Welcoming the Stranger in an Election Year – Without Dividing Your Church
We’re still a full year away from the presidential elections, but the rhetoric is already heating up.
It’s not a new dynamic: every four years, immigration becomes a heated political issue as candidates seek to motivate voters and distinguish themselves from their opponents. But that rhetoric has significant impacts – on eventual public policies that impact people, and in more subtle ways, as the constant barrage of (often fear-inducing, negative) rhetoric tends to shape how some Christians view their immigrant neighbors, making them more reluctant to engage in ministry toward and with refugees or other immigrants.
This dynamic puts pastors and ministry leaders in a difficult spot: they want to lead their congregations to faithfully live out the biblical command to practice hospitality – literally, to love strangers – but they also know that tensions are high, and they do not want to divide their congregations.
As we approach the next year, we want to suggest a few resources to help you, particularly if you’re a pastor, and to share with your pastor if you’re not (go ahead and forward this email):
- The Evangelical Immigration Table’s I Was a Stranger Challenge is a very simple Bible-reading guide consisting of 40 Bible verses that speak to the theme of immigration. You can find it in digital form on the YouVersion Bible app, or you can print off a bookmark (in English or Spanish). It’s intentionally simple, not advocating for any specific public policy or even interpreting the Bible passages, but simply serving as a daily reminder – over forty days – that the Bible actually has a lot to say that is relevant to this topic. We’d love for thousands of local churches to use it as a discipleship tool, leaning into God’s Word as an inoculation to unbiblical political rhetoric.
- Since almost all presidential candidates – in both major parties – profess to be Christians of one tradition or another, we think it’s also appropriate to invite them to take this 40-day Bible-reading challenge, and to pray for each of them, that their rhetoric and their ultimate policies would be guided by God’s wisdom. Would you add your name to this open letter inviting presidential candidates to take up this challenge?
- Lastly, we’d love for local pastors and ministry leaders to join me and a couple good friends for a free virtual event on November 14 at 1 PM ET/12 PM CT/11 AM MT/10 AM PT. We’ll dialogue together about how church leaders can engage immigration from a distinctly biblical, non-partisan perspective, equipping their church to welcome the stranger in the midst of this election year – without dividing their church. Register here.
I hope that you’ll also join me in prayer for the following:
- That, as the church, our views on immigrants and immigration would be guided first and foremost by God’s Word, not by media or politicians.
- That pastors would have wisdom to navigate this and many other difficult and divisive issues in the midst of this election season.
- That candidates for office would also look to the Scriptures and allow them to inform their policies and their rhetoric.
- That those most directly affected by the campaign rhetoric and policies, our brothers, sisters and neighbors who are immigrants themselves, would root their identity in the truths of Scripture, not in what any politician says about them.
National Coordinator, Evangelical Immigration Table