Friday, 13 May 2016

The Migration Crises and the Church Response Part 2 – Maximizing the Opportunity

The Migration Crises and the Church Response Part 2 – Maximizing the Opportunity
The challenges of migration are enormous both to the migrants and to the host people. Some are economical, others are cultural, some are political, others are demographic, and some are spiritual and psychological while others are ethnic and tribal in nature. People will live in fear and suspicion of each other which may lead to policies aimed at subduing and pushing away on one side and resistance and arousal of survival instincts on the other. Now, our focus is not really on what the politicians are doing, our focus is on what the church can do to leverage on the situation and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Over the years, we have been praying for missions, asking God to send people to some of these people groups, however now it has pleased Him to bring them down to our door steps. What should be the response of the Church to this amazing opportunity?

For the churches in southern Nigeria, the issues are critical. This is because there are different colours and shades attached to the whole matter of migration of northerners to the south that we ought to be very careful not to be dragged along by the sentimental and emotional pulls. There are all kinds of agitations here and there and because members of churches come from different regions where these agitations are canvassed, Christians are often tempted to start looking at issues with ethnic eyes instead of seeing people the way God sees them. This is a very serious matter every Christian leader in the southern Nigeria must pay attention to. We must take out time to read about the Rwandan Genocide and how the churches participated in the murder of Tutsis even inside church premises by Hutu rebels and militia men. Pastors and priests even betrayed one another just because they are not from the same ethnic group. If we fail to properly position our churches early with Christ’s response, we may end up fanning ethnic sentiments that will result in murders and massacres that will surprise and haunt us in the years to come. 

For example, most of the northerners we see in the south are nominal Christians who came down south in search of greener pastures and because of the crises in the north. If you as a pastor do not teach your congregation, they will lump everybody they see that is a northerner as Boko Haram and hate them. We have personally worked with many of them with the wrong notion that they were all Muslims until we began to interact with them. We discovered that many are from Plateau and Nasarawa States. Close to our office, there is a small settlement of northerners and by the time we investigated, we discovered that they are from Benue State (Tivs and Idomas). The Gateman where we live currently is a northerner and a Christian young boy who desires to further his education from Plateau State. The point is that if the church responds carnally which is what we sense around when we listen to prayer points that some pastors pray in their churches, we may end up teaching our members hate and igniting genocide like the Rwandan case. We are supposed to be the conscience of the society, modeling Christ no matter what we suffer. Every soul is important to God whether he is a Muslim or a nominal Christian or any other religion for that matter.

Now what should really be the church response to the migration we are experiencing in the south? The church should be strategic in its approach. Think outside the box. What will our churches look like in the next 10 to 20 years if we fail to evangelize these migrants? What will our environment and neighborhoods look like in a few years to come if we do not make a concerted effort to reach these ones that God has already brought to our door steps? Our aim is not to panic us but to encourage us to make ourselves available. 

Before we share what we believe are the dangers if we fail to wake up and take actions today (To be handled in Part 3), let us suggest what we believe our approach should be:
  1. Decide to model Christ to your congregation as a Christian leader. Decide to disciple your members and encourage them to live as Christ’s followers in love, holiness and purity. Let them understand the Great Commission which is a mandate we have as a church from our Lord Christ.
  2. Training: Pastors should submit themselves to training on how to reach the Muslims. We should organize pastors meetings and train ourselves on how we can reach out to Muslims within our door steps. Train our members on how to witness to Muslims about the Lord Jesus. CAPRO as a missions Agency has worked among the Unreached Muslims for over forty one years. They run a training called OASIS which has been proven to help prepare pastors and church members on how to reach out to Muslims. 
  3. Liaise and partner with Missions Agencies that have experience in reaching the Muslims. Most Southern churches do not really know what to do. They have the desire and resources to do something but do not know where to start from. Churches can engage these missionaries who have been working among the Muslims, especially now some of them have left their bases because of the insurgency. They understand these people and can even tell you the difference between the Shuwa Arabs and Hausas for example. They are trained. They can start missionary churches for you.
  4. Support and work with other churches that have the experience of working among Muslims over the years. Churches like ECWA, COCIN, NKST etc can be of great help.
  5. Start special churches like Hausa-Speaking Churches with trained pastors from the north who understand both their disposition and culture. We will allow the churches to run independently and we will raise leaders from among them who will in turn be used by God to reach their own people. Of course, we should be ready not to place any financial burden on them as we do to our regular churches.
  6. Invest in production of Multimedia evangelism tools like radios, tapes and videos etc in their own languages and use them for evangelism. Share them among these migrants and pray for God to use them to touch their lives.
  7. Engage in targeted crusades and evangelism towards these settlements.  Invite preachers from their own stock who will speak to their hearts. Carry out medical outreaches.
  8. Offer prayers to God for the souls of these migrants. Let our churches begin to pray for their salvation. As we pray, God will lead on the other things we may need to do in order to accomplish His purpose. Most of our prayer contents today show how unprepared we are and how we are not yet ready to reach out to these ones. This is because our prayers are full of ethnic and political sentiments and are not coming from real burden for souls.
  9. Train church members who are in politics on doing justice and judgment and we stop seeing them as ‘money’ but as ministers God has called in the area of political leadership. Advise the lawmakers among them on the formulation of some bills that will solve social problems and allow good atmosphere for the growth of the gospel. Some migration challenges will require political solutions which if our members in the National and State Assemblies are ignorant of, they will be bereft of ideas. They will not know how to use the legal instruments in their hands to contribute their own quota in solving the problems and propagating the Gospel.
  10. Finally be willing to sacrifice; be willing not to live for ourselves. These evangelism thrusts will create some social challenges and persecutions that will warrant that churches harbour and protect some that may end up being ostracized from among their communities. We may require sending some of them to school and paying their school fees or sending some to learn trades etc. We must be willing to leave our comfort zones and reach out to these migrants and also willing to spend and be spent for this mandate.
In the next and last post on this series, we will share the dangers that we will face if we continue to carry on in our ministries the way we are doing it today without adjusting, taking and maximizing the opportunity and positioning ourselves and our churches to reach the Muslim migrants God has brought to our door steps. May God richly bless you.

In the last post, we will provide a link to a downloadable presentation of this discuss which you can use in you church or modify to suit your need.

You can write us or drop a comment if you have any feedback.

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