by Chris Freet
A key issue concerning the American church and the role of hospitality involves the role of migration, immigration and refugees. Today, most nations face issues related to globalization. The world is becoming smaller and smaller. A person can be anywhere on the globe via plane in about a day. Technology enables people to communicate across the world with the click of a button. This has greatly impacted the movement of people groups. For example, M. Daniel Carroll R., in his book dealing with immigration in the West from a Christian perspective, observes, “The greater part of Christians now live outside North America and Western Europe. Some characterize this movement of Christianity’s center of gravity as the…‘globalizing’ of the faith’” (Christians at the Border, p. 60). Similarly, Andrew Walls also notes, “By 1980, the balance [of Christianity] had shifted again, southwards; Africa is now the continent most notable for those that profess and call themselves Christians.” (The Missionary Movement in Christian History, p. 6) This shift brings with it contemporary issues which the Western Church will have to work through. Not least of these issues involves the role of hospitality and the American church’s place in welcoming others from around the globe.
Awareness of this southward shift is present and still growing in the West. The landscape has changed but continues to evolve. What role will the West take in this as a result? One point is clear: The American church can either embrace the shift or deny it. If the latter is chosen then the American church could potentially miss out on a great spiritual opportunity—perhaps even spiritual renewal. If “pride-of-place” is maintained by the American church, thus fighting against or ignoring the global shift within Christianity and all the potential benefits and opportunities for growth, then stagnation or even further decline among some segments of American Christianity seems possible. As Ogletree warns, “Ethnocentricity is egoism in cultural mode” (Hospitality to the Stranger, p. 49). Further, Carroll reminds us that a surprising number of immigrants, migrants and refugees are Christians (Christians at the Border, pp. 60–61). This information is potentially vital for the American church which currently finds itself in the midst of figuring out where to land in issues related to immigration. Indeed, many scholars, including Soong-Chan Rah, hold strongly to the conviction that “immigrants and ethnic minorities are saving American Christianity” (The Next Evangelicalism, p. 74). To fail to pay any attention to this reality in America could possibly mean to miss out on the work of God in this nation.”
Have you seen or heard of any local churches welcoming and ministering to diaspora people groups? How has your local church welcomed the stranger or foreigner? How might God want to use diaspora people groups to breathe new life in the Western church?