Last year at the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis, I got interviews with a significant number of SBC pastors and leaders and asked them about immigrant and refugee ministry and advocacy. I have slowly been uploading them to my When Heaven and Earth Collide podcast and posting them here in blog form. They are also on iTunes and on the web at When Heaven and Earth Collide. So far, I have posted interviews from Ed Stetzer, Richard Land, Danny Akin, Matthew Hall, Bruce Ashford, Bryant Wright, and Bart Barber. Really good stuff there if yu want to understand what Southern Baptist and Evangelical leaders are saying about immigration, refugees, how we engage with prophetic witness in the current political climate, and most importantly, how we engage the nations who have come to us with the gospel and the tangible love of Christ.
The latest interview with Vance Pitman, pastor of Hope Church in Las Vegas, was really enlightening. If you want to jump straight to it, you can listen to it here: Vance Pitman Podcast.
Below are some notes I took while listening to it today. These notes are not meant to be direct quotes (don’t take them as such), but they give an idea of what we talked about and provide a good reference. The podcast itself will be some of the most edifying 17 minutes of your day.
Q: What might God be doing through the movement of peoples across the world?
A: The Nations are coming to the cities. Over 400-500 refugees coming to Las Vegas each year in addition to Latino immigrants from Central America. God in His sovereignty is allowing the nations to come to us so we can see a gospel movement to the ends of the earth – to nations that we cannot go to.
Hope Church has started a church called, Refuge Church, to reach immigrants and refugees who are coming to Las Vegas. A couple has taken a home and are using it as a center to train refugees in English through ESL and then share the gospel through that. They have taken the back yard of that home and have turned it into gardens where these families can tend and cultivate the garden, as they are used to back home.
We are mobilizing 70-100 people per month that work with Refuge Church in the city center. The immigrants need rides, because they often don’t have cars, so we help them get around and get used to life here. This becomes a platform for ministry.
We believe you cannot accomplish the Great Commission without crossing cultures. So, we give our people ways to do this by reaching the cultures and peoples who have come to Las Vegas.
Q: How do you prepare people spiritually to engage in this work?
We understand that the church only has one mission – to make disciples. We often relegate the portion of that that is cross-cultural to specialists, which is a mistake. So, we’ve moved that understanding into the very nature of discipleship. We say that you are not faithfully following Jesus if you are not crossing cultures with the gospel. We call people to spending percentages of your time in building relationships with God, people, and with people who are across different cultures. Take 5% of the time in your life and apply it to spiritual growth, building relationships, and crossing cultures.
Planting Gardens, Making Disciples, Cultivating Relationships Across Cultures
When you begin to build relationships, a lot of the political oppositions, false views, and barriers between you and people begin to change as we follow people into relationships. We cannot vote or militarize our way out of any of the situations that we’re in, but we can disciple ourselves into and through change.
Q: The West Is Different from the South – what can SBC churches in the West teach our churches in the South?
A: We must begin to think “City” and not just “church.” Our focus has been very focused on internal operations of churches. But, we need to move away from “every member a minister” to “every believer a missionary.” Instead of building bridges into the culture and community, we become islands unto ourselves with a “ya’ll come” mentality instead of going to the people. Instead of trying to seat as many people as we can, we need to think about how many people we can send.
We have to think about multicultural expressions of the gospel. By 2043, there will not be a majority cultural expression in America. We don’t mean “multi-colored” where it is one culture with different colors, but rather, a true multicultural expression, which means that everyone is uncomfortable. There is a element of the character of God woven into every person and every culture on earth. We only experience that when the gospel interacts with people and when we come together in churches and we share together what God has put into us.
Q: What is our voice/message to a divided America as God is doing this work in us?
Our church is truly multicultural, which is a great blessing and also a great burden. We have a collision of political backgrounds and people have different views. People come from different theological perspectives. But, this setting has purified my preaching. When we look at the Scriptures for what it is, it will purify and shape our worldview and then our politics. From that place, we are called to be an advocate, where we “speak on behalf of.” When the church gets off track and we get too focused on legislation, we miss our primary mission. But, that doesn’t mean that we don’t speak on behalf of Biblical principles and on behalf of people and how we live together into the political sphere.