What God’s doing through immigration

God is in control of when and where people live. It says so in Acts 17 v 26:

“From one man God made every race of human beings to make their home over the surface of the earth and he determined beforehand when and where they would live…"

So, if you are wondering why every voice you overhear in the supermarket is speaking a foreign language, why your bus driver is Polish, your Doctor is Pakistani, the staff looking after your granny in her residential home come from the Philippines, the people who run your local chip shop are from Taiwan – well, God has something to do with it. Don’t blame the EU, or the government – talk to God about it first. And, by the way, the same goes if your parents have retired to Spain, your uncle emigrated to Australia and your children have gone to work in California.

What's God up to?

Why might God be moving people round the way he is? There are probably several reasons, but I’d suggest at least three. I believe he is using migration to:

  • rebuke our nation;
  • revive the church; and
  • prepare people for the gospel.

Rebuking the nation.

God has ordered the world with the unalterable principle that people reap what they sow. In the days of the British Empire, British people went trampling over the nations of the world, occupying their territory, plundering their natural resources and using them as cheap labour.  Now we are reaping what we sowed. The world is coming to trample our streets and our failure to pay workers what was due in the past is coming back as a curse on us as one after another our industries are decimated by their inability to compete with the low wages on offer elsewhere.

Reviving the church.

The church in Britain reached a peak of numerical growth in 1910 and has been shrinking ever since. If this rate of decline were to continue, Christianity would die out in the UK entirely within a few decades. That is unlikely, but a scenario in which the church reduces to a tiny remnant and stays that way is very believable (if you don’t take God into account).  
The picture isn’t all gloomy, though, because there are parts of the church which are growing – including Pentecostal and Charismatic congregations and “Fresh Expressions” – a movement which involves the church meeting in unusual and more user-friendly ways. At some point the growth in these groups and the decline in the church as a whole will reach a cross-over point after which the church will be very different and a lot smaller but growing quite rapidly.

Christian immigrants
There are many Christians among the immigrants coming to Britain. In the last decade the rate of decline in the church in Britain has slowed down as a result of new Christians coming from other countries. Polish immigration, for example, has resulted in a boost for many Roman Catholic congregations and African and Caribbean immigrants have brought with them the phenomenon of the new “Black-led” Pentecostal churches. These congregations are not only growing by attracting people from their own ethnic group, they also evangelise people from other backgrounds. Ordinary British people tend to have a negative view of the established churches in our country and are suspicious of them but they love the enthusiastic music of black gospel choirs and are more open to hear the gospel from that source.

Preparing people for the gospel

Many migrants come to our shores from countries where there is little or no Christian presence and some from areas where the church is officially opposed or persecuted. These have not had the opportunity to hear the good news of God’s love for them, his justice and the fact that he offers them eternal life and forgiveness for sin. Perhaps God is sending some of those people to Britain so they can hear that message through us.

Other religions
Of course, many bring their own religions with them. They may make converts to those religions from among British people, indeed that is already happening, especially with regard to Islam. God may be at work even in this. One of the big problems we have faced in Christian evangelism in Britain over recent decades is that so many people seem to have lost any sense of guilt. They haven’t been taught about their accountability to God and they don’t know the Ten Commandments. As a result, they don’t feel a need for forgiveness. The Christian message only makes sense to those who feel they have offended God. Christianity needs the moral and legal basis of Judaism as a foundation for its message of mercy.  Like Judaism, Islam is also a religion of law. Could it be that God plans to use Islam to re-awaken British people’s sense of guilt so that they turn to Jesus for forgiveness?

The ultimate immigrant

God never seemed to tire of reminding the Israelites that they had once been foreigners living in Egypt. As a result, he said, they should be kind to foreigners that came to them for shelter and help. (For example, “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” Exodus 22 v 21). The Christian response to immigrants should be one of respect, friendliness and welcome. We should view each one as a representative of Jesus, who is the ultimate immigrant, since he came from Heaven to make his home on earth. And that kindness must include telling them about him and the good news of salvation he brings.