Posts Tagged ‘immigration’


Immigration Policy and Ministry

The Gospel Coalition is running a two-part blog series I coauthored with Matthew Soerens of World Relief on the sensitive subject of gospel ministry and immigration policy.

In the first part we concentrated on a pastor’s role in shaping the attitudes of Christians toward immigrants, both legal and illegal.

In the second part, we dived into specifics in terms of legality, laws, and advocacy for a more updated system.

This is an important conversation for the Church and something many ministries are wrestling with. I appreciate The Gospel Coalition’s willingness to engage this issue.


Evangelicalism’s Changing Heart on Immigration – Patheos Column

Today Patheos is featuring a my column, cowritten with my friend Matthew Soerens of World Relief on the changing attitudes toward immigration among evangelicals:

The conventional wisdom among pundits and journalists holds that immigration is a key to winning over the evangelicals who dominate the Republican presidential nominating process in the early states. This is why the GOP candidates continue to jockey to see who sounds more restrictionist.

But this thinking fails to capture a growing sense in the larger evangelical world that the problem of illegal immigration must be handled with care, not because of electoral sympathies, but because of a changing sense of mission in the church.

You can read the entire column here: Evangelicalism’s Changing Heart on Immigration.


Mini-Reviews #8

Just finished another great batch of books:

Work Matters by Tom Nelson.

This is a terrific book on a subject not explored fully enough in contemporary evangelicalism: a theology of work. As usual, Nelson (pastor of Christ Community Church in Leawood, Kansas), shares a comprehensive, balanced, biblical view of the doctrine of work.

A Christmas Journey Home by Kathi Macias

Kathi Macias, a friend, is a gifted writer. The last few years she has devoted herself to writing what she calls “bold” fiction. She tackles a thorny social issue and weaves a story around it, opening up the reader’s eyes to issues of justice and suffering. I recently read and reviewed her novel, Deliver Me From Evil which puts a face on the scourge of human trafficking. It so disturbed me that I’ve renewed a committment to help in this fight.

A Christmas Journey Home tackles the subject of illegal immigration, something that provokes heated debate on both sides. What Kathi does is share the stories of two widows about to collide. One is the wife of a slain border agent. She and her son struggle in the year after his death, wondering why God allowed it to happen and taking her anger out on the illegals that cross the border. In her anger you can hear the frustration of those who wish the border was more secure.

The other story is one of a young pregnant Mexican wife who, with her husband, fled the violence in her hometown. Their once quiet neighborhoods were now racked by violence, the indiscriminate murder of innocent women and children. Her father gives the couple his life savings and urges them to try to cross the border. In their story you see the struggle to find a better situation for their growing family.

The two stories collide in a setting not dissimilar from the humble conditions of Jesus’ birth. It is the story of the Nativity that calls the border agent’s wife to find the forgiveness and grace to engage the wife of the illegal. This is not a book that offers bullet-point solutions to the issue of illegal immigration, but readers will put a human face on a problem, pushing past the stereotypes, posturing, and politics that plage the immigration crisis.

This is a great book first for church staff, pastors, and missionaries. Quite often we either send a message to the lay people in our congregation that their day job is less important than that of a ministry leader. We don’t preach often enough on the important doctrine of vocation, of work not simply as a means to an end (tithing, evangelism), but as a form of worship itself. Nelson covers the full orbit of work in a pastoral, encouraging way.

This is also a terrific book for lay leaders. Often you feel as if you’re “secular” work is sort of secondary to church involvement, as if what you do on Monday-Friday has no connection to worship on Sunday. Nelson will shatter that myth with biblical truth and give you a solid foundation from which to glorify God in your vocation.

After reading this book, I’m thinking of doing a future Sunday morning series on the theology of work. We pastors often fail to properly spiritually equip our people for their chosen calling in this world. Work Matters will go a long way toward helping us do that.



Understanding the Hispanic Culture

I was pleased to listen to this broadcast (embedded below) on Focus on the Family, featuring Samuel Rodriguez, President of National Hispanic Leadership Conference, a Hispanic Evangelical organization. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of some of America’s leading Evangelical organizations such as: Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, National Association of Evangelicals, and Christianity Today.

What I appreciated about this interview was Rodriguez explanation of the Hispanic culture’s emphasis on the family. Currently there are 50 million Hispanics in America, 16-18 million of whom are evangelical Christians. Rodriguez explained that in their culture, church and family are vital. I think this is important for believers to understand. Some feel threatened by the rise of the Hispanic minority in the United States, but this vast migration of peoples is actually helping to restore a good emphasis on faith and family. I think pastors and church leaders would be wise to listen to this broadcast to help us better understand our Hispanic friends and neighbors and how to reach them with the gospel of Christ.

Here’s the broadcast:



Friday Five – Matthew Soerens

author photoIt’s hard to find a more divisive issue in American politics than immigration. Good people fall on various sides of the issue. But church leaders are increasingly asking what role the church plays in addressing the needs of both legal and undocumented immigrants.

