Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Why are missionaries in America?

“Why are there missionaries in America? This is a Christian country!”
“We send missionaries out. We don’t bring them in.”
“Missionaries in America… I’ve never heard of such a thing.”

These were some of the comments I encountered as I conducted research on the phenomena of missionaries in America. Despite these protests, missionaries from outside of the West do come to the United States, seeking to revitalize and evangelize Americans. Listed below, I provide seven reasons for why missionaries—particularly those from countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America—are sharing the gospel in “God’s country.”

(1)   “We did not come to just enjoy eating beef and butter.”

However they may have entered the United States, there are many theologically conservative and devoted immigrant evangelicals in America that view themselves as a “chosen” people with a divine mission. They believe that they should not just enjoy their lives in America eating “beef and butter” and socializing only with other immigrants in ethnic enclaves. Instead, they should strike out and be the “salt and light” of America and evangelize both locally and internationally.

(2)   The United States is the “Great Nation”.

The United States is a top destination for emigrants. It is also a prime destination for self-supporting “lay” missionaries. The factors that draw immigrants to the United States also draw missionaries to America. When asked why missionaries are in America, one of the directors of a large “reverse” mission church explained: “If you are looking for an answer other than spiritual reasons . . . there are various reasons like children’s education, the desire to see the world’s best country, the wealthiest country . . . Almost everyone wants to come to America.” Everyone wants to be in the “great nation,” including missionaries.

(3)   The United States is the “Modern Rome”.

Missionaries do not come to America just because it is a “great nation” for immigrants, but also because it is the “modern Rome,” the most powerful nation in the world. Centering one’s mission work in the most powerful nation in the world is simply strategic. The United States is the superpower and therefore a logical base for launching a world mission movement. Once you make it in America as a mission movement, you can also make it elsewhere. You have more power, prestige, and legitimacy if you base your mission movement in the “modern Rome” of our world.

(4)   Evangelize America, evangelize the world.

Living in the global nation of nations, missionaries in America don’t have to go far to participate in world missions. The world is at their doorstep. If they evangelize in America, they can reach people from all four corners of the world, including China and Muslim nations. The United States is therefore a most important mission field.

(5)   The United States is a “Christian” nation in trouble.

Missionaries in America view the United States as a “Christian” nation in trouble. America has lost its spiritual fire with growing materialism, secularism, humanism, and sexual immorality. It is no longer a “city on a hill” or a “beacon of light,” and may even become like the now secular and “dark continent” of Europe. Although the United States is a predominately Christian and a dominant missionary-sending nation, it is framed as a nation that has lost its foothold as a leading Christian influence. Its churches are great in number, but they are weak in “Spirit.” Missionaries are therefore needed to bring spiritual revival in America.

(6)   Create a positive “spiritual trickle-down” effect for world Christianity.

In the world of spiritual warfare, all of Christianity would be in jeopardy if the United States fell as a dominant Christian nation. If, however, the United States is resuscitated and exerts its power as a leading “beacon of light,” there will be a positive “spiritual trickle-down” effect for all Christians of the world. The United States is a most important spiritual territory that missionaries must safeguard for Christianity to be the dominant world religion.

(7)   How can you be a history maker? Save the history makers.

What happens if people from the formerly colonized and less powerful nations send missionaries back to the western nations that have been the dominant imperial and missionary-sending nations of the last few centuries? What happens if you save the people of the United States, the superpower nation that has been the modern history-making country? You and your country can be history makers as well. If you save the history maker, you can be a history maker and thereby become a spiritual conqueror on the world stage.

Headline image credit: Cross. CC0 via Pixabay.

Recent Comments

  1. […] One of the reasons that missionaries from the Global South are increasingly coming to America: “Missionaries in America view the United States as a […]

  2. J.

    Interesting. Is it written by a non-Christian? It sounds sarcastic and just personal, not compelling.

  3. Assibi Konlaan

    USA and Brian have lost their places as christian nations even though their forefathers served christ- The foundation has shifted. There is no pride or honour any more to say you are In a christian country. Chrstians are persecuted in USA and Britain and rather enbrace other religions and even finance their activites to the neglect of chustianity.. Immigration oificers hate to hear you are a christian and would want to deport you for saying that-no concessions for christians.. The nations of UK and USA have become christ haters. Evangelism is needed in these countries than it is thought of. Prases have gone culd in these countries but they do not see it that way.

  4. Elvis

    From Cameroon am a man who loves God .I want to explore my spiritual gift and I speak 3 languages. English, French and Spanish. Want to be involved in the work.

  5. G Dub

    I plan to convert a school bus into a nice RV and tour the US. Along the way, wherever I go, I will share with people about salvation, the Bible, and sound doctrine. I will not have a sponsor, a home church, an organization that holds me accountable, or any of the other things that come with being a “missionary” – including the stigma of being a missionary. I will be free from: financial debt; an alarm clock; authority figures (other than law enforcement); living in the same place all the time; etc. I will only answer to the Lord and my wife (who will be with me). I can speak my own language with everyone I meet, live in a comfortable (but tiny) home, and enjoy all that this great country has to offer. I’ll not feel like I have abandoned my culture, but rather, met it where it was and helped it to grow closer to our Maker. I think America needs to be reached out to, now more than ever, but in a manner that is not condescending, preachy, or judgmental. Speak to people in a manner that is genuine, in loving concern and humility. If reaching out is about how it makes you feel, it isn’t reaching out; it’s using others. If you’re going to meet America, meet them where they are, and connect. THEN share the gospel – that good news that they so desperately need to hear right now.

    Be blessed. He IS coming soon.

  6. Colleen Smith

    G Dub has the right idea. Not everyone has to give up home or jobs, but telling of the gospel good news in your own community, with people passing through, someone you stopped to help. Yes, the US needs that kind of evangelism, after so many generations not being biblical schooled or taught in even the homes. The US falls short of the Christian nation it once was, yet we all have a part to play in it as well. Help vote on the right laws. Put down and support right laws in your own community, state government and federal. We must all take a voice in government and in our home, communities and work. Spread the news of Jesus Christ, teach even our pastors from seminary schools. So many of them have just turned into how to make a buck or have a mega church. Its not about the gospel of Jesus or that Jesus came to save us from our sins.

  7. Kings lay Omuya

    Are you willing to reach the lost in Africa? let us know simply you’re the right saints to work with in one accord

  8. Cindy Hemingson

    We go to Marendara,Zimbabwe. Where are you speaking of?

  9. […] in America? In OUPblog: Oxford University Press’s Academic Insights for the Thinking World. https://blog.oup.com/2015/02/missionaries-america/. (accessed October 13, […]

  10. Monica

    Is this movement for Christ and his kingdom is available? Just came across the site…. It’s all about fulfilling the kingdom of God by bringing more labourers into his harvest field Matthew 9;36:38.

  11. […] the ever-growing secular society in the United States, missionaries are needed in this country more than ever. As a melting pot of […]

  12. […] in America? In OUPblog: Oxford University Press’s Academic Insights for the Thinking World. https://blog.oup.com/2015/02/missionaries-america/. (accessed October 13, […]

  13. […] worried enough about our nation’s spiritual decline that Christian churches there have started sending missionaries TO America. That reaffirms my point that Christians around the world know if America is lost, the ripple […]

Comments are closed.