by J.D. Payne
InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515, 206 pages, 2012. $15.00.
—Reviewed by Jenny Yang, vice president of advocacy and policy, World Relief.
The migration of people throughout the world creates a huge missional opportunity for the Church, but whether the Church seizes the opportunity will be depend upon a deeper biblical understanding of the movement of people and the realities of current migratory patterns.
Strangers Next Door by J.D. Payne provides a compelling overview of the migration of people around the world and its impact on missiology. By providing a broad biblical perspective of the movement of people, then breaking down the current state of migration around the world, Payne provides a practical guide to help Christians think about migration through the lens of a missional framework and respond accordingly.
In the beginning chapters, Payne provides detailed analysis of global migration trends, offering many statistics to demonstrate the sheer number of those moving throughout the world. He then specifically focuses on migration to the West to demonstrate that a large number of Unreached People Groups are arriving to the doorsteps of the evangelical Church. One chart demonstrates, for example, that there are 1,173 Unreached People Groups living in the West. Throughout the book, Payne weaves personal stories of immigrants to humanize the narrative. He includes anecdotes of his own interaction with immigrants and international students, and in the latter chapters provides guidelines and strategies to reach the unreached.
Payne grounds the current reality of the movement of people within the context of what God has been doing throughout the history of humanity, stating that “the Sovereign Lord has worked through the migration of his people to work out his plan for the world.” Starting from Genesis, where God commanded man to “be fruitful and multiply,” to the persecution of the Jerusalem church in the New Testament, which led to the scattering of the disciples throughout Judea and Samaria, Payne reminds the reader that God has a greater purpose in the movement of people throughout history and in the current day.
While challenging the Western Church with the great missional opportunity through migration, the book, however, does not address the reality that most immigrants arriving to Western nations (like the United States, Canada, and parts of Europe) are Christians themselves. While giving some mention of the need for partnership, Payne positions the Western Church as the one with the capacity, ability, and resources to disciple and teach the immigrant community without exploring how the riches and experiences of immigrants can inform the practices and beliefs of the Western Church.
Western churches have an opportunity to share the gospel with immigrants, but they can also learn from immigrants and immigrant churches in a reciprocal relationship. Reaching out to immigrants isn’t just about equipping them to be sent out as missionaries to their home countries, as Payne suggests, but there must be a deeper understanding that the migration of immigrants has and will continue to positively impact the evangelical Church in the West as well.
Strangers Next Door is a much-needed book that provides detailed analysis of migratory patterns around the world and challenges churches to embrace migration as part of God’s redemptive purposes. It is a useful tool in equipping churches to be more effective in missions right in their own community.
Check these titles:
Carroll, Daniel. R. 2008. Christians at the Border: Immigration, the Church, and the Bible. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic
Soerens, Matthew and Jenny Hwang. 2009. Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion and Truth in the Immigration Debate. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.
EMQ, Vol. 49, No. 2, pp. 380-381. Copyright © 2013 Billy Graham Center. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.