Review: Strangers Next Door

When most people think about mission, they think about places far away. But in his book, Strangers Next Door: Immigration, Migration and Mission, J.D. Payne reminds us that sharing the Gospel crossculturally often doesn’t require a passport.

There are people from many unreached people groups living in the West today, Payne reminds us throughout his book (and even provides lists of them in his extensive appendices).

The question is this: Will the church see the presence of immigrants from unreached people groups as a negative threat or as a God-ordained opportunity?

Payne manages to cover an impressive amount of ground in his relatively short book, discussing migration in Scripture and (quoting Jehu J. Hanciles) connecting “human mobility and divine purposes” (p. 85), and also covering migration in the West from 1500 to 2010 (the year the book was published).

Chapter 7 focuses helpfully on the significance of international student ministry, since “students in any country are among the most influential people in the world. They are tomorrow’s (and oftentimes today’s) leaders in politics, business, medicine, the arts, science, technology, and education” (p. 102). Payne also includes a chapter on refugees which, though it contains good information, would benefit from an update since so much has happened in this area in the 9 years since the book was published.

Throughout the book but particularly in Chapter 9, stories are included which show the way God can use crosscultural friendships for divine purposes. I appreciated this aspect of the book as it brought the historical facts and statistics to bear in real-life situations.

Chapter 10 and 11 outline guidelines and strategies to help us effectively reach out to internationals in our communities. I thought each point was excellent, but I wish the book could have been longer to flesh each concept out beyond the paragraph or two afforded to each one.

Chapter 12 introduces the concept of mission “to, through, and beyond the Diaspora” (another word for immigrants in a foreign land), reminding us that mission is not something that goes from the West to the rest, but is from everywhere to everywhere in our globalized world. Nonwestern believers should be considered equal partners with Western believers in the worldwide effort to share the love of Christ with people from every tongue, tribe, and nation.

I recommend this book as a solid addition to the resource bookshelf for people who equip others for being involved in mission. Payne assumes some foreknowledge in his readers, so this might not be the best option for someone who’s just dipping a toe into the waters of welcoming ministry, but pastors, educators, and those wanting solidly researched and wide-ranging knowledge on the topic of migration in the context of divine sovereignty will be greatly helped by this resource. I know I’ll be glad to have it on my shelf when I’m prepping for teaching my next Intro to Mission course.

Buy Strangers Next Door here.

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