Migrants as Missionaries, Missionaries as Outsiders: Reflections on African Christian Presence in Western Societies

In: Mission Studies
Jehu J. Hanciles Candler School of Theology, Emory University

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This paper makes the case that human migration has played a vital and transformational role in the development and expansion of the Christian movement throughout its history. But it mainly focuses on the unprecedented rise of global migratory flows in the last four to five decades to explicate this link. According to recent data, Christians account for almost half of all international migrants. This, combined with the predominance of south-north migration, explains the remarkable rise of immigrant Christian churches (or communities) in many Western societies. While many of these immigrant Christian communities and their pastors exhibit strong missionary consciousness and commitment, they encounter formidable challenges in the area of cross-cultural outreach. These stem from complex factors, including racial rejection, widespread anti-immigrant sentiments, and aggressive secularism. But this paper argues that perhaps the most significant obstacle stems from the disengagement and rejection that Christian immigrants experience in their encounter with homegrown churches. A brief examination of the key link between human migration and biblical faith is used as a basis for reflections on the challenges that confront African immigrant churches in Western societies. Five such challenges are highlighted and biblical insights (from Acts 6) are presented.

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