When the Field is Redefined 1


Last week, Strangers Next Door: Immigration, Migration, and Mission turned four years old. And while I have been speaking on the topic of this book for a few years, requests have increased in 2016. The hearts of the saints are moving concerning this topic.

The rapidly growing area of missiology addressing migration and missions is called diaspora missiology. An increasing number of books are being published on this topic, with the tome Scattered and Gathered: A Global Compendium of Diaspora Missiology (Tira and Yamamori, eds.) released this year. I frequently encounter related journal articles. And more and more doctoral students are writing dissertations on migration and missions. What began as a sporadic conversation at the turn of the 21st century has become a burgeoning global movement among the evangelical community.

Institutions and churches not seeking wisdom from the missiological community on this matter are greatly limiting their Great Commission endeavors. Seismic missiological shifts have occurred and continue. Tira and Yamamori were correct when they wrote:

Christian mission “fields” are being redefined. The massive population movements of the last century have radically challenged our study and practice of “mission fields.” Where the church once rallied to go out into “the regions beyond,” now at the end of the dawn of the 21st Century, Christian missions is required to respond and adapt to the “missions around” (Scattered and Gathered, 1).

Of course, the greatest needs for disciple making and church planting remain outside of the West. However, something is missiologically malignant if we are willing to make great sacrifices to reach unreached peoples throughout the wold, but unwilling to reach those same peoples living across the street.

The Divine Maestro has been orchestrating the movements of the nations (Acts 17:26-27).

The peoples have shifted.

The field has shifted.

And while the diaspora missiology movement grows and develops, most evangelicals continue to do Great Commission business as usual.

Mission agencies continue to separate North American and international efforts. Seminaries and Bible colleges continue to train ministers with a centuries-old paradigm often governed more by tradition and accreditation standards than contemporary church and field needs.

Many missiologies, methods, systems, denominations, and agencies are best prepared for 19th and early 20th century missionary work.

More of what we know is insufficient. Systemic shifts are necessary in many situations. And in many situations, such shifts will not happen. . . . They are just too difficult and painful to make.

I hope I am wrong. I pray I am wrong.

But some will make it. They will make it.

Much of these thoughts influenced Strangers Next Door. Many of today’s publications and discussions on migration and missions are very academic in nature. I wanted to write a scholarly-yet-popular book to bring attention to the movement of the unreached peoples to the West. Strangers was the first of its kind. But I hope others will produce more and better works.

If you have not read Strangers, I urge you to do so. Share the book with others. Get a conversation started. Lead for change in this area. Lead for change now.

The field has shifted. The field has shifted.

The movement is moving.

Some evangelicals are waking up to this reality; most remain asleep.


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One thought on “When the Field is Redefined

  • Levi Linville

    Please check out peoplesnextdoornc.org
    The NC Baptist State Convention has contracted with 8 former long term IMB missionaries to train local churches to discover, equip, and disciple the international communities living next door for the past year now. We’d love your input into what we’re doing!