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A Picture of a Vibrant Church in the U.S. in 2030, part 7 of 7: Indigenous Leaders

First, thank you for participating in Giving Tuesday. Joyfully, over $20,000 has already been given! If you haven’t made a gift, could I invite you to make one now? We are stretched to help the church of today become the church of tomorrow and the church of tomorrow be a vibrant church! …in 2030!

The 7th and final portion in this series! A vibrant church has emerged in 2030 significantly fueled by immigrant/foreign born leaders and missionaries who have brought a fresh vitality to the U.S. church, particularly through churches being planted.

A decade earlier there were over 44.5 million foreign-born residents in the U.S.! That’s 14% of the US population, and the largest percentage of the population since 1910.

A decade earlier churches/leaders made great efforts to 

A decade earlier this was incredibly difficult for many congregational leaders:

  • Congregations often felt great loss when immigrant groups reset neighborhood demographics. It was difficult to not take a fortress mentality toward “those people ruining our neighborhood.”
  • Congregations felt helpless and out of control.
  • Language and customs and practices made it difficult for existing congregations to build bridges.   

A decade earlier it had been further compounded by those same congregations:

  • Struggling to simply survive in their changed neighborhoods.
  • Struggling with measuring lagging indicators of worship attendance and offerings with little consideration for measuring investments into the future.
  • Struggling with not knowing what to do…feeling like foreigners in their own neighborhoods.
  • Searching for pastoral leadership…and being able to afford it…competent in guiding them through this maze.

A decade earlier the church had been employing a “come to church” posture, not recognizing… or not knowing what else to do… in a mission field world. (The U.S. is the 3rd largest mission field in the world.) It had boxed itself in on two separate sizable missionary frontiers, failing to recognize the significant barriers—cultural, worldview, background, language, etc.—to a meaningful communication of the Gospel. 

  • The 44.5 million foreign-born U.S. residents noted above. Plus, their 2nd generation English-speaking American children…different than their parents.
  • The 74.3 million millennial generation, including many of their own sons and daughters and grandchildren.

A decade earlier they had failed to recognize both as mission fields. They failed to recognize the need to summon their resources and energies to send indigenous missionaries to both.  

indigenous definition: The definition of indigenous is something or someone who is native to an area or who naturally belongs there. 

Yared Halche

But! An amazing thing happened a decade ago. Churches stopped wringing their hands and developed three simple practices:

  • Pastors prioritized relational discipleship. People prioritized relational discipleship. They didn’t separate mission from discipleship. Baptized people of God entered the amazing adventure…quite fearful and apprehensive at first…of giving birth to a vibrant 2030 future. It started painfully, slowly before exploding into a missionary movement.      
  • Churches…people…pastors…prayed earnestly for the Lord to send out more laborers in the harvest field. 
  • Leaders learned to manage loss. This was DIFFICULT. They had started this new course too late to offset: Decline in numbers. Decline in finances. Closing programs. Selling buildings. Adjusting “the way we’ve always done things” to the new mission field all around us realities. All on the way to giving birth to something vibrant and alive in 2030.   

It wasn’t easy for foreign-born leaders and missionaries either! 

  • Oftentimes they surrendered the status, position or resources in their country of origin.
  • Oftentimes they were left to feel like second class citizens by the larger church.
  • Oftentimes they felt undervalued and isolated as missionary partners.

“Go and make disciples…” 


Now, the conversation around the leadership table in your congregation!

  • First, let me simply say thanks for leading and being willing to set your sights on giving birth to something vibrant and alive in 2030. So much easier to complain or wish things were better or blame someone or something. Sometimes it will be the pastor—many times it will be people in their 50’s, 60’s, 70’s—occupying leadership seats in congregations that choose not to surrender to trends and demographics as if God were not God while partnering with a relatively few equally passionate young adults. Together, they recognize that if they don’t do something now…it will be so much more difficult in 2030 for someone to start from nothing.
  • Jesus taught the crowds. He discipled a few. Fundamentally it starts here. PLI can help you learn a simple, repeatable pattern where you can learn to disciple a few who can each disciple a few, etc. It’s our belief that you simply can’t skip this. It’s the hinge the door to the future hangs on.
  • Who are the foreign-born residents in your neighborhood. How well do you know them?  What are you already doing to bless mission and ministry among them? What would be a small, very small, simple step you could take in the right direction? 

Thank you. We’re so encouraged by leaders like you who are stepping forward to be counted. To invest in a vibrant 2030. To lean in when the “odds” seem stacked against them. Tell us your story. We’re starting to hear all kinds of stories of how congregational leaders are having conversations they’ve never had before. Thank you.

Gail and Jock 

Finally, PLI’s Senior Leader learning community begins in April 2020. If you’re interested in developing your skills in strategic planning, staff performance, development, adaptive leadership for your current or possible future role, take a look.  

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