Did you know there are 45 million foreign-born residents living in the United States and another 7 million living in Canada? All total, approximately 52 million foreign-born residents currently live in North America. That’s millions of people representing unreached people groups from around the globe.

The foreign-born population in North America is currently larger than the combined populations of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. By 2031, the Canadian foreign-born population is expected to reach upwards of 14.4 million and by 2065, in the United States, projections call for 78 million foreign-born residents comprised of refugees, immigrants and international students.

With this staggering population base, North American evangelicals in general and Southern Baptists in particular must not view immigration as political, economic or legal issues. True to our Great Commission mandate we must view immigration through the lens of Scripture. If we dare, we will discover — “immigration is a gospel issue.” 

Now the question is, what do we mean by the phrase “immigration is a gospel issue”? Well, we mean more than responding to the myriad needs of our foreign-born neighbors with an intentional, yet temporal fulfillment of the second Great Commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” first taught in Leviticus 19 and reiterated by Jesus in Matthew 22.

Often such responses lead to the meeting of the genuine, immediate needs of refugees and immigrants; legal services, language assistance, employment, housing, etc., while unintentionally neglecting to meet their greatest need, their eternal need; the life-transforming power of the gospel.

“Immigration is a gospel issue” means that we never lose sight of the fact that while we are meeting temporal needs, the church must intentionally and proactively communicate the life-changing message of the gospel. It means we embrace the teaching of the apostle Paul in Acts 17:26-27.

Paul proclaimed, “From one man He (speaking of our Heavenly Father) has made every nationality to live all over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. He did this so they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.”

So, it’s through that Great Commission focused missionary who is the most prolific church planter of all the New Testament — it is through the Apostle Paul himself — that we are reminded immigration is ultimately a gospel issue.

God who created every tongue, nation and tribe directs the global migration of peoples for the express purpose of bringing every ethnicity unto Himself.  God directs the global movements of foreign-born peoples so that immigrants and refugees might become the neighbors of gospel-sharing peoples and through those neighborly relationships experience the love of their creator through faith in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, ultimately “immigration is a gospel issue”.

God, in His sovereignty, has brought and continues to bring the world to be our neighbors. With the influx of international neighbors living among us, we Southern Baptists find ourselves living in a redemptive moment in human history, and we must not falter in fulfilling our Great Commission responsibility. Together, we must be bold in our disciple-making strategies, we must be strategic in training the next generation of pastors and church planters, we must be innovative in our gospel ministries, and we must be creative in the development of gospel resources. Most of all we must be determined in, and faithful with, the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This sacred effort, to reach our foreign-born, sovereign-guided neighbors with the gospel will take a united effort across Southern Baptist life. It will take our mission boards, our seminaries, our state conventions and local associations and mostly importantly it will take the united efforts of local churches across our great convention to reach our international neighbors for His kingdom.

Eternity for tens of millions of our foreign-born neighbors hangs in the balance. May we Southern Baptists be found faithful in lovingly reaching our foreign-born neighbors with the life-transforming message of Christ.

Yes, ultimately “immigration is a gospel issue.”