Embracing the New Samaria: Opening Our Eyes to Our Multiethnic Future by Alejandro Mandes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
For many years now I have been documenting the demographic changes that are happening in the United States, especially among Hispanics (which Mandes documents as well). This has become a political hot topic in our society and in the church. However, I have come to the same main conclusion that Mandes shares in this book. The church has a great opportunity to engage in what he calls “the new Samaria” (“Samerica”) and properly so. It goes back to John 6 when Jesus sees the Samaritans as the harvest. This “new Samaria” is made up of not only Hispanics but those “living among us who have been marginalized, ignored, treated unjustly, or looked down upon.” These are the “immigrants, refugees, the poor, ethnic minorities, the people who have been deemed invisible or “surplus population” (30). They are the ones that we fly over as we go to other countries on mission trips. Mandes writes, “I have been asked many times by people in the margins why it is that many Christians feel the need to fly across the globe to interact with people groups that can be found on the side of the city!” (32).
Why do we do this? He says it is because of our P3, prejudice, privilege and preference. This is what keeps us from engaging the eighty-five unreached people groups in the United States (32). This book attempts to help us see this great harvest and move us to engage them with gospel and social action (loving them). Our mandate from Jesus to his church is to go and share the Gospel with all “ethnos”, all ethnicities regardless of our prejudice, privilege or preference. When we do, we will see a multiethnic church like the one in Acts 13 which will culminate in the great worship in Revelation 7. The Kingdom of God will be multiethnic.
The book is divided in four parts: See the New Samaria, Love the New Samaria, Reach the New Samaria and Be the New Samaria. Each chapter is supported with examples from Mandes who has been involved in church planting and reaching marginalized communities for a long time. At the end it offers a reflection section that begins with a prayer and the H3: Head work, Heart work and Hands work. It gives a list of resources to dig in to the chapter topics.
This is probably the best written work that I have read, and in particular by a Hispanic American. It is a well-written and well-balanced view of how to reach this “new Samaria”. It is not a how-to book but it offers a good starting point for anyone who wants to engage the “new Samaria.” Like Mandes, I believe this is what we are called (the Church) to do and ignoring this will not change what God wants to do with us or in spite of us. I agree with Mandes that there is an urgency.
“Because of the trajectory of this country and our quickly changing demographics, we don’t have a lot of time to ponder the implications of these truths for the evangelical Christian church. There is urgency in this matter. The church has lost its lamp. Many Christian leaders know this is true and have struggled to figure out how to change course. But spending more money on marketing or fine-tuning our programming is not going to solve the problem. We have focused too much on ourselves and missed the blessing of the “other.” This is not about politics or economics, right or wrong. This is reality. The question really is, Are we going to be the church that will not fail? (193).
Just as we are called to go to the “ends of the earth”, we are also called to the Lord’s witnesses in our own Samaria. As an immigrant Hispanic born in El Salvador whom the Lord has redeemed in this country, like Mandes, I believe that we need to see these changes not as political issue but as missions issue. To remain passive is not an option, to pray for more workers without making ourselves available (we the Church) won’t do. It is time to be obedient.
Mandes writing is clear, practical, bold and direct.
According to Mandes, the church has drifted from our calling to be outward focused:
“We turn to politics for solutions and hope that if we elect more politicians to advance our moral agenda, we will see revival….However as a nation and as the evangelical movement, we are not seeing the changing mission field because we are looking inward and backward, not forward.” (62-62).
“The problem is, usually our plans are too small. Not only has Jesus clearly called us to open our eyes and see the harvest, but he’s also called us to look to where the Father is at work. When was the last time you asked yourself, Where is God at work around me? What if this demographic shift is from God? What if this is the Father at work, and what if we should see the movement of people around the world as his doing? If this is the case, then reacting in fear, resisting, and trying to limit their growth is actively working against God.” (75)
In my conversations with leaders I have shared what I think about the demographic explosion in our country. I have to the same conclusion as Mandes. Having failed to take the Gospel to the nations, God has brought the nations to us. I also believe that the purpose is so that they can become the next missionary force going out to the take the Gospel to the ends of the Earth.
“What if this growth is part of God’s plan to reach the world? I believe God is exercising his prerogative to determine a nation’s boundaries and the time of their position or privilege in the world.” (76)
“I truly believe it is by God’s design that people from all over the world are living among us. This is the Father at work. Are we ready, as Jesus said, to work where the Father is at work?” (77)
“By 2065, nearly 20 percent of people in the country will have been born outside of American borders.’ This phenomenon is not unique to America; it is happening all over the world. If we as a church are not reaching immigrants where they are at, in all the messiness of their circumstances, then we are missing out on a my heart for spectacular missional opportunity to love and reach our neighbors.” (106)
Often we don’t want to engage with other cultures because we don’t feel we are competent. Mandes believes is simpler, and I agree with him. The issue is more with our willingness than with anything else.
“We don’t need a special divining rod to find the way through the maze of culture. The solutions are:
The solutions are (1) trusting that the Jesus we see in the New Testament had that figured out, (2) putting Christ above culture, and (3) recognizing that man-made culture does not trump the culture of Christ. This requires cultural humility and a measure of adventure. Above all, we need to be willing to submit our way to his way.” (147)
At the end of the book, Mandes offers seven multiethnic models. These are very general and they don’t offer where to begin. I don’t think these are the only models. As we engage in becoming multiethnic we will learn what works and what doesn’t. Mandes doesn’t define what a multiethnic church is, but Mark Deymaz in his book Ethnic Blends (This book Is worth reading. Deymaz has is a pioneer in multiethnic church planting.) talks about 20% of the church being from a different ethnic background. The goal would be that no group has a 50% majority. I think this depends on the location of the church. The church should reflect the demographics of the city.
Where do we start? Mandes suggests we start by asking ourselves these questions:
“Who is not represented? Who are we missing? Whatever your answer, start there.” (174)