Matthew Soerens has become a go-to leader on this issue. Matthew works as the US Church Training Specialist for World Relief, an evangelical organization that is especially devoted to helping refugees around the world. He is the coauthor of  Welcoming the Stranger the very informative website,, which answers questions and offers information in for assisting the church in ministering to undocumented immigrants.

Today, Matthew agreed to stop by and answer five questions for today’s Friday Five:

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Thoughtful Engagement on Immigration

A few days ago I posted a blog expressing some of my frustration regarding what I perceived as some callousness on the part of evangelicals toward immigration. It provoked some discussion, mostly offline, among friends. Having some time to reflect, I realized that my post was written in haste, with little editing, and didn’t serve to edify. So I pulled it.

That being said, God is really working on my heart on the issue of immigration. I really feel this is an issue we need to approach with a Great Commission perspective.
Increasingly, the nations are coming to us, here in America. Most evangelicals I talk to consider this a welcome thing, an opportunity for evangelism, building community, and greater diversity in the body of Christ.

For some, it is a bit of a threat, as they see the fabric of their neighborhoods change. I really think this issue is going to challenge Christians in the coming years as we address this global reality.
I’m also being challenged about the plight of the undocumented worker. This is a very difficult, complex issue and there are good people on both sides. I think, increasingly, Christians are viewing the illegal immigrant as someone for whom God cares and loves and that as followers of Christ it is our job to minister and love them because they were made in God’s image. We should treat them no differently.

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Immigration and Evangelism

Perhaps there is no hotter topic than the subject of immigration. If you want to turn a really nice dinner party into an ugly brawl, just stand up and give your views on immigration. Yes, you will have ignited a verbal war.

Judging the emails, Facebook entries, and Twitter chatter, Christians are talking a lot of immigration. But the question is, and should be, how should a Christian think biblically about this issue.

Its no secret that the population of immigrants is swelling in the United States. And many immigrants are not here legally. This has many people rightfully upset, not the least of whom are those immigrants who worked hard to be here legally. It’s quite obvious that the government has had difficulty enforcing the border. Some feel they haven’t worked hard enough. But they have beefed up security in the past couple of years, and if you believe it, the statistics show that the flow of illegals has declined.

For many, its an issue of law and order. A nation of laws cannot allow laws to be unbroken. I agree with this. Order in society is essential to freedom. Romans 13 clearly gives the government the right to enforce its own laws and Christians should abide by those laws unless they infringe on our ability to worship God.

Here is where I have a problem with the typical conservative reaction to illegal immigration. I think they have largely directed their angst at the wrong group of people: the immigrants themselves, instead of the businesses who have largely “winked and nodded” when it comes to hiring illegals below wage and getting much more labor than would be required for a typical working citizen. The Bible tells us that the laborer is worthy of his wages (Luke 10:7; 1 Timothy 5:18). Businesses have largely gotten a free pass on what could be described as a form of slavery or serfdom.

And yet, we have much more anger at the illegals themselves. My question, as a Christ-follower, is this. How does God see these people? Statistic show that immigrants, especially Hispanic ones from Mexico, have a very high percentage of converting to Christianity when they arrive. This is a huge mission field for the gospel.

So what should we see when we see the great tide of immigrants across the border? We should see what Jesus sees, “fields that are white and ready to harvest” (John 4:35). We should see human beings, created in the image of God, whom God wants to restore to Himself through the salvation of the Gospel.

But many times, Christians don’t see what Jesus sees. We instead see a rising influx of immigrants as a threat. I’ve had more than one conversation with them and I’ve noticed that people complain about the changing demographics of their neighborhood.

You see, Jesus was always about a perfect balance of law and grace. The Pharisees were all law. They even added to the law. They were so intent on finding, pointing out, and stamping out sin. And Jesus didn’t necessarily disagree with their assessment that men were sinners. But He also talked of grace. Grace that loves the sinner in spite of the sin.

When it comes to illegal immigration, I wonder if Christians lead first with their Bibles, they might come to a more compassionate response. This is why I think you’re seeing a rising tide of evangelical leaders push for stricter border enforcement, but also a humane and compassionate response to those illegals immigrants who are already here. Not because we ignore the law, but because we are also about grace.

And to those who will still argue about the law–are they willing to be completely scrutinized for every law they might be breaking. What about those Christians who refuse to obey taxes? Should we apply the same tough tactics some advocate toward illegals?

I know this engenders a lot of heated opinion. But here is the bottom line. As Christians, called to be on mission with God and to reach the unreached with the gospel–can we honestly advocate a “kick ‘em out” mentality? Can we be faithful to the Great Commission and still speak of illegal aliens with the angry anti-immigrant rhetoric?

I wonder sometimes if we conservatives are more interested in scoring political points, in seeing the “bad guys” (Democrats, liberals, etc) defeated than we are in seeing lost souls won to the saving knowledge of faith in Christ.

Because I think we are to follow Jesus first, follow Scripture first, and then let our political viewpoints fall where they may. Most of all, to those who come here to the U.S. , will the church reach out with the gospel or with a political punch in the mouth?