Continuing my series of interviews with Southern Baptist leaders on immigration/refugee ministry/advocacy from a Biblical perspective, I next air Episode 4 of the When Heaven and Earth Collide podcast: an interview with Pastor Bryant Wright of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia . Wright is also the former president of the SBC. In this interview, we talk about how local churches can help refugees who come to America experience the love of Christ. Wright and Johnson Ferry Baptist were thrust into the middle of controversy last December when they agreed to follow through on their commitment to sponsor a Syrian refugee family, even though Georgia Governor Nathan Deal made moves to keep Syrian refugees out of Georgia after the Paris and San Bernadino attacks. Johnson Ferry has continued this ministry and Wright and others from the church have been to the Middle East many times to work with and assist refugees in the camps. Wright has said, “It’s a humanitarian disaster. It just makes sense to me to reach out with love and concern to them rather than withdrawing in fear.”
In this conversation, we talk about why a local church would engage in refugee ministry, the obstacles and challenges to this ministry, how the implications and call of the gospel is to motivate Christians to love sacrificially, and how fear is not to be the determining factor. Wright talks about how the preaching of the Word can and should shape a church to join in God’s mission and how we should not give in to fear.
“We are not naive about the dangers – we know they are there. But, that doesn’t change our calling to reach out to others with the love of Christ.”
Pastor Wright provides a good example for evangelical pastors seeking to lead their church to engage in gospel ministry to refugees and immigrants wherever they are. After the SBC passed a resolution in June encouraging all Southern Baptists to welcome refugees into their homes and churches as a demonstration of the gospel, the need for voices like Bryant Wright’s on this ministry opportunity before us is greater than ever.
In the intro to the podcast, I talk about the Olympic Refugee Team that is made up of 10 refugees from around the world to represent and highlight the ongoing world refugee crisis. The story of Yusra Mardini, an 18 year old refugee from Syria, who is a swimmer, is incredible. She swam for 3.5 hours in the Mediterranean helping pull her boat full of 20 refugees after the engines failed to make it to the island of Lesbos. She is competing as a swimmer for the Refugee Team to help spread the message that one should keep hoping and working for a better future. What an inspiration. When we think about refugees, I hope that we will think about people made in God’s image whom God loves with unique gifts, talents, and abilities and incredible worth and value. I am praying for this team and the 65 million refugees around the world that they represent. Will you join me?
For a further discussion on the global refugee crisis and the Biblical basis for refugee and immigrant ministry, you might also want to check out an interview that I did last week with Carmen LaBerge for her nationally syndicated Reconnect radio show. We had a great conversation about why and how Christians should welcome and minister to refugees and immigrants and why their burdens should be our burdens. There is also a lot of information about the refugee vetting process shared.
But first, make sure that you listen to the podcast interview with Bryant Wright (scroll down to the player in this post) and come back and discuss!