When we returned to America as a family 18 months ago, it came as a surprise. Coming into my role as a missions and local outreach pastor, I did not have a set strategy or preset plan.
I had to come with the eyes of a missionary to my “home”. I was a stranger in my own land.
Here are few things I observed about America as I returned, coupled with some thoughts on how we can interact with this reality.
1. The World is Flat.
No, this is not a conspiracy theory, rather an observation of all the traditional missions needs. Issues like poverty, human trafficking, and pain are not “over there, international” issues, but are present right outside our door. Missions no longer requires a passport, it can be done in our own communities.
2. America looks different
There is a greater ethnic, cultural, and economic diversity than ever before. Many people are struggling with a land that looks very different than in the “good ole days.” Our children go to a school where there are 40 languages spoken at home! 40!
The movement of people is at an all time high. So is fear of the foreigner. Many are having to leave lands of persecution, war, and famine. This can be an obstacle or an opportunity. Those coming from nations where it is difficult to send missionaries, have a greater chance to hear the gospel in our lands. The gospel says we respond and leave the politics to politicians.
Speaking of politics…
3. America is more divided than ever
Even in the church, there is a greater diversity of opinions than ever, but we seem to have lost the ability to have a conversation; much less move towards a productive compromise.
If our political views overrule our response to Love our Neighbor…, we have a problem.
The parable of the Good Samaritan was told to answer the question, “Who is my Neighbor?”
Jesus picks the unlikely Samaritan to respond in a gospel way, while the full-time religious leaders walked by; too busy or too concerned about becoming unclean.
If this parable were told today, I wonder if the white, Evangelical Christians would be walking by while a person dressed in Muslim garb stopped to help the one in need.
4. The prevailing culture is one of Fear
I’ve experienced more fear since returning to America than I did in the crime-ridden nation of South Africa. My kids are more afraid of school shootings than they were when events involving actual gunfire happened while living overseas.
Our fear is out of proportion to the reality of the facts.
- Parents engage in helicopter parenting and kids don’t leave the house, opting for the safety of their phones
- The political narrative on both sides is driven by fear
- Anxiety and paralysis of fear are at epidemic proportions
- We fear those who do not look like us or talk like us
The question we must ask is
What is at stake if we succumb to fear?
The Bible tells us perfect love casts out fear. If we continue to be sucked into the “spirit of the age”, how will we make a difference?
- What is at stake for our children if we continue to parent in fear?
- What is at stake for our nation if we are more motivated by fear than by people?
- What is at stake if we continue to fear Muslims more than we love them?
- What is at stake if we are afraid to have a discussion about race, while recognizing its complexities?
What is at stake if we succumb to fear?
Caution, security, wisdom, and preparation all have a place, but in balance.
I think many of us are tipping over. We find ourselves controlled by this culture of fear. If we, as the church, do not act differently; how can we expect the hope of Christ to be displayed?
We need a deeper revelation of the God who does not change in the midst of an ever-changing world.
We need to take seriously the “Love Your Neighbor” command and put gospel responses over political and cultural ones.
We need to messengers of hope, not fear or hate mongers.
I’m glad I am here. America is my mission field.
There is a lot at stake!
Note: I’ve shared this message a lot lately and always had a response from people that they resonated with these observations. My goal is not to make political statements, but to urge gospel responses. Any inflammatory or overly political comments will be deleted.
To listen to one of the times I have preached this, CLICK HERE.
Photo credit: Robert Couse-Baker without a trace via photopin (license)