Friday, November 10, 2006

Immigration and the Church

In the past 5-10 years, immigrants from many parts of the world have begun to stream into Spain, especially from Latin America, Eastern Europe and North Africa. As a result, the majority of evangelical churches have seen a great influx of new attendees, many of which come from countries with a much higher percent of evangelical Christians than Spain. It is unusual to find a growing congregation in Spain today that does not have at least 20-30% foreign attendance, and in many cases, well over 50%. This has been a cause of revitalization in many churches, as well as a new opportunity for social ministry. It has also brought with it many challenges, as the socio-cultural makeup of many churches has been dramatically altered in a short period of time.

In a special conference held in 2003 at the Baptist Seminary in Madrid on "The Churches and Immigration," various Spanish and Latin American evangelical leaders weighed in on the implications of this new situation for the Church in Spain. I believe that much of what was shared holds true for evangelicals in the USA as well. Especially poignant, in my opinion, are the following words (which I have translated from Spanish) by Spanish Pastor and Seminary Professor Emmanuel Buch Cami, from his discourse entitled "A Pastoral Perspective on Immigration":

It is necessary to continue to warn against the creation of immigrant ghettos within the churches and against every substitute for true Christian fellowship. In the New Testament, the local church is a "space for fellowship," a place of meeting and integration established by Jesus Christ in order to embody God’s purpose of inviting all mankind to become one people in Christ, excluding no one, without exception. Immigrants are the perfect test case for measuring the faithfulness of each church to the New Testament model, free of nationalistic, linguistic, or class-bound ties. Immigrants are a challenge in the face of the temptation to lock ourselves up in "towers of Babel" that isolate us from one another; rather, they
encourage us to seek more of the Spirit of Pentecost that unites us, the Spirit of Christ Jesus, Lord of the church.


In the church, the community of the Spirit, no one is a foreigner. Every Christian, no matter what may be his/her place of origin or condition, has a place at the Father’s table, and no one should be banished to remain in the entryway of the house. This "anthropology of brotherhood" is based on the fatherhood of God. All of us are invited, nothing more, nothing less, to the table. The table does not belong to anyone but the Father who calls us each as equals. That is one of the images that the celebration of the Lord’s Table conveys. The sentiment that "outsiders are going to end up kicking us insiders out" is foreign to the church of Christ, who only knows of community under the shadow of the cross. If the church does not learn to give forth an effort at extending a welcome, "lengthening [its] cords" and "strengthening [its] stakes" (Isaiah 54.2), if the church limits itself to "renting out" its premises, but not sharing them, then it becomes irrelevant in its incarnation and proclamation of the Kingdom.

I wonder if there is anything more urgent today, for Christ’s honor and for the extension of the Gospel, than for the Church to be what it ought to be, and that it be seen as such, as what it already is by God’s purpose and Christ’s work: one united and new humanity, a model of human community, a family of reconciled brothers and sisters that love their Father and love one another, the visible dwelling place of God by way of His Spirit. Only then will the world believe that Jesus is the peacemaker. Only then will God receive the glory due to His name.

5 comments:

Les Puryear said...

David,

I love this statement: "In the church, the community of the Spirit, no one is a foreigner."

What a wonderful biblical view of immigration. Thanks for posting this. I've got to link over here so my readers can be sure an see this.

Les

GuyMuse said...

AMEN to both yesterday and today's posts. I think it is important that you are sharing these Biblical perspectives for what is a global reality. Instead of fighting what is, we must embrace what God is doing in bringing the nations to us.

In a sense He is facilitating us in the "making of disciples of the nations." Even here in Ecuador there is a large influx of Chinese, Arabs, and other Asians. If it is hard to get into China, God is hearing prayers and sending the Chinese to us! We have a full-time IMB M working here in G with the Chinese. That is what is happening around the world. People are constantly moving to where they think they can find a better life for themselves. There in Spain (as you well know) there are tens of thousands of Ecuadorians. Many of them are finding the Savior there. These same people would not be as receptive to the Gospel here in their own country as they are being far away and feeling lonely and disconnected. Thanks for helping us in our task!

I just hope many pastors and churches will read your past two posts and that the Lord would open all our eyes to what He is doing these days in bringing the nations to our very doorsteps.

Gary Snowden said...

Excellent post, David. It prompted me to think about F. F. Bruce's commentary in Spanish on Ephesians that is entitled, "La Nueva Humanidad." He sees a central teaching in Ephesians being that God's purpose is to form a new humanity in which the old divisions of race, socio-economic status, etc. disappear.

trey atkins said...

David,

Super thoughts on the body of Christ and the impact of immigration upon the church.

A multi-cultural church brings a richness and diversity which strengthens, not weakens, the body.

Thanks for taking the time to build up that body through your writing.

Trey

foxofbama said...

David:
Noble thought. You and I have our differences, and I may never be able to forgive your Dad for doing what he did to my dad and Bill Self's Convention.
However, none of us hold all the truth and in honor of your pilgrimage and the work of Almighty God in the world which is bigger than Adrian Rogers, Bill Self and my late Dad, Billy Fox; in all sincerity let me with strongest conviction recommend to you Tim Tyson's Blood Done Sign my Name. It will help you resolve some of the legacy of Bellevue I have to believe must trouble you when it comes to Race; and with Carol Swain's, Vandy Proff, evangelical black woman, will help you with the guts as you form a realpolitik to engage the conundrum for the church catholic you have raised.