The ends of the earth are not as far away as you think.
In recent days, a swell of attention has been placed on the growing international populations in America’s urban centers. In fact, in many neighborhoods in America’s biggest cities (and even some of the not-so-big cities) you are less likely to find a native-born American than you are a person from some other country. America is earning her stripes as the melting pot of the world, and now more than ever she is home to a true cross-section of the world’s population.
This wave of immigration and resettlement comes at a critical point in the grand narrative of modern missions. Increasingly, American missionaries find themselves locked out of the darkest countries. Economic, civil, and legal restrictions continue to build walls between would-be international missionaries and the overseas fields of unengaged masses. Our missionaries are met with more hostility than ever, and doors for gospel access appear to be closing. Nevertheless, as going to the nations gets harder, God is bringing the nations to us.
With this new dynamic comes a fresh responsibility, and many are beginning to address the challenge. It is showing up on the internet, in sermons, and in books. Works such as J.D. Payne’s Unreached Peoples, Least Reached Places point to the need to engage the international people groups that are settling in our urban areas and J.D. Greear recently addressed the issue on his blog. Even people who aren’t named J.D. are talking about it.
As part of our mission to serve the local church and fulfill the great commission, Southeastern attempts to aid our sending agencies and local churches as they head off into this new frontier of international church planting in their neighborhoods. Enter the Peoples Next Door Project. Our Center for Great Commission Studies has spent the last two years researching this growing trend and has produced findings that will aid evangelicals as they engage the shifting urban landscape. You can read all about the project here.
If reaching the nations in your backyard is a concern, stay tuned over the next several weeks as we roll out helpful strategy and materials.
Keelan leads the Peoples Next Door project and is a Senior Church Consultant with the Union Baptist Association in Houston, TX. He is working on a PhD in Missiology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. In previous years, he spent time as a church planter in West Africa with the IMB and doing ethno-graphic research in Washington, DC with NAMB.