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Refugees: “An Opportunity to Reach the Nations for Christ”

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How can your church reach the nations? According to Andrew McNair, you may only need to walk out your front doors.

In this talk from the 2017 Go Conference, Andrew McNair explains how Lamp City Church is serving the refugee community in Clarkston, GA.

Watch the Go Talk above. You can read a transcript below:


Hi. My name is Andrew McNair. I’m going to reach the nations from Clarkston, Georgia. The faces we just saw on the screen reflect the faces of many displaced peoples in our world. They’re alone. They’re scared. They feel hopeless. They fled their home countries and sought refuge in our country due to things like political unrest, civil war, and religious persecution. Many of them need new friends and new families because they’ve lost their friends and families.

When we see these images, though, most of us don’t have any framework or understanding of what these people have experienced. So, we really don’t know how to respond. But when I see these faces, I see an opportunity — an opportunity to reach the nations for Christ right here in America. Because when I see these faces, I see the faces of people that represent the people that I now call my friends and my neighbors.

When I was a student here at Southeastern a few years ago, I didn’t know much about refugees at all. But I do remember sitting right here in Binkley Chapel in my first chapel service and being challenged with the message to go to the nations with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Dr. Akin stood in a pulpit right about here, and he told us, the question we should be asking ourselves is not why should I go, but instead, why should I stay?

Those questions resonated with me for years, and because of that I wrestled during my time here at Southeastern how God would use me to reach the nations. It was a desire I had. The only question was, at this point, where. See, my wife and I desired to be in Atlanta. We felt called to minister in that city. But at the same time, because of my time here, we also felt compelled to be going to the nations. One other thing that gripped me in my time here at Southeastern was this: That the Great Commission was never divorced from the local church. In fact, the motto here at Southeastern Seminary is “Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary seeks to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping students to serve the Church and fulfill the Great Commission.”

Well, the faculty and staff here on campus live this out. At the time, that spoke volumes to my incoming, immature heart that had a bad view of the local church and had been burned. So… because of the example of those I was training under, it was clear that we were mandated to be on mission, and that would happen through the local church.

Fast forward with me several years to the present day in Clarkston, Georgia. My wife and I moved there about a year and a half ago to plant Lamp City Church — along with a team of friends and family, both from here at Southeastern and our sending church in Raleigh, Imago Dei Church. It’s a specified, resettlement town. It sits on the eastern side of I-285. It’s just about eight miles east of mid-town, Atlanta. Clarkston is a town that’s only a mere square mile, but in that square mile there are 13,000 residents, and over 70 percent of those residents are internationals. Because of these statistics, Clarkston has been named the most diverse square mile in America by both CNN and The New York Times.

We have no excuse not to go to the nations because God has brought the nations to our backdoor.

Just so you can get an idea of Clarkston, follow me down one of my favorite streets. It’s called North Indian Creek Drive. This street gives an incredible picture of the immense religious, cultural and ethnic diversity in the area. On the left is the Clarkston Community Center where we gather as Lamp City on Sunday evenings for corporate worship every week. Next door is a local mosque, where 1,100 Muslims gather for prayer every Friday. Across the street from the mosque are two Buddhist temples. One of them is actually visibility giving way to a Shrine in the backyard that people bow down to.

Just down the street from all these religious buildings we have Clarkston High School… where over 65 languages are spoken in the hallways every day. Matthew Hogue is one of our elders at Lamp City, and he’s a ninth-grade biology teacher at Clarkston High School. You can imagine he experiences all the pitfalls of low income public schooling combined with incredible racial, religious and cultural diversity.

But last year, Matthew was able to share the gospel with about four of his students in class one day. They were asking him questions, and he was able to share the gospel of Christ with them. These students were from Somalia. They were Somali Muslims, students from a closed country where there are 11.3 million people — 0 percent evangelical. A mere 0.3 percent would claim to be Christians. Somalia is a closed country. We cannot send missionaries to this country. Yet 99.9 percent of their population is totally unreached. Somehow, though, we can’t share missionaries, but Matthew is able to share the gospel with them right here because they’ve moved to a small town in America.

One of the ways our church has attempted to reach these internationals and to engage them is just by being really good friends and neighbors, by practicing hospitality, by welcoming them into our homes and by going into their homes and establishing friendships. One of the things we’ve done is we’ve partnered with other Christians in our community, and on a bi-monthly basis we gather in an apartment we’re renting out in the complex where many of these refugees live, and we hold cooking classes and ESL classes. So twice a month, eighteen to twenty Muslim women from countries like Somalia and Syria gather in one apartment, and we teach them how to use an American kitchen, and then we provide them with inexpensive recipes so they can cook meals for their families.

After the meals are over and we’ve fellowshipped and eaten with them, we then move and we teach them ESL. We teach them English, but we do it by Bible storying and by showing the Jesus film and picking out words to teach them English. So, these women, 18 to 20 Muslim women from closed countries, come into this apartment to eat together, fellowship, cook and then learn English. And they do it by hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

And the funny thing is that they keep coming back. Every week. Just a few weeks ago, back at Christmas, we were able to sponsor some of these families that I’m talking about to buy Christmas presents for their children. While Christmas isn’t necessarily celebrated the same way as Americans would, what we were able to do through this is show the love of Christ to families from closed countries. And in doing so, we were then welcomed into their homes, and we were able to establish true friendships with people who need friends from closed countries.

Since moving to Clarkston, I’ve been able now to personally meet people from closed countries — countries like Burma, Jordan, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Bosnia, Russia and so one. I’ve had the opportunity to sit in their homes, to drink really good Arabic coffee with them and drink and eat incredible meals. I play soccer with them and get beat. But we’ve been able to be in their homes and in their lives. Our church has been able to meet people from closed countries by walking out of our front doors — because the nations have come into our backyard.

Because of this, it’s now clear to me that one can be on mission and go to the nations right here in America because the nations have come to us. Global kingdom advancement can happen right here. Because God is orchestrating a movement of these least reached peoples to our backyard. And one of the ways that I’ve been equipped to engage these internationals is through a resource of the Center for Great Commission Studies, right here at Southeastern, called Peoples Next Door. Peoples Next Door says this:

While doors into the hardest-to-reach nations are rapidly closing to missionaries, God is orchestrating a movement of these least-reached peoples into the heart-land of evangelical Christianity. These least-reached peoples are now in arms reach of your local church. So the question is… what will you do about it?

We at Lamp City have been called to do something about it. But the truth is that we’re just a small piece of God’s redemptive story. That same equipping that I’ve received from Peoples Next Door is available to each of you today. And so we can reproduce this work in each of our cities. We can reach internationals in each one of our cities that is represented here today, and we can do it right here in America.

We are all called to go. To be on mission. And now, we literally have no excuse not to go to the nations because God has brought the nations to our backdoor. Each one of us can join God on mission as he is drawing the nations to himself. We can be a part of that. You can be a part of that. So, will you go?

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