The following is an excerpt from The Stranger at Our Shore: How Immigrants and Refugees Strengthen the Church by Joshua Sherif.
When I use the word church, I am talking about the worldwide “body of Christ.” The church is not a location—it is a living organism. When I talk about the church, I am talking about a loose global coalition of living, breathing people. These are definitely not people who agree on everything—but they agree that Jesus is our Savior, and broadly speaking, most Christians have some level of understanding of their riches in Jesus Christ. Through Jesus, Christians inherit the gift of eternal life, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the gift of salvation, the spiritual gifts of faith, hope, love, joy, and a peace that surpasses understanding, just to name a few. But the true depth and length and breadth of these riches go far beyond our comprehension. The apostle Paul, one of the earliest leaders in the church, wrote about these riches to his beloved friends at Ephesus:
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:17b–19)
When a Christian truly begins to grasp the “fullness of God” that has been offered to them in Jesus, naturally, they want to share it! When the disciples were commanded not to speak about Jesus, upon threats of physical torture and even death, they simply responded, “As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). They felt compelled to share the wealth. As we also begin to grasp this truth, just like the first disciples—as we begin to comprehend our incomprehensible riches in Jesus Christ—we must ask ourselves, “Where is this leading me? What is my next move?”
The church has a long history of sending people “to the ends of the earth.” Christians are often considered a missional group, with Christian missionaries living in every corner of the globe. However, over the years, we have also developed a dangerously limiting stereotype of missions: that the job of the missionary is to go into the far, foreign, difficult places to preach the gospel because this kind of mission requires someone who is willing to take risks—someone courageous, bold, and relentlessly faithful.
We then send these bold warriors of the faith forward—supporting them, prayerfully and financially—to do the hard work of evangelism (sharing the wealth) in the world.
In our world today, this vision is too narrow. I want us to expand the traditional “sending” model. The church needs to recognize a broader truth: God sends people from everywhere, to everywhere. In other words, we are all sent. And today in His sovereignty, God has not only sent believers to nonbelievers . . . but nonbelievers to believers, as we recognize the trends of immigration and globalization in the world.
If you are a Christian, you have been sent on a mission, by Jesus Himself, whose famous last words to His friends (according to the book of Matthew) were:
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28: 18b–20)
We call these words the Great Commission, and though at times, church members would like to defer this responsibility to the paid pastors, the church staff, the bold missionaries, and the wise elders, the truth is, the charge to “make disciples” is the responsibility of each and every believer. I will admit, at times I get frustrated with the experts and the scholars and the theologians who want to sit around and discuss doctrine and only doctrine. If I’m being honest, sometimes my internal response sounds a little bit like: “Are you making disciples? No? Okay, see you later.” We are not commanded to be just hearers of God’s Word, but also doers (James 1:22). I’d take the average guy who sincerely wants to obey Jesus any day of the week over the best expert in Islam or the most intelligent theologian who does little to actually share the gospel with others.
Excerpted from The Stranger at Our Shore: How Immigrants and Refugees Strengthen the Church by Joshua Sherif (© 2022). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.