ETHNECITY–Reaching Our World at Home

Posted on February 8, 2012 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Rankin Connecting

We don’t live in Mayberry any longer! My quiet, little suburban home town deep in the Bible belt has slowly and subtly been invaded by people from all over the world. They don’t speak with a slow Southern drawl and sometimes their broken English is hard to understand. The most popular eating establishments don’t serve grits and catfish; sushi and tamales have become the fast food cuisine of choice.

We now have six Mexican restaurants, three Japanese eateries and two Chinese mega-buffets in town. South Asians from India manage our motels and operate the food marts at gasoline stations. Almost 300 students from China are on our local college campus. All of them need to know Jesus. The world has come to us. One no longer has to travel to foreign countries to be an Acts 1:8 witness to the ends of the earth. But are we?

I am amazed with the story of Pentecost, the powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit and 3,000 people being baptized in one day. But one of the most intriguing aspects of this is the fact “there were devout men from every nation under heaven gathered in Jerusalem” (Acts 2:5). The Bible goes on to name 14 of the people groups represented, including Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Cretans, Arabs and others from Cappadocia, Egypt and Libya. And the miraculous thing is that they heard the gospel in their own language!

Why would the disciples have been so surprised at this? Had not Jesus just told them a few days earlier that they were to make disciples of all nations? It was as if Jesus was saying, “This is what I was talking about. I want people from all over the world to hear the gospel, to come into the kingdom and be my disciples. I have brought them to you and demonstrated the power of my Spirit to transcend cultures. Now get on with the task!”

The disciples were slow to grasp the scope of the Great Commission and respond to that missions mandate. God later had to allow persecution to come in order to disperse them to the nations. Likewise, we have been slow in getting the gospel to every tribe, people, language and nation, but God is bringing them to us. Representatives of practically every unreached people group are to be found in America; they no longer live in an environment which restricts a Christian witness. They are free to hear and respond, but are we sharing the gospel with them.

Unfortunately, too many churches are working hard to to maintain and protect their comfortable homogenous fellowship. We may be conscientious about ministering to needy immigrant families in our neighborhood but are perplexed in trying to communicate our faith through the filter of Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu worldviews.

The International Mission Board, whose strategy focuses on affinity people groups around the world is working with the North American Mission Board in an unprecedented partnership to equip churches to reach the growing pluralism of our society. “Ethnecity” is a clever term for an appropriate project to confront the diverse ethnicity that is becoming more and more dominant in cities throughout America.

Team are trained to go into neighborhoods doing ethnographic research, and resources are provided to assist in understanding distinctive cultures, how to communicate the gospel with sensitivity and plant churches among the various people groups. It is not just places such as New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Houston that are seeing an influx of people speaking other languages, eating strange foods and worshipping other gods. Towns and cities all across mainstream America are seeing a transition in their population.

One no longer has to go overseas to witness to the ends of the earth and disciple the nations. God is bringing the world to our doorstep. It behooves every church to acknowledge the responsibility to reach and win those within their community, whatever they look like and wherever they come from. ETHNEcity conferences and facilitators can be a valuable asset it helping us reach the world at home where we live.

2 Comments on “ETHNECITY–Reaching Our World at Home”

  1. Diaspora: Jerry Rankin on Reaching our world at home

    […] (typeof(addthis_share) == "undefined"){ addthis_share = [];}“ETHNECITY–Reaching Our World at Home,” Jerry Rankin. “Unfortunately, too many churches are working hard to to maintain and […]

  2. Russell Herrington

    I agree with everything Dr. Rankin has said. In the early 90’s while my wife and I were serving at the Baptist Spanish Publishing House, we were asked to go to Tucson, AZ and speak in a Missions Fair. The thing that impressed me most that weekend was how the churches in Tucson were already reaching out to students from all over the world at the University of Arizona. They got the vision!

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