by Andy Johnson

Would you be surprised if told you that Americas are increasingly inhospitable to international visitors, and that Christians can thank God for that? One university reports that 80 percent of their international students never see the inside of a local U. S. home. Longer-term immigrants seem to fare little better.

So why can Christians thank God? If unbelievers have lost interest in showing hospitality to foreigners, we have all the more opportunity! We can welcome foreigners, show compassion, and so commend the gospel right here in America.

Some numbers will illustrate the scale of this opportunity. Since 1970 more than 35 million individuals have immigrated to the United States. And that’s not counting the more than 700,000 college students who come here to study each year, or the millions of illegal immigrants living in the shadows of our cities and towns.

You don’t need to live in New York or Los Angeles to reach out to newcomers. The largest community of Kurdish people in America is in Nashville, Tennessee. The biggest community of Somalis is in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Springfield, Virginia hosts the second largest community of Afghans in the Western Hemisphere.

And, of course, there are hundreds of thousands of college students from all over the world—a new flood every year. Even many smaller universities have substantial programs for international students. You might be surprised what nations God has brought to your doorstep.


The members of my own congregation, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, have embraced this evangelistic opportunity in our community. And I want to share some of what those faithful saints have been doing, not to say others should do exactly what we do, but to encourage similar kinds of faithfulness.

Our outreach to internationals started when one of our missionaries came home and spent a year living in Washington, D.C. During his time with us, the one thing we asked was that he help us survey the population of internationals living near our church. At the end of his time he concluded that students were the only significant resident population of internationals nearby. Most longer-term immigrants lived out in the distant suburbs. So our most significant ministry would be among students.

It so happened that there was a man in our church from Singapore who had himself been converted as an international student in the UK. One of our elders began to meet with him and asked him to think about how he might encourage more outreach from our church to international students. He began to host a Bible study in his home for international students. Later, English language classes were started in our church and on a nearby campus. More members got involved and began to meet one-to-one for practicing English by talking through the gospel. They were open and above-board in telling students this gospel conversation was our aim right from the start. As a result they had more opportunities to meet up with international students.

Eventually the effort grew until so many church members were involved that our elders decided to create the position of Deacon of International Outreach. This deacon would coordinate and give leadership to all the activity already happening: teaching English, hosting international students for meals, spending leisure time with them, picking them up from airports, and, most of all, meeting one-to-one to study through the Gospels with an interested student.

In the course of the following years we’ve had the joy of baptizing and adding to our church body several men and women who came to trust in Christ through these efforts. Others have believed and joined other churches in the area. Many have returned to their home countries where they are now witnesses for the gospel. Praise God!


So here are a few observations drawn from our own these experiences.

1. Be willing to give pastoral leadership, but probably lightly.

First, be willing to give pastoral leadership, but probably lightly. As elders, we want to encourage the initiative of our members. We don’t want to press for top-down programs. But that doesn’t mean there’s not a role for our leadership, prayer, planning, and a few strategic decisions or conversations.

Certainly praying openly before your congregation that God might use your church to reach internationals is an obvious way to start. In addition, a few well-placed conversations with likely leaders in your church may stir up wonderful results. Growing in your own awareness of unrealized opportunities in your community cannot hurt either.

2. Let your international investments inform your local ones.

Second, let your international investments inform your local ones. We hope our church will find ways to reach out to Muslims, especially from nations where we have long-term missionaries at work. One of the best ways we’ve been able to do this is hosting our overseas workers for long-term stays when they are back in the States. And we want them spending months here, not days.

Having missionaries here with us who speak a people’s language and know their culture has been super helpful for building inroads among internationals. And if we are going to spend a lot of money sending people overseas to take the gospel to a particular people, we should certainly encourage our members to cross the street to reach the same people.

3. Be happy with unexpected fruit.

Third, be happy with unexpected fruit. As a church that is heavily invested in mission to the Muslim world, I wasn’t expecting that most of the fruit of our local work with internationals would be from secular East Asia. But as God would have it, that’s been the case. And that’s great! As our members have gotten to know students on local campuses, this has been the wonderful result and we’re delighted. Be strategic, but realize that the Spirit moves wherever he will.

4. Remember that all peoples need the gospel.

Finally, remember that all peoples need the gospel. Perhaps the best way to encourage a love for strangers is to keep reminding our people about the implications and imperatives that flow from the gospel. The only bridge we need to reach out to men and women from distant cultures is a reminder of our common state before God.

We all share the same parents. We all share in their sin. We all use our various cultures and man-made religions to hide from the true God and our guilt before him. We all need a savior from outside ourselves and from outside our culture. In short, we all need the gospel.

I know this may sound simplistic. But I’m convinced that, more than any program or effort or idea, the faithful preaching and careful application of God’s Word to the topic of cross-cultural evangelism is what God has most used to bring about the international fruit our own church is enjoying.

So pray for your own church. Lead them gently to embrace the nations around you. But build your church’s outreach all on a foundation of solid, gospel-informed love for every sheep who would come to hear Christ’s voice and follow him.

Andy Johnson is an associate pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC.


