On Migration, Diaspora, and Displaced Peoples

A few months ago I was asked to preach at a local church on Acts 2, focusing especially on the section regarding the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. I was struck by a new insight. The first preacher of the gospel following the ascension of Christ was not Peter! The first verbal proclamation was by the Holy Spirit utilizing the voices of 120 disciples (Acts 2:6-12)! And the first listeners were more than three thousand people from over fifteen ethnic groups—located to the north, south, east, and west.

Thus, the first proclamation event was a multicultural experience in every way. Immediately following that event, Peter preached the specifics of salvation and over three thousand people were saved. Fifteen different ethnic groups from Europe, Asia, and Africa came to faith that day, and the “diaspora” of the gospel began. It started spreading to three continents the first day it was declared.

Clearly, this was a “God thing”—and clearly a strong form of instruction to Christ-followers of every epoch.

This fact should give us hope as we discuss Migration, Diaspora, and Displaced Peoples in this month’s Lausanne World Pulse. We need not be concerned for the gospel to be understood by people in every ethnic group and family on the earth. It is. And the reason it is is because the gospel reaches into and meets the needs of every soul.

A movie titled “Slum Dog Millionaire” just won the Oscar for Best Picture this year. Set in Bombay/Mumbai, India, it is a powerful film about poverty, injustice, despair, and hope. I commend it to all my friends and ministry colleagues. At its core, the film reminds us that all people, regardless of ethnicity, long for the same things. The longings to be safe, to be loved, to be forgiven, to see justice, and to have hope run through the souls of every human being. This film teaches that.

As I viewed the movie a second time, I found myself deeply wishing to present the good story of Jesus and what he offers to the characters in the film. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God unto salvation to ALL who believe (Romans 1:16).

Across the Ocean and across the Street
Our concerns need not be for the efficacy or transforming power of the gospel. Rather, our concerns need be more with the Church and her willingness to get the gospel to the peoples of the world located not just across oceans, but across the street.

I live in DuPage County just outside of Chicago (USA). In my county, there are nearly one million people. In 1970, according to the 2008 Ethnic American database, only one person out of 140 was from a non-white background in this county. In 2010, that figure is expected to be one person in three.

By 2020, we anticipate that one person in two will be from Asia, Africa, or Latin America. It is hard to convince people of this truth. It is hard for me to believe sometimes. But the evidence is there not only in statistics, but every time I visit my local stores, coffee shops, or restaurants. The peoples of the world are coming to my neighborhood. Perhaps this is true for you in your country as well. Never before have people groups all over the globe been migrating to other parts of the world in such numbers and at such a speed. This is one of the chief aspects of the phenomenon we call “globalization.”

I urge all readers of Lausanne World Pulse to read the articles on this topic this month. Then, prayerfully consider what responsibility God wishes you to take personally and through your ministry. The gospel is sufficient, and we the Church are assigned the enormous task of bringing the whole gospel to the migrating world. This is a challenge worthy of our lives.

Dr. Lon Allison is executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, USA. He also serves as director for the Institute for Strategic Evangelism at Wheaton College. He is co-publisher of Lausanne World Pulse.