If I heard it once while watching the Olympics, I must have heard it a dozen times. The champion runner from Jamaica, the one so admired and feared by our best runners, is actually a student at the University of South Carolina. The Puerto Rican basketballer who led his team to dominate the USA Dream Team in the first game–his name is Arroyo–actually plays for the Denver Nuggets. The giant who led in China’s athletes during the opening ceremonies plays for the Houston Rockets. Another nation’s champion will be a senior at LSU this year. And so on. Again and again.
The old categories just aren’t holding like they used to. Borders and nationalities mean less and less. And did you notice that you cannot tell who is American by their names? Our people–and our names–come from all over the planet.
I recall when purchasers of automobiles were urged to “buy American” to save jobs here at home. There is a reason we don’t hear that any more. First, the plants assembling “American” cars began using parts manufactured all over the world and brought together at a plant somewhere in the states. Then, foreign countries began relocating their automobile plants to the states. Nissan, Mercedes, Toyota and others have built billion dollar plants in states not far from where I live.
I live in a suburb of New Orleans. The Mississippi River flows by, one-half mile south of my house. Hundreds of ships from all over the world converge on the Port of New Orleans every month unloading passengers and cargo and picking up more of the same. A local team of ministers under the umbrella of Global Maritime Ministries board those ships and hold worship services, pass out Bibles and “Jesus” videos, and invite crew members into town as their guests. When the ships depart, they carry the gospel of Jesus Christ into the entire world.
I asked our church members to pray for and support the two missions we were beginning on our property. “Bright Star Mission” would be led by an African-American brother, Carlton Morris, and “Casa de Oracione” by our Spanish friend Luis Orellano. That'[s when I began to receive questions from the congregation.
“Pastor, are you suggesting we leave this church and start attending the African-American mission?” some Black members wanted to know. “No, no, no,” I protested. Likewise I had to assure our members from Cuba and Honduras and other Central American countries that they are essential members of our church and that I was not suggesting they leave for the new mission.
The old categories no longer hold. It’s harder and harder to identify the racial and ethnic makeup of our churches.
I dropped in one Sunday on the Word of Life Mission which meets here in our Baptist Center. Pastor Cedric Murphy is African American, and I expected his congregation to be the same. Of the 40 or so in attendance, some 25 were Black, with the others split between Anglo and Spanish. The old categories no longer hold.
James Jenkins, African-American leader for Louisiana Baptists, says the term is “multi-ethnic.” It’s another word for going global, if you ask me.
My church has just welcomed Shelley home from her two year plus assignment in an Asian country representing her Lord. Another team just returned from Thailand where they spent 20 days witnessing. A third team returned from El Salvador where they were working with our missionary. The church down the street sent their people to Costa Rica and another church to Belize. A pastor at lunch today has just returned with a group from his church from South Africa and Zimbabwe.
I stopped for gas near Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and met a large group of young adults touring the USA. From Germany, England, Ireland, and Korea, they had started their journey in New York City and were stopping that night in Mississippi. As we talked, I whipped out a pen and drew pictures of every one of them on their bus. (They had written slogans all over the vehicle, so I was just adding my little contribution!) They all gathered around and I prayed for them, then distributed my card which invited them to visit our website, www.joemckeever.com. There, they will find information on how to know Jesus Christ and live forever. As we departed, they told me their next stop would be New Orleans.
The world has gone global.
Two days after September 11, 2001, author and preacher Warren Wiersbe wrote to me, “What happened Tuesday was the beginning of World War III, a war so different that it may take us a few years to understand it. We crossed a significant threshold and we can’t turn back. We either get global or we perish, and that includes the church.”
Bible scholars tell us that what Jesus actually said was, “As you are going into all the world, make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19) Even then, He knew the day would come when His people would be going everywhere, from one end of the earth to the other. He just wanted them to take Him along.