Last November I went to Taylor University College and Seminary in Edmonton, Canada to participate in a consultation on the subject of Diaspora Missiology. Dr. Enoch Wan, a mentor and missiologist from Western Seminary, had invited me as a specialist in Jewish missions. The conference was sponsored by the Filipino International Network, and was titled, “Gathered to Scatter – Scattered to Gather.”
Missions trends among people who are scattered from their homeland are known as “Diaspora missiology.” God uses scattered people to reach other nations, and He is also reaching people who are scattered. It was wonderful to hear about new ways that the gospel is moving through societies today as participants reported on their ministries to Vietnamese, Chinese, Koreans, Hispanics, East Africans, South Asians, Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, West Africans, Hindus and Nepalese. For my part, I chronicled the many places and ways that Jews are now hearing the gospel in the Diaspora.
Diaspora is and has been characteristic of the Jewish experience for most of the past 2600 years. God showed His faithfulness to preserve the Jewish people throughout our first Diaspora in Egypt. Eventually He brought us back to the homeland He had provided, and we dwelt there for the next 500 years. The next major Diaspora occurred with the dispersion of the Northern Kingdom by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. The Babylonians took the Southern Kingdom, Judah, into captivity in 586 B.C. Aside from a small remnant that returned, Israel has been scattered widely ever since.
The Lord God continues to demonstrate His covenant faithfulness to the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob over these millennia. He has been accomplishing His salvific purpose through Jesus the Messiah, who came through the Jewish people.
Through Jesus’ birth, ministry, sacrifice and resurrection, God has been gathering all kinds of people to Himself. However, the proclamation of His Good News began with a dispersion of Jewish people. During the first century, Romans persecuted the early Jewish believers in Jesus. As a result those believers scattered in all directions, carrying with them the gospel of salvation. As other Jewish people embraced the gospel, they, too helped spread it throughout the Diaspora.
However, it was not only the Jewish people who were attracted to Jesus. Gentiles first heard of the Messiah from Jewish believers in the synagogues that existed throughout the empire. Those who received Christ helped spread the message into their communities. So the gospel spread from Jerusalem to Judea, to the synagogues of the Diaspora and from there to the uttermost parts of the earth.
Since the Jewish community has almost continually lived in Diaspora one would expect a greater openness to the gospel. However, our people are accustomed to being dispersed and Jewish people are, as missiologists would say, “gospel resistant.” Nevertheless, the gospel is reaching Jewish people in the Diaspora to this very day through unique means and methods. It is especially touching those in the new forms of Diaspora.
People who are scattered or dislocated from their home communities are generally more open to culture change and introduction of new spiritual truth. Those who have most recently departed from their homeland are the most likely to be open. Of the 13 million Jewish people in the world today, two-thirds live outside of the homeland of Israel. However, even the 4.8 million who live within the Land of Israel are still in a state of transition. So are the thousands of Israelis who travel each year and who live and work outside of Israel at this time. They, too, are open to the introduction of gospel culture change.
Diaspora missiology is a new and exciting way of looking at world missions. Please pray for the publication of papers highlighting this illuminating approach to missions. A book based upon the ideas presented at the consultation should be released some time late in 2007.