Glocalization, Diaspora Missiology, and Friendship Evangelism

In five months, Lausanne Cape Town 2010 (CT2010) will be a fresh opportunity to think about creative approaches for relational forms of evangelism. One new paradigm to consider is glocalized evangelism at the intersection between global people movements and local contexts for cross-cultural evangelistic ministry.

The term “glocalization” combines the words globalization and localization. Globalization came into late twentieth-century international business culture as a descriptive reference to the spread of products, technologies, and philosophies throughout the world. Sociologist Roland Robertson is credited with popularizing the term. At a 1998 international conference on “Globalization and Indigenous Culture,” Robertson reportedly described glocalization as the simultaneous co-presence “of both universalizing and particular tendencies.”1

In business practice, it refers to tailoring a service or product to cultural distinctions of local markets around the world. A frequently cited example of glocalization is the international proliferation of McDonalds restaurants that feature menu items specifically tailored for local tastes.

Today, the cross-cultural experience is
not taking place in a foreign land. The
world is coming to our doorsteps.

In the mission context, it is cross-cultural communication of the unique salvation in Messiah Jesus [insert his name in your culture] to a people or social group that is different from our own. Today, the cross-cultural experience is not taking place in a foreign land. The world is coming to our doorsteps as people on the move.

Diaspora Missiology
Glocalization is happening as diaspora phenomena. “Diaspora” is a Greek word meaning “dispersion or scattering.” It describes when ethnic communities or social groups are dislocated, are on the move, or are in a transitional process of being scattered. Diaspora can be a global phenomenon with local implications or a local phenomenon with global implications.

The idea of diaspora is generally thought of as “forced” resettlement due to expulsion, slavery, racism, or nationalistic conflicts. Today, however, diaspora can be the result of push and pull forces.2 For example, Thomas Friedman described East Indian Zippies as highly mobile, high-tech specialists who are pulled to the world outside of India as part of an Indian economic migration.3 However, migrations of scattered people are presenting wonderful opportunities for evangelism right on our doorsteps.

In recognition of this developing mission frontier, the Lausanne 2004 Forum for World Evangelization in Pattaya, Thailand, featured a new “Diaspora Issue Group” that produced Lausanne Occasional Paper 55, “Diasporas and International Students: The New People Next Door.” In 2007, Lausanne appointed Sadiri Joy B. Tira as senior associate for diasporas. Since then, a Lausanne Diasporas Leadership Team was assembled and diaspora will be one of the featured perspectives at the CT2010 conference.

Diaspora missiology studies social groups that are identified by ethnicity, migration patterns, or pop culture. They are either outside of their place of origin or are in the midst of transition. Globalization presents the Church with an opportunity to study various peoples in a state of diaspora. They may be:

  • international travelers for study, business, tourism, or labor migration,
  • political refugees of conflict,
  • displaced populations due to disasters, or
  • a community experiencing social transition due to new cultural trends.

All of these are diaspora conditions that present opportunities for missiological study and formulation of new strategies for evangelism.

While the Church continues to send missionaries to foreign fields, it also has an opportunity to consider appropriate ways to reach communities that are coming to our locations. Diaspora missiology provides a method for learning ways to build relationships with global people groups, learn their culture, and invite “the stranger” into our local context (see Matthew 25:35). This, then, is an opportunity for glocalized evangelism: the world at our door.

Theological Reflection
Diaspora is a characteristic most often associated with Jewish people. Abraham’s clan was scattered from Padam-Aram into the land of the Canaanites and the Egyptians. At God’s command, Moses led an exiled nation out of Egypt and gathered them back into the land of promise. Subsequent dispersions with intermittent re-gatherings have typified world Jewry from 722 B.C. until today.

The Lord has used diaspora for evangelistic purposes in history. A good example is found in Acts 2:5, 8-11. On the occasion of the Jewish festival of Shavuot (Pentecost), diaspora communities sent Jewish pilgrims to the city of Jerusalem to honor the Lord’s command (see Deuteronomy 16:16). In this incident, the Lord communicated the gospel to the Jewish pilgrims, in their own languages, employing a method that was culturally, linguistically, and religiously appropriate. The message was relevant, compelling, and personally appealing to each one present. The result was that three thousand of those who heard the gospel believed (Acts 2:37-42).

So the curse of scattering, through the confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:8), was reversed. In one day, people heard the unique salvation message that gathered their hearts together through faith in one living God. The Lord’s people gathered as one body. They would soon be scattered again for God’s evangelistic purpose.

After Pentecost those three thousand new disciples carried the message back home to their cities and synagogues in the diaspora communities. In those cases, the evangelist was a safe and trusted member of the community who returned with a new and powerful message. However, after the martyrdom of Stephen, the Jerusalem-based Jewish believers were scattered as a new evangelistic force, and “those who had been scattered went about preaching the word” (Acts 8:1, 3-4). Those are examples of the push and pull factors associated with diaspora missiology and which can produce the conditions for glocalized evangelism.

A New Paradigm
In five months, the CT2010 delegates will have a new opportunity to take a fresh and creative approach to relational forms of evangelism. One new paradigm to consider is glocalized evangelism. Employing the disciplines of diaspora missiology, it is possible to study ethnic groups that are on the move, in transition, and outside of their physical place of origin or usual culture pattern. By acquiring greater understanding, it is possible to formulate new, effective methods by which to communicate the gospel among people who have entered our local context.

Case Study #1: Israeli Youth

In Cochabamba, Bolivia, a New Tribes Mission station established to reach out to ethnic tribal peoples became a local stopover for small groups of young Israeli tourists. North American missionaries developed a short presentation for the Israelis of the message they were bringing to the Bolivian tribal people. It was done in a manner that was appropriate for Jewish religious culture.

The Israelis were provided with a home-cooked meal, given a night’s lodging at the mission, and received a New Testament in Hebrew and a clear presentation of the gospel. Every group had an opportunity to have their picture taken for the mission house guestbook. In that way, the mission station documented over eight thousand Israeli Jewish visitors who heard the gospel. 

Case Study #2: Intermarried Couples

Diaspora does not necessarily involve crossing international borders. It can refer to people who are in social transition. The American Jewish community, for example, has been experiencing dramatic culture change where since 1985, fifty-two percent of all Jewish people who married have married Gentiles.

A 2004 study on the challenges experienced by Jewish-Gentile couples in the United States found that one of their most significant issues reported is the inability to find spiritual harmony. That realization had missiological implications in helping strategize for appropriate evangelistic ministry to these couples.



2. See Wan, Enoch. 2007. “Diaspora Missiology.” Occasional Bulletin, Spring. Push factors might include war; political persecution; natural or human-made disasters; poverty; or health crises. Pull forces might result from opportunities for political freedom, apparent economic improvement, or educational advancement.

3. Friedman, Thomas. 2007. The World Is Flat. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.


Tuvya Zaretsky is a Lausanne advisor on Jewish evangelism. He is also president of the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism and serves as director of staff development with Jews for Jesus.