There was a time when we had to travel to different countries to meet other nationalities. Not so anymore. In God’s sovereign plan, many people of the world are now making their homes next door. The nations have become our neighbors. Cross cultural ministry no longer has to involve crossing oceans. We might just have to cross the street.
Here are five strategies for reaching internationals in your community.
1. Pray for internationals.
Pray for the nations and invite others to join you in prayer. Through the Holy Spirit, prayer can open our hearts to the nations. Find ways to create natural rhythms of prayer for the nations through your church or personal life such as highlighting one unreached people group a week or ask groups within your church to adopt a people group to pray for. Be intentional with prayer.
2. Find internationals in your community.
A basic demographic study can help you with this through a local or state ministry association. Practically, drive around your community and neighborhoods, looking for international grocery stores, coffee shops, and restaurants. We tend to find the things we are looking for, so look intentionally into your community and find who is there.
3. Connect with internationals in your community.
Once you find who is in your community, find ways to engage them. Visit their shops, ask questions, and build friendships. Individuals can often develop relationships and find common ground with others through acts of hospitality such as inviting someone into your home for a meal. Use holidays such as Christmas and Easter to host internationals and explain the Christian worldview through those celebrations.
Churches would do well to find ways to meet practical needs such as hosting English language conversations, offering life skills classes like sewing or cooking. Churches can also provide resources and training in areas that are helpful for adjusting to life in America. Examples include: assistance in doctor visits, DMV, utilities, paying bills, navigating public transit, help with landlords and interacting with police. These are all basic skills we may take for granted but can prove challenging for an international.
4. Build friendships with internationals in your community.
With friendship comes trust. Put a high priority on listening to the stories of international friends. Ask good questions about their home country, what they miss, who in their family is still there, and what led them to America. Listening well allows both people to find common ground, and we often realize we have more things in common than we imagined. Listening well also displays the value that person has as an image bearer of God, and it will often provide opportunities to share the gospel that is good news for both of us. The redemptive story woven through the pages of Scripture tells us that reaching the nations is not only a command for the believer and the church but an honor and joy.
5. Reach internationals through the preaching and teaching ministries of your church.
Finally, let me offer a word to pastors. As a fellow pastor in our community, I urge you to communicate God’s big redemptive story through every teaching and preaching opportunity that you have. If we treat missions and reaching internationals as an optional ministry, the church will do the same. Followers of Christ and churches live today between the Great Commission of Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20) and the future vision of Revelations 7:9-10. Reaching the nations is not an option for obedience; it is imperative and that truth should saturate your preaching and teaching.