Welcoming the Stranger Inside Immigration

A Missional Opportunity
• The Great Commission compels us to share
the gospel with people of every nation
– Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV)
Go therefore and make disciples of all
nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and
of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to
observe all that I have commanded you.
– Immigration brings the nations to our doorsteps
– Migration advances God’s Kingdom in multiple
• Those who do not know Jesus—with a nominal faith or
even from an entirely unreached people group—
understand the gospel for the first time in a new
• Those with a vibrant Christian faith bring it with them
to their new country, reviving churches and sharing
the gospel with those who do not know Christ
A Missional Opportunity
• The movement of people is not an accident,
but part of God’s plan to draw people to
– Acts 17:26-27 (NIV 1984)
From one man he made every nation of men, that they
should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the
times set for them and the exact places where they
should live. God did this so that men would seek him and
perhaps reach out for him and find him
– But many churches are missing this divinelyappointed missional opportunity, because too
many North American Christians see immigration
as a threat
– Our attitude toward immigrants—whether one of
welcome and love or fear and scorn—will impact
how the gospel we proclaim is received
A Missional Opportunity
• The total number of international migrants has increased over
the last 10 years from an estimated 150 million in 20002 to 214
million persons today
North America and Europe have received more than half of the
newcomers: As of 2010, about a third of all international migrants
live in Europe, and nearly a quarter reside in North America.
A Missional Opportunity
Indeed, among the 159 countries with populations of 1 million or
more, the United States ranks 26th in the percentage of residents who
were born abroad.
By comparison, first-generation (foreign-born) immigrants make up
more than 20% of the population in Australia (ranks 12th) and
Canada (ranks 13th), two other countries that historically have
attracted a large number of immigrants.
A Missional Opportunity
• Over the past ten years, the USA has seen an
unprecedented number of immigrants coming to its
• In 2011, there were of a total of 1,062,040 persons
granted legal permanent resident status. 481,948 of
them (45.4%) were new arrivals.
• Although the USA ranks 26th in the percentage of
residents who were born abroad compared to 159
countries (with populations of 1 million or more), in
terms of sheer numbers, the USA receives more
immigrants than any other country.
A Missional Opportunity
• Many people come to the USA to study.
There were 723,277 international students
at U.S. colleges and universities during the
2010-11 academic year.
• The USA also admits humanitarian migrants,
and including refugees fleeing. In FY 2011,
the USA admitted 56,424 refugees.
• It’s also estimated that 17,500 people are
A Missional Opportunity
“86% of the immigrant population in North America are
likely to either be Christians or become Christians. That’s
far above the national average… The immigrant
population actually presents the greatest hope for
Christian renewal in North America… This group that we
want to keep out is actually the group that we most
need for spiritual transformation… We shouldn’t see this
as something that threatens us. We should see this as a
wonderful opportunity.”
- Dr. Timothy Tennent
Missiologist & President, Asbury Theological Seminary
A Missional Opportunity
• A Missional Opportunity…
• that most North American Christians are
– Just 10% of evangelical churches in the US have
any sort of ministry or ministry partnership
focused on refugees or other immigrants (Hartford
Seminary Faith Communities Today Survey, 2010)
– Among churches actively reaching out to
immigrants, generally only a small fraction of the
congregation is engaged
A Missional Opportunity
• Why are so few North American
evangelicals seeing this missional
– Likely because many have accepted a
cultural narrative that sees immigration as a
• Most white evangelicals say immigration
“threatens traditional American customs and
values” and that immigrants are “a burden on
our country” (Pew Research Survey, 2010)
– And few think of immigration from a biblical
• Just 12% of white evangelicals say that their
views on immigration are primarily influenced
by their Christian faith
A Missional Opportunity
• Only 16% have ever heard about immigration from
their pastor—even though the Scriptures have
much to say on the topic
• Among white evangelicals who have heard immigration
discussed by their pastor, more heard a negative
message than a positive
• But among white evangelicals who have heard a
positive message, only 26.1% see immigrants as a threat,
compared to 50.7% of all white evangelicals
(Based on analysis of Pew Research Survey data by Ruth
Melkonian-Hoover, Gordon College)
A Missional Opportunity
• White evangelicals who worship alongside
immigrants are far less likely (19.6%) than those
without relationships (50.7%) to view immigrants
as a threat
• But evangelical churches in the USA are still
largely segregated (92.5%)
A Missional Opportunity
• This failure to embrace immigration as a missional
opportunity is not a uniquely American failure of
– European Christians are more likely than non-religious
Europeans to want to restrict immigration (according
to European Social Survey), even though many of
Europe’s largest & most vibrant churches are led &
comprised of immigrants
– Costa Rican Christians are often wary of Nicaraguan
migrants, whom many see as a threat to public
safety, economic wellbeing, and public health
– In Kenya, many Christians see the arrival of Muslim
Somali refugees as a threat
– In the mostly-Christian Mizoram State of India, Chin
refugees fleeing from persecution for their faith in
Burma are viewed as illegal immigrants
A Missional Opportunity
• Our attitudes and actions toward immigrants
has an enormous impact on how immigrants
hear the message of the gospel, for the
Great Commission.