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by Laurie Aker

In Psalm 63, a love song to his beloved God, David proclaims that God is his God, that he seeks after Him with his heart, soul, mind, and strength, and with all that he has within him. As the circumstances escalate, in the vortex of emotion, under the intense pressure, he doesn’t take matters into his own hands or run after the solutions the world has to offer. We witness the beautiful, ardent longing of a man who is consumed with His Lord with every fiber of his being, clinging with every bit of energy and believing that ultimately God was holding him safely and holding all things together in His almighty hands. He was confident that he would see God’s power and glory. Our heavenly Father knows that this outlook is often times much more easily established in trouble, suffering, and affliction, rather than in the midst of prosperity, ease, and calm because the pressure of difficult circumstances both drives us to God and more readily refines our hearts. We are blessed to witness the internal, intimate worship of this servant of God as he runs to the fountain of life in the midst of the desert because he has developed a deep and abiding trust in God and in His Word and not in himself. Paul too learned this intimate trust in the Lord, in His power and His glory. He understood that all things, including the tremendous trials and tribulations the Lord had allowed in His life, which at times even felt like a sentence of death, were intended by God to press him to lean into Christ:

For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.  (2 Cor. 1:8-11)

The Lord is with you. He wants to grow you in your ability to know this experientially. As we learn to follow the Lord more and more by faith and fix our eyes upon Him, He will demonstrate His power and His majesty before our very eyes and reveal Himself to us. Trusting Him, knowing that He is forming us into His very image, He reveals himself to us as the source of all joy, peace, and truth; the Lord of all; and God Most High.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. (2 Cor. 4:7-12)


This blog post is an excerpt from the Thistlebend Discipleship Study Falling in Love Again with Your Lord available here.

by Susan Sampson

The other morning I read the Daily Light devotion and Isaiah 62:4-5 was quoted: “You shall no longer be termed Forsaken…but you shall be called Hephzibah [My Delight is in Her]…for the Lord delights in you.  …as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you” (NKJV).  So I realized that the pauper girl Laurie mentioned in her recent Who Am I in Christ lecture had a name–Forsaken.  But now, because the prince married the pauper (to continue Laurie’s analogy), we have a new name–Hephzibah (which means “My Delight Is in Her”)!

Not only have we been given this beautifully amazing new name, but we also have been completely cleansed and given new clothes!  When we were the pauper we lived in our filthy rags.  We had nothing to bring.  Not only were we wearing filthy rags, but even our good deeds were filthy rags (Is. 54:6, NIV).  Our sins defiled us from head to toe.  But the prince “cleansed her by the washing of water with the word” (Eph. 5:26)!  Now that the prince has made us a princess, we wear His robe of righteousness (Is. 61:10)!

Listen to the prophet Zechariah’s vision in chapter 3:1-5:

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.  And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, O Satan!  The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you!  Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?”  Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments.  And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.”  And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.”  And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.”  So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments.

Here is what the ESV Study Bible notes say:

The vision is located in the heavenly courtroom, where the angel of the Lord is seated as the judge.  Joshua the high priest, one of the leaders of the returned exiles, is the defendant, and Satan, whose name means “the accuser” is the prosecutor.  Satan has a very strong case, for Joshua was not merely clothed with filthy garments but, more precisely, clothed in garments soiled with excrement, which would automatically defile the wearer….Yet the Lord ruled Satan’s charges inadmissible before he could present them.  The Lord’s election of Jerusalem and Joshua’s position as one “plucked from the fire” means that Joshua is free from any possible condemnation. The Lord also acts to cleanse Joshua from his iniquity.  He commands his servants to remove the filthy garments, so removing Joshua’s iniquity, and to clothe Joshua in pure vestments, garments suitable for him to wear in the presence of the King of kings.  Since the filthy garments represent iniquity, these “pure vestments” represent a new righteousness imputed to Joshua.

In love the King of kings chose us to be his daughter-in-law!  The King’s firstborn Son chose us to be His bride forever!  “And I will betroth you to me forever.  I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy.  I will betroth you to me in faithfulness.  And you shall know the Lord” (Hosea 2:19-20).  Remember Hosea?  He was the prophet the Lord told to marry a prostitute.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!  Jesus rescued us, redeemed us, delivered us and restored us.  “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13).

Over the past couple of weeks the word that keeps coming to me is “respond.”  How will I respond to these amazing truths?  I even have in my mind a picture of Sean Connery from the movie “The Untouchables” dying on the floor looking at Kevin Costner saying with his dying breath in his Scottish accent, “What are you prepared to do?!”

I want to respond in humble gratitude, entering into the love of my Savior, trusting in His perfect love for me.  This can only be done by the grace of God.  We are completely dependent on Him.  We must cry out to Him every day for our daily bread.  Every day for more and more grace from His fullness.  He is the Vine and we are the branches.  Apart from Him we can do nothing.  But in Christ we can do all things.  We have the power of the Holy Spirit living in us.  We have been sealed by the Spirit of God Himself.

Today let us look to Christ, look to the cross, turn our eyes away from self and the things of this world and see what He has done for the pauper girls.  Let us thank Him, tell Him we love Him because He first loved us, and worship Him in spirit and in truth by offering our bodies as living sacrifices holy and pleasing to the Lord as our Beloved first did for us.