Josh Laxton on a World on the Move and a Church on Mission

Josh Laxton currently serves as the Assistant Director of the Billy Graham Center, Lausanne North American Coordinator at Wheaton College, and a co-host of the new podcast, Living in the Land of Oz. He has a Ph.D. in North American Missiology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.


Ever since Adam and Eve got the boot out of the Garden of Eden, humanity has—whether we realize it or not—been on the move in search of a better land.

Today, migration is one of the great global trends that reminds us that we are all migrants. Mohsin Hamid, writing in National Geographic, expresses, “All of us are descended from migrants. . . . None of us is a native of the place we call home.”

The World Health Organization reports that more people are on the move now than ever before. In fact, there are an estimated one billion migrants in the world—1 in 7 people—763 million internal migrants and 258 million international migrants.

Migration can be both voluntary and involuntary. It can be the involuntary migration of a group of people due to political conflict, terrorism, war, or natural disaster, or the voluntary movement of people in search of better economic or political opportunities. In either case, people are on the move in search of a better land.

As the world is on the move, the church must be on mission. Believing this, Lausanne North America and the Billy Graham Center have launched a North America Diaspora Strategy Group led by Dr. Sadiri Joy Tira, Catalyst for Diasporas for Lausanne Movement.

Comprised of scholars, pastors, and practitioners, this group met a little over a week ago to outline their goals for the next two years for how they will help bring awareness and understanding to the church in North America as well as how they can help encourage, equip, and empower the church to engage diaspora peoples who enter our North American cities and communities.

Over the next six months, this group will be working on resources to share with the church in North America. But, while we wait for the release of resources, I want to offer up three takeaways from my time with them.

Takeaway #1: God is sovereign over migration.

I know some may have a difficult time with me reducing the complexity of migration down to a simple theological statement. There’s no denying that migration is a hot-button issue today that tends to incite political and even national division rather than unity. But for the church of the living God, the migration issue is first and foremost a theological issue before it is a political one.

Because of the sensitivity of this topic, I know that statement alone may elicit pushback.

But don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that it isn’t a political issue. I believe Christians should be part of the conversation helping think through policies and processes that seek to bring order to a people and a nation as well as human flourishing for all.

My aim here is to encourage Christians to orient their thinking to begin with the theological. As such, Christians would understand migration as a sovereign act of God. Throughout history, God has been the Sovereign King over creation and humanity, orchestrating the [involuntary and voluntary] movements of people.

In Genesis 11 and Jeremiah 29 God was sovereign over the involuntary movement of the Jews (Jeremiah 29) and the people from Babel (Genesis 11). In addition, God orchestrated the voluntary movement of people such as Abraham from the land of Ur to the land of Canaan (Genesis 12) and the “mixed multitude” coming out of Egypt with the Israelites (Exodus 12).

The Apostle Paul summarizes God’s sovereignty over the nations this way: “[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…” (Acts 17:26).

Why is God sovereign over the migration patterns of people? Paul goes on to answer this question as he teaches among the Areopagus. He expresses, “…that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him” (Acts 17:27).

In other words, the movements of people have been sovereignly orchestrated by God in order that he might make himself found and known. Therefore, while migration may be a complex national and political issue, I believe migration is a theological and missional issue as God sovereignly sends foreign missionaries or uses his indigenous missionaries to make himself known.

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Source: Christianity Today