North Carolina has the largest and fastest-growing immigrant population in the United States, and several other southern states also rank among the national leaders.
Interestingly, states where the immigrant population is booming happen to be states where a majority of evangelical churches are located.
“That’s just a coincidence, right?” asks Terry Sharpe, strategist with the International Mission Board (IMB).
Sharp and his audience know such an influx of people from around the world is not a coincidence, but instead is an opportunity ordained by God to reach men and women of various national, cultural and ethnic backgrounds with the good news of Jesus Christ.
Many of those individuals who are migrating to the United States represent people groups that have little or no access to the gospel and are designated as either unreached or unengaged by IMB.
BSC photo by Chad Austin
Bryan Galloway of the International Mission Board was one of the leaders for the People Groups Discovery and Engagement Workshop March 30-April 1 in Cary.
“Whatever reason they are here, God is sovereign, and God is providing an opportunity that they might have a chance to hear the gospel,” Sharp said.
“God is providing that opportunity. Will we as a body of Christ be faithful to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with them?”
Sharp and his IMB colleague Bryan Galloway recently spent time equipping and training pastors and ministry leaders from across the state in how to discover and engage people from different ethnic backgrounds who are moving to the region.
Sharp and Galloway led the People Groups Discovery and Engagement Workshop from March 30 to April 1 at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina offices in Cary.
The goal of the three-day workshop was to help attendees learn how to carefully examine, naturally encounter and intentionally engage people from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. The event featured classroom training and a field-ministry exercise.
Attendees learned how to conduct research on PeopleGroups.info, a web-based resource that contains helpful data and information that can be used to learn more about the demographics of a particular community. Attendees also learned how to observe signs of cultural and ethic diversity in their communities and neighborhoods. They also learned how to engage individuals through the use of culturally-appropriate questions (see below).
During the field exercise, attendees divided into small groups and went out into the community to visit ethnic restaurants and markets, as well as places of worship for people of other faiths. Attendees were encouraged to apply the skills acquired in the classroom during the field component by observing and asking questions about things such as family, their home country, language, beliefs, dress, decor, religious symbols and more.
Several attendees later said they were pleasantly surprised to learn how many individuals from different ethnic or cultural backgrounds were willing to interact and converse, even about topics related to faith and religious beliefs. Participants said they came away from the workshop realizing that they could begin incorporating aspects of the training into their everyday lives, while also training and equipping friends and members of their congregations to do the same.
“The great thing about this is we are not asking people to add something to their already busy schedule,” said workshop attendee Mike Fry, who serves as missions and evangelism pastor at Richland Creek Community Church in Wake Forest.
“Instead, this is something that we can blend into our everyday lives. We can reach the nations as we live out our lives, and we can do it right here.”
And by reaching people here, they have the potential to take the gospel back to their home countries as they share Christ with family and friends.
“If we touch them here, it goes back there,” Galloway said.
The Five Fs
Asking open-ended questions is a good way to engage internationals in conversation and build relationships with them. Here are five topics that all begin with the letter F that you can use to begin building relationships with others in your community.