, place and people that God determined for you and worshiped our sovereign God for doing so?
- Are you as aware of your intersection with the diaspora as God has called you to be? Are you tuned into who is moving where and why? Does this realization actually change the course of your day, week, month, year and life?
- How are you motivating and mobilizing diaspora followers of Jesus so that they can answer God’s calling into the greatest intersection of colliding and collecting nations ever in the history of mankind?
- What about Abraham’s obedience to God speaks to you today? Why?