Wednesday, September 28, 2011

You’se Ain't From Around Here!”

I still remember those words with a Brooklyn accent. They were words spoken to me as I took a seat on a Manhattan bus heading to my church plant outside of New York City. It seems that my southern accent had given me away as stranger.

As I think on that conversation with the Jewish gentlemen from Brooklyn, I will always remember those around us who aren't from around here. They are the refugee and the new immigrant from around the world who now work, play, live and worship in our neighborhoods.

Three years ago when I came on staff at the Nashville Baptist Association, I was challenged to begin pray and develop a church planting strategy that would reach out and penetrate the lostness in the Nashville area. Part of that strategy was to identify the unreached people groups of our area.

In the process of identifying the unreached peoples of Nashville, our team made some very important discoveries:

1. Nashville is 5th largest Metropolitan Statistical Area for foreign born population.

2. Nashville is home to 70+ people groups and that 35 of these groups number 1000 or more in population.

3. Several of the unreached people groups residing in the Nashville area continue to have relationships in their home countries which are areas that there is little to no gospel witness.

4. There are at least 30 people groups in the Nashville area that have less than a 2% gospel witness among them.

5. 180,000 + Total Foreign Born Population lives in Davidson County alone.

6. There are 15+ Mosques, 1 Islamic School, 1 Hindu Temple, 1 Sikh Temple, 15+ Buddhist Temples, 4+ Shinto Meditation Centers located in the Nashville area.

All these statistics are only statistics unless we realize that these numbers are also people who need the gospel. They are not some far away native or living in some village somewhere. They are your neighbors, the person in Wal-Mart, the family sitting next to you on the soccer field or the waiter/waitress serving you at one of your favorite restaurants. You don’t need a passport, you don’t need shots and you don’t even have to board an airplane. All you need is a willingness to listen, observe, ask questions and share the gospel.

You say what impact would this have? Several weeks ago, I heard the testimony of a Sudanese man living here in Nashville. He had came to trust Christ as his personal Savior and Lord. Through telephone calls, email and Internet chats, this new Sudanese believer lead his family back in the Sudan to Christ. His family is now planting a church in their village in the Sudan. Acts 1:8 was carried out without even leaving Nashville.

What would happen if we as believers in Christ were to reach those people with a strange accent and "not from around here" with the Gospel? We could see a worldwide sharing of the Gospel! God has brought the world to us here in Nashville and to all our neighborhoods. All we have to do is go across the street or around the corner to reach the world for Christ.