I am in the process of finishing a book that will (hopefully) be released next year. I am writing and editing the book along with my good friend Dr. Keith Whitfield. The book is entitled, “Islam and North America.” It’s a book that is written by a host of authors, a significant number of which are non-Anglo and former Muslims. The chapter that I authored is called “Islam & the Future: What is the future of Islam in the West?” It will be a while yet before the book hits the shelves, but I’ve been thinking about the unique opportunity the church has right now, and how we need to think deeply about how we engage those who are not like us so I thought I would post this small portion of my chapter to provoke some conversation, and whet your appetite for the book that is yet to come.
In an increasingly pluralistic society, Christians have three possible options. We can ignore the increasing pluralism. We can work to reverse the pluralism. Or we can build growing numbers of relationships with those who disagree with us. I fear that many Christians are using the second approach. They are working politically to impede the growth of immigrants in North America, and they are justifying this action with vague or twisted scriptural support. To slow the growth of pluralism, they seek to protect what they think it means to be an American.
I would contend, however, that the growing number of diverse religious beliefs and worldviews is an indication of how God is moving, bringing the world to us. I concur with Ed Stetzer and his thoughts about migration and gospel opportunity.
Immigration puts a face on those we are called to reach, which makes evangelism more complicated.
And as it turns out, many non-Christians—particularly devout people of other religions—are pretty nice once you get to know them! They are not “people over there living in darkness,” but they are our neighbors living in our community.
They are people—and not projects.
In short, migration changes the way we view the humanity of people. That’s good, when we are moving beyond caricatures.
It also makes evangelism more complicated.
Sometimes we fail to see that people—immigrants included—still need Jesus.
Immigration becomes an evangelistic opportunity when it gives us a love for immigrants as human beings (without caricature) and teaches us to have compassion for them (including their spiritual condition), as we would for anyone in need of the gospel.
Yet, and here is the complicated part, it may also talk some out of evangelizing those who, perhaps, we think are not in as much need as we thought. In other words, immigration can and does impact evangelistic willingness.
The emerging cultural changes taking place around immigration cause social and cultural challenges. The messiness of relationships is worth it. The church is called to recognize its evangelistic responsibility and opportunity in the midst of these changes. I don’t fear growing numbers of people who are different than me, and you shouldn’t either. Instead, let’s view it as a unique, historical moment which we can steward for God’s glory and the common good.