by Uchenna D. Anyanwu, Mission Advocate
During the periods often referred to as the modern Protestant Mission Eras (1), Christian missionary trend was often a North-South movement. Followers of Jesus who sensed God’s calling for cross-cultural missions were recruited, trained and sent out from their home countries (predominantly from Europe and North America) to countries in the Global South (Africa, Asia, Oceania and South America). But with the advent of global migration and ease of travel from one end of the globe to another, that classical approach has been witnessing a paradigmatic shift. Missions is no longer uniquely a North-South-ward movement. South-North migration has brought several peoples who had no access to the Gospel (often referred to as unreached people groups) to live and work within the reach of churches. We can call them the “unreached within reach”. Hence, mission scholars now speak of polycentric missions—that is: missions from everywhere to everywhere, from everyone to everywhere, or from everywhere to everyone (2). The mission field is no longer only in the Global South. Instead, everywhere is now a mission field. Inasmuch as there still remain several unreached peoples in the Global South, the Global North in itself has also become a mission field.
One of the ways that the Global North has become a mission field is the decline of the Christian faith in most of Europe and North America. But another important trend that has also rendered the Global North to become a mission field has to do with the increasing settlement of people on the move (from unreached lands) in host countries in the Global North. This trend introduces the theme of diaspora missions. A follower of Jesus in the United States, Canada or Germany (for example) who is sensing a cross-cultural missionary call to an unreached people in China, Sudan or to Arabic-speaking Muslims from North Africa or the Middle East—that prospective cross-cultural missionary no longer needs to think that the only way to fulfill that calling is to physically relocate to any of those countries. A little research will quickly reveal that the Lord and Spirit of mission has been bringing the unreached people to now dwell within the reach of the church. Conversely, the Lord of missions is also bringing Jesus followers from the Global South to the Global North. Thus, the movement is multidirectional. The unreached peoples are being brought to live and work within reach of the church in Europe and North America; and the vibrant and often pentecostal believers from the Global South are also being brought to the Global North planting churches in their immigrant host countries. These trends constitute a paradigmatic shift.
This paradigmatic shift requires a paradigmatic missionary approach—an approach that may be referred to as diaspora missions. A theological inference for this could be drawn from Paul’s Areopagus discourse in Athens wherein he said:
“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he [God] made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’” —Acts 17:24–28 ESV (emphasis in italics is added)
It is the Lord of mission who determines the times (or seasons, periods) and boundaries (regions, countries) where people may dwell in any given age, era and time. In our present 21st century, we should view the scattering of people or the trend of people on the move as one of the ways the God of mission is employing to gather those whom He would into His fold. Followers of Jesus in every era ought to be sensitive to understand what the Spirit of mission is doing and to surf with the wave of the Spirit, like “the men of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do,” (1 Chronicles 12:32, ESV). In view of this, therefore, there are certain questions that mission leaders and enthusiasts must be asking. For example: How can we raise missionaries to focus on the unreached peoples who are now our neighbors? About 70,000 Afghans were relocated to the United States recently—how can churches in the United States strategically and intentionally present the Gospel to these Afghans? In particular reference to the United States regarding this first question, we can think more broadly about the tens of thousands of international students studying in US colleges and universities, the tens of thousands of immigrants whom war and economic hardship forced out of their homelands and who are now neighbors to Jesus followers in North America. Similarly, how can churches in Germany strategically and intentionally reach the large Muslim immigrants whom the God of mission has permitted to now make Deutschland their dwelling place? The same question must be posed by churches in Australia, Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands, the U.K, etc.
A second important question that we must ask is: How can the immigrant churches of Jesus followers from the Global South now dwelling in the Global North be mobilized to be involved in cross-cultural missions right there in their immigrant host countries where they now live? For example, there are potentials for mission movements involving African immigrants in view of the paradigmatic trend of more and more African immigrant congregations emerging in several cities in Europe, North America and Oceania—host regions for many African immigrants. African immigrant Christians are planting churches in the cites of their host countries in the Global North. This trend is not peculiar to African immigrants. There are Arabic-speaking, Korean, Chinese, and Latinx American congregations in the host countries of immigrants from those respective regions of the world. The question these immigrant churches must pose is: How can we become agents of mission right where the God of mission has permitted us to dwell now—in the immigrant host countries where we are? Additionally, being agents of missions must be thought of with a cross-cultural lens and framework. That is: Chinese immigrant churches in the United States should not focus only on reaching unreached immigrant Chinese within their immigrant host country. African followers of Jesus in diaspora must not see their mission as only gathering Africans into their African diasporic congregations. The same should apply to all other immigrant diasporic churches. Their outreaches must take cross-cultural strides to identify which unreached people that are now within their reach in their host immigrant countries and then intentionally begin to pray, plan and strategically become involved in missions to those peoples. For example, diasporic Nigerian Anglican churches in Canada and the United States can intentionally begin to pray, plan and strategically engage in diaspora missions to First Nation peoples in Canada, and to non-African peoples in the United States where the God of missions has scattered them to the intent that they may become agents and participants with the Lord of mission in gathering those yet to hear and believe the message of the Gospel.
I argue, therefore, that the paradigmatic shift in mission is a shift of being scattered to be gathered (3) and the Church in our time and everywhere ought to arise to the opportunities being created to participate with the Lord of mission in His mission to redeem our broken world.
ToFrontier Fellowship has curated two guides to better help you learn about and engage with displaced peoples living in your community. Access both resources at frontierfellowship.com/tools.
 Ralph D Winter, “Three Mission Eras: And the Loss and Recovery of Kingdom Mission, 1800-2000,” in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader, 4th ed. (Pasadena, CA: William Carey, 2009), 263–78.
 Allen L. Yeh, Polycentric Missiology: 21st-Century Mission from Everyone to Everywhere (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2016); Samuel Escobar, The New Global Mission: The Gospel from Everywhere to Everyone (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2003).
 The theme “scattered to be gathered” is taken from John Idoko, Scattered to be Gathered: Ministry to Migrants (Midas Touch GEMS, 2023).