Diaspora Mobilization

Diaspora Mobilization: Leaving Babel Behind

Written by John Baxter – Mission Advisor for Diaspora Initatives

John is one of our fourteen Mission Advisors focused on assisting the Missio Nexus association with key insights and wisdom on specific topics and areas of interest.  You can learn more about our Mission Advisors and their areas of focus by click here:  Mission Advisors

I’m not interested in the migration part of the Babel story, only the confusion of the languages.

It has been my privilege over the past few years to give presentations to different mission networks on diaspora missions, including mobilization. My experience, at least for Western mission agencies, is that most mission groups’ default thinking is missions to the diaspora, unreached peoples moving into contact with the church as they migrate to Europe or North America. In this regard mobilization is primarily raising up or re-tasking career missionaries from the agency to work with these groups.

But there are other, just as important, mission mobilization modes within the global diaspora. Here is the Babel part. It would be valuable to gain clarity and a common language about mobilization in the diaspora. This is my attempt. Let me hear your impressions.

I see two major categories and within each category two primary modes.

For the Diaspora

The first major category is mobilization “for” the diaspora. The key aspect is that mobilization is from the majority culture of the mission agency or church, and not from people groups within the diaspora. For example, a North America mission agency recruits Anglo missionaries to work with Syrian refugees in Europe.

Mission agency operational culture and methods usually reflect the majority culture of the society from which the agency arose. Typically in this case, the best mobilization efforts are among those who share the agency world view and culture.

The two mobilization modes within the “for” category are career and lay. Career mobilization is what agencies typically do, finding people who share the cultural background of the agency or denomination and sending them to the diaspora as full-time workers.

However, we recognize that missions to the diaspora is a larger task than can be accomplished by mission agencies and that the mobilization of the laity is imperative. Mission agencies are involved in a growing effort to recruit and train lay people from churches to care for and evangelize new arrivals to their localities.

From the Diaspora

The second category is mobilization “from” the diaspora. Mission agencies desire to recruit workers from people groups on the move. Things get more difficult here because for many agencies this is cross-cultural mobilization. Again, we have the two modes of career and lay.

Career mobilization from the diaspora occurs when agencies bring full-time staff workers from a diaspora group on to the agency’s staff. For example, an America agency may recruit a first-generation Hispanic immigrant in the US to work among the unreached diaspora in America, or a German mission group may recruit a Filipino presently living in the UAE to join their agency as a full-time worker to evangelize the unreached diaspora in the Middle East.

It is well known that difficulties for this mode of mobilization arise to the degree that there are differing organizational cultures, values, and funding paradigms for the agency and the recruited worker.

The second mode, lay mobilization from the diaspora, has great mission potential but is largely overlooked. The question to ask is how mission agencies can be involved in training, caring for, and releasing into the global harvest force the millions of lay Christian economic laborers from the Majority World who live and work outside of their country of origin.

My own sending agency has been invited to work with church leaders in a Middle Eastern country with a sizable Evangelical church. To my surprise these national church leaders stated that helping their economic emigrants become intentionally missional was a new concept. My agency and the national churches and care for their overseas economic workers and the families left behind. The goal is that every church in that Middle Eastern country would send out at least one trained “tent-making” missionary in the next five years.

Of course, this description is over simplified. Career and lay missions are two poles with many iterations in between, and mission agencies are often moving away from a homogeneous culture toward multicultural and international cultures and organizational structures. I am not claiming that these simplified distinctions mirror reality, only that they may have pragmatic value for expanding our conception of diaspora mobilization and in highlighting where cultural obstacles are likely to arise.

Conceptual Poles for Diaspora Mobilization

For the Diaspora

Shared culture

From the Diaspora


Career Career
Lay Lay


Is this attempt to categorize diaspora mobilization helpful?

Does it promote discussion and reduce ambiguity?

I desire your feedback and ideas.

Please contact me at:  John Baxter – Baxter53@gmail.com

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