• Christ’s command to make disciples of all the
nations (Matthew 28:19) – is “not just to be
assumed or to be taken for granted. It has to be
explicitly and constantly reminded.”
– Scattered to Gather
The Major Stumbling Blocks
• Economic
• Cultural
• Legal Status
• 1 John 4:18 (NIV)
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love
drives out fear…”
Economic Worries
• Biblical Truths
– Matthew 6:25, 33 (NIV)
“Do not worry about your life, what you will
eat or drink; or about your body, what you will
wear… But seek first his kingdom and his
righteousness, and all these things will be given
to you as well.”
– Luke 10:27 (NIV)
• “… Love your neighbor as yourself unless it is
not in your economic interest to do so.”
Economic Worries
• The Facts
– Immigration has a positive impact on the
American economy as a whole and on most
individual Americans
• 44 out of 46 economists surveyed by the Wall Street
Journal said that illegal immigration, in particular,
had “been beneficial to the economy”
• Immigrants bring some economic costs, but they
bring more economic benefits, contributing as
– Workers (typically in jobs that complement those done
by US citizens
– Consumers (immigrants are about 13% of the US
– Taxpayers (75% of undocumented immigrants pay
payroll taxes, according to Social Security
Administration, and they contributed $12 billion to Social
Security in 2007 alone, though ineligible for benefits)
Cultural Concerns
• Biblical Truths
– 1 Peter 2:11 (NIV 1984)
“Dear friends, I urge you,
as aliens and strangers in the world…”
– Philippians 3:20 (NIV)
“But our citizenship is in heaven…”
– Revelation 7:9 (NIV)
“After this I looked, and there before me
was a great multitude that no one could
count, from every nation, tribe, people and
language, standing before the throne and
before the Lamb.”
Cultural Concerns
• The Facts
– Immigrants bring cultural values that most
evangelical Christians should celebrate
• Compared to US citizens overall, for example,
Hispanic immigrants, for example, are
– More likely to attend church on a weekly basis
– More likely to be pro-life
• Immigrants are known for a strong work ethic
– Immigrants are 12.5% of US population but 15.8% of labor
– 96% of undocumented adult males are employed, much
higher than for either US citizens or authorized immigrants
• While it takes some time, almost all contemporary
immigrants learn English fluently within a generation
– 88% of second-generation Hispanic immigrants speak
English fluently
Legal Status Issues
• Biblical Truths
– Romans 13:1(NIV)
“Let everyone be subject to the governing
authorities, for there is no authority except that
which God has established.”
– Romans 12:2 (NIV)
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be
transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
– Leviticus 19:33-34 (CEB)
“When immigrants live in your land with you, you
must not cheat them. Any immigrant who lives with
you must be treated as if they were one of your
citizens. You must love them as yourself, because
you were immigrants in the land of Egypt.”
Legal Status Issues
– A slight majority of the undocumented are from Mexico,
but there are undocumented immigrants from every
country, including:
• 2 in 9 Korean immigrants
• 1 in 6 Chinese, Vietnamese, & Filipino immigrants
• 1 in 7 Indian immigrants
Legal Status Issues
• The Facts
– Immigrants enter or overstay unlawfully
because, in many cases, there was no
lawful possibility for them to enter
• Until 1882, there was no illegal immigration
because there was no federal immigration law
• There was no need for a visa until the 1920s
• But now, immigrant visas are available through
four basic paths
Refugee Status
Diversity Visa Lottery
• Many do not fit into any of these categories…
but still find work when they arrive
Legal Status Issues
• The Facts
– Immigrants enter or overstay unlawfully
because, in many cases, there was no
lawful possibility for them to enter
• Until 1882, there was no illegal immigration
because there was no federal immigration law
• There was no need for a visa until the 1920s
• But now, immigrant visas are available through
four basic paths
Refugee Status
Diversity Visa Lottery
• Many do not fit into any of these categories…
but still find work when they arrive
Legal Status Issues
• Many evangelical leaders advocate
Immigration Reform that would address
these fundamental problems in our visa
system and restore the rule of law, which
Romans 13 commends to us
• Comprehensive Immigration Reform would
– Make it harder to immigrate unlawfully
– Make it easier to immigrate lawfully
• To meet needs of U.S. labor market and economy
• To keep families together
– Allow the undocumented to come forward, pay
a fine for having violated the law, and earn
permanent legal status and eventual citizenship
over the course of several years
Evangelical Immigration Table
Paul Cedar, Chair and CEO, Mission America Coalition
Jim Daly, President and CEO, Focus on the Family
Leith Anderson, President, National Association of Evangelicals
Stephan Bauman, President and CEO, World Relief
David Beckmann, President, Bread for the World
Noel Castellanos, CEO, Christian Community Development Association
Luis Cortés, President, Esperanza
Richard Land, President, Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
Samuel Rodriguez, President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
Gabriel Salguero, President, National Latino Evangelical Coalition
Jim Wallis, President and CEO, Sojourners
