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America in a sea of change

David Moore is director of Intercultural Ministries for the Assemblies of God. He recently spoke with Kc Kopaska, special assistant in Intercultural Ministries, about demographic changes in America and their implications for the church.

Evangel: Describe the cultural changes taking place in America.

Moore: Since the Immigration Act of 1965, people have been migrating to America from nations they rarely came from before. Most immigrants had come from western European nations; now they come from Asia, Latin America and Africa.

It used to be that people immigrating to America were expected to forsake their culture and language and become like most Americans. Now, the climate encourages preservation and protection of other people’s values and languages.

Consider that one in six Americans speaks a language other than English in the home.

Evangel: What impact is Intercultural Ministries making on America?

Moore: We have more than 450 missionaries ministering to a vast array of ethnic groups as well as to the deaf, blind, persons with disabilities, the gay and lesbian community, persons with AIDS, cults and to the inner cities. Our missionaries have planted hundreds of ethnic churches and discipled ethnic leaders to shepherd them. We have a strong presence in many Muslim and Buddhist communities.

Intercultural missionaries reach people as soon as they come to America, when culture shock makes them more receptive to the gospel.

Evangel: What challenges does cross-cultural ministry present to the American church?

Moore: In the apostle Paul’s words: "To become all things to all people, so that by all possible means we might save some." The challenge is to be culturally sensitive to those who do not hold the same values and to present the gospel within the framework of those values.

Evangel: What opportunities for evangelism does this multicultural change present to the church?

Moore: One of the greatest opportunities for evangelism of culturally distinct peoples stretches beyond the confines of America. By reaching them here in America with the gospel we are able to build evangelistic networks around the world.

I heard recently about a Vietnamese family that went back to Vietnam to attend a family function, with the purpose of sharing the gospel. As a result, 43 Vietnamese people accepted Christ. They heard the gospel in their own language from a Christian Vietnamese family from America. These same American Christians are now mentoring and discipling these new converts through e-mail and by phone.

I often hear that, after people come to America and hear the gospel for the first time, they return to their homeland and witness to family and others.

Evangel: How can ordinary Christians evangelize cross-culturally?

Moore: Small-town America, because of its sense of community, feels the impact of immigration more profoundly than larger cities. Christians must identify the issues these new neighbors present. Most important is the awareness that these people are dying and going to hell.

Another way to make an impact is simply to be a friend and to help them make the necessary adjustments. A trip to the grocery store or other shopping places is difficult when you do not speak the language. Be patient and willing to understand them, instead of demanding they understand you. People respond to friendship and love. Love them as Jesus does.

Evangel: Many Christians are unsettled by the demographic changes taking place in America.

Moore: We’re not here to build an earthly kingdom; we’re here to build Christ’s kingdom. We need to see people as those for whom He paid a great price. Whether or not we agree with this nation’s immigration policies or whether or not we like the demographic changes occurring in America, only one thing matters: We must reach people for Christ.

 

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