The World in a City and We're Still People-Blind!

Photo By 'J'
In 2003, my wife and I moved from Oklahoma to Chicago fully expecting that we'd just be passing through.  In fact, we began our application process for the International Mission Board (IMB) right away and planned to move overseas as soon as finished my graduate studies.

As he so often does, God threw a major wrench in our plans as he began to introduce us to our neighbors of many nations.  Convinced that we had moved into the very heart of the white, Evangelical Midwest (just ten minutes from Wheaton College), we were shocked to find that some 80-90% of the families in our subdivision were foreign-born.  Indeed the majority of them where South Asian Hindus and Muslims representing a number of unreached people groups.  Some how, God had move the frontiers of mission - the ends of the earth - to the Chicago suburbs!

As we explored the surrounding communities, we found a great disparity between the local churches which were largely homogeneous (ethno-linguistically speaking) and the schools, the grocery stores, the libraries, and other neighborhoods which were multicultural.  We began visiting churches locally in an effort to discover why this was the case.  We wanted to know if anyone was trying to reach our neighbors for Christ!

I remember a lunch with a local pastor from around that time.  He generously offered to take me out to Applebees for cheeseburgers and listened as I shared my heart for the Hindus and Muslims all around us.  After several minutes of this, he stopped me suddenly and, with a flourish, extended his arms to either side inviting me to survey the restaurant and asked, "Cody, WHERE are all these Hindus and Muslims you are talking about?!?!"

In 1974, Ralph Winter challenged the global church to repent of a malady he called "people blindness" -- a  blindness to the existence of distinct people groups within countries.  Wrote Winter, "'People blindness' is what prevents us from noticing the sub-groups within a country which are significant to development of effective evangelistic strategy." A generation later, it would seem that we are still blind.  Or perhaps, we simply refuse to see that in our day God is changing the world.

I rejoice that in the decade since we cancelled our application with the IMB and committed our lives to reaching the least-reached peoples of Chicagoland, we have met a number of kindred spirits here -- people that realize what was wrong with that pastor's question and who have a deep love for diasporas who now call Chicago home.  But people blindness is still too prevalent. Too many individual Christians, local churches, denominations and Christian organizations fail to see that Chicago is not only a "world city" but indeed the world in a city.  And this is true with megacities all over the globe.  New York, Paris, Singapore, Manila, Jakarta, are all becoming increasingly diverse as they become increasingly large.

So, it is gut-check time for churches and mission organizations and denominations and Christian leaders.  As one of my teammates, an immigrant pastor from Ethiopia, recently said, "We (immigrants) are the future of the church! Most of the standard American models of church and ministry are now obsolete." So, how are you adjusting? How are you changing? How are you embracing the new era of diaspora movement?


For fun, I want to direct you to a blog post I tweeted out a few days back.  This is from a great blog called Chicago is the World.  The article is called "Hello World - Chicago Calling" and gives a nice, brief summary of some of diaspora Chicago.  Every Chicagoan who cares about mission should understand what is being said in this article.  Otherwise, you simply don't get this city.  And, if you are from elsewhere, consider writing up a similar article for your city and I'll post it here on The Ramblings.


  1. Wait... there weren't a lot of Buddhists, Hindus, or Muslims eating at Applebee's? Maybe they haven't tried the food yet...

  2. Donovan, or maybe they have!

    Cody, thanks for your comments here in Dallas yesterday and thanks for your blog. I'm a pastor in one of those anglo churches here, but that's sure not my heart. I love your words and passion. I pray more of us catch the passion to reach the world on our doorstep. thanks, Mike