November 10, 2016
By Matt Morrison
Whether it makes it to the evening news or not, the refugee crisis taking over Europe is still the greatest humanitarian crisis since the Holocaust. One in 113 people living on planet Earth today lives under asylum status. Over one million people have migrated to Germany alone, coming from places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Pakistan, Syria, and Iran.
While much has been reported and written on the crisis itself, there remains an underlying spiritual story that is driving missions organizations back to the drawing boards and compelling them to revisit their overseas strategies.
The movement is known as Diaspora Missions. While it’s not a new concept, it is a growing one. It’s not only providing new opportunities to minister overseas, but it’s even changing the way we view the global landscape.
WHAT DOES DIASPORA MEAN?
Diaspora is a term originally used to describe the exiled Jews of the Old Testament. After generations of unrepentant sinful behavior, The Kingdoms of Judah and Israel were conquered by the Assyrian and Babylonian empires, forcing the Israelites out of the Promised Land.
As they were scattered across the known world, they were forced to acclimate to the cultures around them while relearning how to maintain their relationship with God. They dealt with guilt and shame for their sin. They mourned the loss of the Temple and they lived as refugees in faraway cities.
In this season, synagogues came into play and God used the Israelites to make his name known among the most pagan cultures. While it was a time of darkness and tragedy, it also made God’s presence known throughout the world.
Today, a similar concept is playing out among the millions of refugees flooding from the Middle East and Northern Africa. These people, largely Muslim, come from unreached people groups. Among one group in particular, the last known believer before the refugee crisis was baptized over 100 years ago.
As they move into these neutral zones, they experience freedom to explore the Christian faith and ask honest questions about Jesus. As a result, people are coming to faith in him and missionaries are able to reach them for the first time.
HOW IS THIS CONCEPT CHANGING MINISTRY STRATEGIES?
When the modern missions movement first took off, early missiologists looked at the world in the context of political boundaries. They analyzed entire countries to see where the Gospel was spreading and where more missionaries were needed. They sent Christians into the most remote and unreached countries to develop strategies and break ground on new ministry.
However, this approach had limitations. Just as in the United States, not every individual or community in a country views the world through the same cultural lens.
As we began to discover and explore these cultural differences, missions agencies started targeting individual nations or people groups, rather than entire countries. This change in strategy allowed missionaries to dive into an individual culture and minister directly to specific people, even though some of them were spread across multiple countries.
Today, these strategies are changing yet again. As these people groups become increasingly migratory, political borders are growing irrelevant. This is changing the way we look at the world – forcing us to see networks and migratory patterns of these people, devising new strategies to reach them.
This means engaging networks of people, rather than individuals. It requires building trust and earning the right to build relationships with entire circles of influence. And this doesn’t just happen through face-to-face meetings. It takes place online through social media networks as often as it does offline.
This diaspora concept opens the door to many new opportunities and challenges. As missionaries build trust with people and lead them to Christ, they gain access to their social networks and earn the ability to reach into other countries. In short, it’s a new wave of missions to a borderless world.
WHERE CAN I GET INVOLVED?
There are many ways to be a part of diaspora missions. At e3 Partners, we are proactively engaging these opportunities, particularly in Europe. New short-term mission opportunities will be opening up in 2017, departing for places Germany, Greece, and Italy, where the greatest migrations are taking place. These trips will be posted soon so stay tuned!
Even if you can’t go, you can continue to support this work around the world. e3 Partners launches new churches among unreached cultures and communities. This requires research, training, and development.
Your regular contribution of $20 a month provides everything necessary to establish one new church every year, allowing it to take hold, transform its community, and multiply across the landscape.