In the past year, immigration has regularly been at the top of the headlines. Much of the news coverage has focused on various social problems that some folks associate with immigration, and particularly with illegal immigration: crime, unemployment, governmental fiscal crises, disease, etc. Beyond the negative headlines, though, many evangelical leaders have recognized that immigration is gradually breathing new life into churches across the country; in the process, they’re also finding that many of the media-driven stereotypes about undocumented immigrants are inconsistent with the realities in their congregations.
Many evangelical leaders have spoken out in the past year, challenging Christ-followers to extend hospitality to the immigrants arriving in their communities, and encouraging our government to put into place policies that balance a respect for the rule of law with compassion for undocumented immigrants.
While many evangelical leaders have thoughtfully studied the issue and made bold pronouncements, though, it is not necessarily trickling down to the pews. Sadly, according to recent research by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, just 12% of white evangelicals in the U.S. say that their views on immigration are informed primarily by their faith. This statistic is confirmed by my personal experience: as I speak about the immigration issue in churches throughout the U.S., I find that most Christians have thought about immigration as a political, economic, and social issue, but few have considered it from a biblical perspective—even though Scripture has much to say in relation to how the “alien” in the land should be treated.
I believe this lack of critical, biblical thinking around the immigration issue—and around immigrants themselves, especially undocumented immigrants—is a tragedy, because immigration presents an enormous missional opportunity for the Church. Jesus’ Great Commission is to “go and make disciples of all nations.” Through immigration, the nations show up at our doorstep. These immigrants, as missiologists will tell you, are amongst the most receptive groups of people to the gospel—but, unfortunately, most immigrants are not being welcomed at present. If non-immigrant believers are not challenged to welcome and reach out to immigrants, we risk missing a divinely-appointed mission on our doorstep.
Your role in g92.org is crucial for its effectiveness. First, we’d love for you to use the resources were creating to further educate yourself and prayerfully consider the direction you lead your church. Secondly, share your learnings with those on your church staff and begin an open conversation about the issue. Thirdly, we’d love for you to share the coming films with your congregation. Together, we can become a Church living out Scripture and influence the way America views immigrants.
US Church Training Specialist, World Relief
Coauthor, Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate