THE MISSION FIELD HAS COME TO OUR DOORSTEP
(based on an article in the Global Prayer Digest, January
by the U.S. Center for World Mission in Pasadena, California)
"Since the Lord is bringing people from all nations of the world to our doorstep here in the Greater Los Angeles Metro Area (GLAMA), we need to ask the same missiological questions here as we do in Asia, Africa or Latin America," stated Clifton Holland, director of In-Depth Evangelism Associates (IDEA). Holland is conducting a major research project that seeks to identify and locate each unreached people group in the Los Angeles area, entitled "A Study of Ethnic and Religious Diversity in GLAMA."
IDEA and a coalition of Christian agencies started their research by comparing statistics from the 1980 and 1990 censuses to see which race/ethnic groups and national-origin populations were growing in the urban portions of Los Angeles and Orange counties, which is the working definition of GLAMA. Then, they consulted the Peoplesfile Index and other resources to find out what ethnic and language groups exist within each immigrant group or nationality (defined by "country of origin"). Information was also gathered on race/ethnic groups based on annual reports from each public school district regarding enrollment and "primary languages of Limited English Programs" (LEPs) in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
At the same time, IDEA's researchers are creating a computer database on every denomination and every local congregation in GLAMA. Interviews are being conducted with denominational leaders and pastors of ethic churches to find out what "people groups" are represented among members and attendees. For example, East Indian churches could be made up of people who speak Tamil, Malayali or many other languages. The Peoplesfile Index lists 494 Primary Groups and 677 dialects in India alone.
Through this process, IDEA hopes to identify many "people groups" that are largely unchurched (few or no Christian churches among them) and unevangelized (few have heard and understood the Good News of the Kingdom of God and become members of the Body of Christ). Holland believes that equal concern should be shown toward the urban poor and marginalized members of society, regardless of race, ethnicity or language. "In the words of Harvey Conn, we should be as concerned about 'doing justice' as we are about 'preaching grace,'" says Holland, "if our Gospel is to become 'good news' to the poor, the sick, the stranger, the widow and the orphan."
Together with other agencies, IDEA challenges church leaders from all ethnic groups to develop a strategy for holistic ministry among "people groups" that are yet unreached, and for training leaders to grow healthy and fruitful churches that reach out in love to all those who live in their local communities.
"Here is our Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, some churches are beginning to take the Gospel to their unchurched neighbors and are forming bridges of love and friendship to those of 'every tribe, tongue, people and nation' within the City of Angels and environs," stated Holland. "However, many other churches are spiritually and socially sick and dying, some are asleep, and others are preoccupied with their own family members--they are largely unconcerned about mission on their own doorstep," commented Holland.
The main office for this project is located in Townsend Hall on the Campus of the William Carey International University (WCIU) in Pasadena, California.