George Wood, General Superintendent, General Council of the Assemblies of
Bryant Wright, Former President, Southern Baptist Convention
Alec Hill, President and CEO, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA
Gregory C.V. Johnson, President and Founder, Standing Together
Jim Liske, CEO, Prison Fellowship Ministries
Alejandro Mandes, Director of Hispanic Ministries, Evangelical Free Church
Jim Mellado, President, Willow Creek Association
Russell Moore, Dean of the School of Theology, Southern Baptist Theological
Richard J. Mouw, President, Fuller Theological Seminary
Timothy George, Dean, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University
Danny Akin, President, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Two Contrasting
Biblical Responses to Immigrants
• Pharaoh of Joseph’s Time
• Recognized that an immigrant—Joseph—could bring opportunity
and blessing to his land (Genesis 41)
• Responded with welcome, offering the best of the land (Genesis
• Pharaoh of Moses’ Time
• Saw immigrants as a threat to be feared (Exodus 1:9)
• Benefited from immigrants’ labor while despising them as people
(Exodus 1:11-14)
• Eventually decided that some would have to go—instigating a
genocide of male Israelite babies (Exodus 1:22)
• But some of the foreigners subverted the law (Exodus 2) and
resorted to deception
Two Contrasting
Historical Responses to Immigration
Why should [immigrants]
establish their Language and
Manners to the Exclusion of
ours? Why should Pennsylvania,
founded by the English, become
a Colony of Aliens who will
shortly be so numerous as to
[change] us instead of our
Anglifying them, and will never
adopt our Language or
Customs, any more than they
can acquire our complexion?
— Benjamin Franklin, 1751, referring to the
German immigrants “invading”
The bosom of America is open
to receive not only the opulent
and respectable stranger, but the
oppressed and persecuted of all
nations and religions, whom we
shall welcome to participate to
all of our rights and privileges,
if by decency and propriety of
conduct they appear to merit the
— George Washington, 1783,
addressing a group of Irish immigrants
Responding to the
Missional Opportunity
Responding to the
Missional Opportunity
• Prayer & Learning
– Text “G92” to 877877 to learn about the “I
Was a Stranger…” Challenge
• For yourself, for 40 consecutive days,
commit to prayer and to reading one
Scripture passage per day about God’s
heart for immigrants
• Ask your church to do the same!
– Come to tomorrow’s G92 workshop—”Thinking
Theologically about Immigration,” with Matthew
Soerens and Lisa Sharon Harper—at 2 PM in America’s
Center Room 230-231
Responding to the
Missional Opportunity
• Learning:
– Get involved with
• Organize a G92 on YOUR campus!
Visit G92.org & sign up for email updates
Like “G92 Movement” on
Follow @G92Movement on
Talk to or email Daniel Watts, G92’s
coordinator, at [email protected] for ideas on
mobilizing your campus
• Attend a G92 conference
– Spring 2013 conferences in Texas, Minnesota, and
Responding to the
Missional Opportunity
• Education
– Mobilize your campus and/or church to
join in the “I Was a Stranger…” Challenge
• Download a toolkit at G92.org
– Lead a small group through the
“Welcoming the Stranger” Learning group
• Online at www.welcomingthestranger.com for
purchase or free digital download
• Includes 9 sessions focused Scripture, mission,
undocumented immigrants, refugees, and
foreign-born victims of human trafficking,
among other topics
Responding to the
Missional Opportunity
• Advocacy
• “On the one hand, we are called to play the Good
Samaritan on life's roadside, but that will be only an
initial act. One day we must come to see that the
whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men
and women will not be constantly beaten and
robbed as they make their journey on life's highway.
True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a
beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which
produces beggars needs restructuring.”
(Martin Luther King, Jr., April 1967)
Responding to the
Missional Opportunity
• Advocacy
– Contact your Representative, your
Senators, and the President to advocate
for just policies
• Visit go.sojo.net/campaign/ccir to find out who
they are and send a message in minutes
• Consider asking for a meeting—and then ask
your elected official to also participate in the “I
Was a Stranger…” Challenge
– Text “G92” to 877877
– Email [email protected]
• Receive advocacy emails, action alerts
Responding to the
Missional Opportunity
• Service & Evangelism
– Welcome immigrants into your
• Look for opportunities to volunteer with
newly-arrived refugees or other immigrants
• Visit www.worldrelief.org/us to find a World
Relief office near you or visit our exhibit
Responding to the
Missional Opportunity
• Go Deeper
– Websites
• G92.org – regularly updated blog, basic info
on immigration, films, experiences,
conference info & registration, & more
• www.WelcomingTheStranger.com –
includes 9-session Learning Group guide for
free download or purchase
• www.EvangelicalImmigrationTable.com –
includes an Evangelical Statement of
Principles for Immigration Reform signed by
many prominent Christian leaders
Responding to the
Missional Opportunity
• Go Deeper
– Book
• Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion
and Truth in the Immigration Debate
(InterVarsity Press, 2009), by Matthew Soerens
and Jenny Yang
Follow us @Twitter:
World Relief
@World Relief

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