How To Reach Out to Diaspora Peoples
One of the undeniable realities of the 20th and 21st centuries is the global phenomena of diaspora peoples – People on the Move. The scale and scope of the diaspora phenomenon has escalated in recent years and today 3% of the global population lives in countries in which they were not born. The latest research reveals that around the globe, 200 million people now live and work outside their homeland. People in acute crisis and seeking economic opportunities are part of the People on the Move.
With so many people from so many origins moving in so many directions and landing in so many destinations, planned or unplanned, it could be concluded that we are fast becoming a “borderless world.” We believe that the Triune God in His sovereignty is moving people so that they may seek Him and know Him. Reaching the People on the Move is both an urgent necessity and an amazing opportunity for Christians and churches. This certainly is a new paradigm in the mission of the contemporary Church.
The simple and straightforward strategy that follows is undergirded by a solid biblical and theological base outlined in “The Theology of Diaspora” paper included in the booklet Scattered to Gather: Embracing the Global Trend of Diaspora. If a Christian or a congregation applies this seven-step strategy, launching a ministry to diaspora peoples will become a reality. Our appeal to all Christians, local congregations, mission agencies, the academy, and the marketplace is to work together and empower kingdom diaspora workers for the diaspora fields are truly ripe for the harvest.
STEP #1: EMBRACE THE VISION FOR THE DIASPORA PEOPLES
- Diaspora phenomenon is a growing global and local reality.
- The scope of the diaspora phenomena is immense and the opportunity to reach them with the gospel unprecedented.
- Scriptures reveal that it is the intentional purpose of God that the diaspora strategy be employed.
- The Great Commission of the Lord Jesus includes the evangelization of the diaspora.
- Each diaspora group provides both an accessible mission field and a potential mission force.
- People on the move are more open to change and are often receptive to the gospel.
- The primary agency for the evangelization of the people on the move is the Church of Jesus Christ in its local and global presence.
- The gospel fits into any culture and background but the Church has to contextualize it for the respective diaspora group.
- Evangelization of the People on the Move calls for focused intentionality, urgent passion, and strategic practical action.
- Reaching an individual or a group with the gospel can have far-reaching consequences for kingdom advancement.
STEP #2:ENSURE THE RIGHT ATTITUDES
Attitudes are important and powerful in life, relationships, and ministry. The following are seven questions that will help you and your congregation to assess your readiness to reach out to diaspora people:
- Do you have a patronizing attitude toward other cultures, races, and ethnic groups?
- Are you racially prejudiced or ethnocentric?
- Has the influx of people from other cultures, races, and ethnic groups paralyzed you or excited you to evangelize them?
- Are you ready to embrace diversity of culture and ministry to all cultural, racial, or ethnic groups?
- Have you embraced loving hospitality as a vital spiritual principle of Christian life and ministry? (Matt. 25:35; Rom. 12:13; 1 Peter 4:9; Heb. 13:2)
- Are you an active part of a nurturing community who worships and learns together, loves and serves each other and together? (Acts 2:42-47; 1 Peter 1:22, 3:8; 4:8-11
STEP #3 – EXPLORE YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD
Increasingly, diaspora people are moving into all kinds of environments. Often, people are unaware of the changes taking place in their everyday world. Here are some questions to help diagnose who really is your neighbor in your work, residential, or leisure world?
- Who are the diaspora people in your neighborhood?
- What are the lands of their origin?
- What is the size of each diaspora group?
- Why did they come? Or what factors brought them here?
- What is the heart language or mother tongue of the diaspora people(s)?
- What generations are represented among them?
- What are their religious affiliations?
- Have they established worship places?
- Are there some Christian believers among them?
- What are their educational levels?
- Where are they vocationally/professionally?
- What is their receptivity level to the gospel?
- What are their felt/immediate needs?
- How can you meet these felt/immediate needs and begin to build meaningful relationships with them?
- Who else can you partner with you to reach them?
STEP #4 – ENGAGE IN HOLISTIC MINISTRY
- Treat all people with mutual respect, dignity, and generosity.
- Work collaboratively with people of all backgrounds on issues of common concern (e.g., youth issues, drug abuse, housing, unemployment, racism, etc.)
- Encourage various diaspora groups to work together to face common challenges and serve their communities.
- Pursue partnerships with other churches and Christian agencies which share expertise, materials, personnel, prayer, and resources for training.
- Work intentionally in partnership with governments and non-governmental agencies (NGOs) whenever possible, where Bible truth and practice are not compromised.
- Approach ministry with extreme creativity and flexibility.
- Extend ministry to diaspora people on existing ministry initiatives.
- Seek to provide advocacy services and legal expertise for those who are victims of injustice – the refugees, sinned against, the trafficked people, the powerless, etc.
- Provide material, emotional and psychological support, and trauma counseling for the vulnerable.
STEP #5 – EQUIP FOR EFFECTIVE MINISTRY
- Help the local church realize that it is a landing place for diaspora people and a launching pad for diaspora ministries.
- Make believers aware of the scope and the available avenues of ministries to diaspora people.
- Keep believers informed of timely and true information about challenges and progress of ministry.
- Ensure spiritual growth and vitality are regularly experienced by believers.
- Mobilize intercession and spiritual warfare praying for the advance of the kingdom.
- Provide training to increase cross-cultural competence of believers.
- Equip believers to be able to share their personal testimony succinctly.
- Enhance the believer’ skills in cross-cultural hospitality.
- Train Christians to engage in culturally-sensitive and contextual evangelism and discipleship.
- Provide appropriate culture-sensitive and language-specific resources for effective outreach and discipleship.
- Expose key language-specific resources available on the internet for evangelism and discipleship.
- Explore ways to open doors and use contact points to the gospel to them.
STEP #6 – ENCOURAGE BUILDING GENUINE RELATIONSHIPS
- Identify with the people of the diasporas and get involved with them on a personal level.
- Take risks and build genuine cross-cultural relationships.
- Provide loving hospitality to care for their felt and immediate needs.
- Get to know the diaspora peoples and their original cultural contexts.
- Find believers who can communicate with them in their mother tongue or heart language.
- Seek to expose your faith but not to impose your faith on them.
- Pray for guidance of the Holy Spirit to share the good news of Jesus with them.
- Ensure Christianity that is shared is Bible-based but culture-based.
STEP #7 – EMPOWER THE DIASPORA CHRISTIANS OR CHURCHES FOR MISSION
- Present to the diaspora Christians or churches the vision, advantages, and opportunities for mission.
- Instill a missionary vision and foster an environment of mission.
- Plan relationship-building opportunities with the diaspora to implement the Great Commission locally.
- Identify and train diaspora leaders.
- Cooperate with mission agencies to provide theological training in the respective mother tongue.
- Employ distance learning and electronic means to train potential Christian workers.
- Network partnerships with Christians and churches in countries of origin.
- Cultivate partnerships with host country churches to engage in mission.
- Create focused prayer networks for ministry effectiveness.
- Link with national, regional, or global Christian diaspora networks when possible.
I hope that this seven-step strategy has motivated you to begin reaching diaspora people in your world with God’s good news. Try it and you will enjoy the thrilling adventure! Diaspora people are winnable for our Lord Jesus Christ!
(Editor’s note: This first appeared in the Lausanne Movement publication, Scattered to Gather: Embracing the Global Trend of Diaspora [LifeChange Publishing, Inc., Manila, Philippines and Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, 2010]. It is used with permission of the publishers.)
Sadiri Joy Tira is chair of the Global Diaspora Network and senior associate for diasporas with Lausanne.