A troubling news flooding our mass media is the great horde of refugees mostly from the Middle East gushing into the developed Western nations. Many different reactions are reported from the overwhelmed citizens of the involved communities. However, how should the followers of Christ Jesus respond ? Does our Master’s teaching on the Good Samaritan apply ?
A German pastor was interviewed in the Leadership Journal.
We find his instructions to his congregation most appropriate.
How a German pastor is teaching his people to welcome those displaced from Syria.
An unprecedented exodus of refugees fleeing abusive conditions—mainly from Syria and Iraq—has arrived on Europe’s doorstep in recent weeks. The world’s conscience has been gripped by images of fathers climbing border fences with children in their arms, overloaded ships sinking in the Mediterranean, and the body of a 3-year-old Syrian boy washed up on the Turkish coastline. The refugee crisis is a global issue, and Germany is leading it.
Taking in 800,000 refugees this year, Germany’s prime minister Angela Merkel has urged other nations to generously open up their borders. The U.S. committed to 1.25 percent of that amount (10,000 refugees). However, Germans are divided. While many have embraced the refugees with open arms, others fear that this move not only puts at risk Germany’s economy and security but also the survival of its culture and traditions.
Events like the refugee crisis weigh heavy on the minds and hearts of German Christians. While I’m typically allergic to topical sermons, preferring undeviating verse-by-verse exposition, I was moved and refreshed when our pastor in Heidelberg interrupted his sermon series to take a look at what Scripture has to say about refugees and the Christian mission.
Christian Kleinloh is the pastor of Calvary Heidelberg, and he graciously agreed to talk to me about how he’s leading his flock through this situation.
Why did you pause from your sermon series to address the refugee crisis?
The Lord has put us in this particular time. We must acknowledge our assignment. Our services need to be connected to real life. So I, as pastor, have the responsibility to lead the church to understand the refugee situation in our country.
There have been many responses about this issue. But I’ve heard so little on what the Bible has to say about refugees—not only about how God’s people should serve them but also about our own fears and anxieties that come along with this. I was compelled to address it.
What’s a pastor’s role in such a sensitive situation?
I believe that the pastor should be there to give answers. A lot of churches today say we’re just there to raise questions. And that’s great, but God doesn’t only raise questions, he gives answers. And he uses us as ambassadors to give people those answers. It is indeed an emotional and sensitive issue. But if I don’t address it, then I’m not truly a pastor to the flock—to those sitting in the congregation scared and emotionally unsure of how to deal with this.
So I first brought up the main directions people have taken. When addressing hard social topics, it’s important not to rate the different opinions or to personally give my opinion. By doing that I stayed out of the political realm. I affirmed that each position had valid points, and that many of the fears are legitimate. Many in Germany fear that 800,000 refugees will change our culture. There’s also the threat from ISIS, which announced that they’ve already sent 4,000 of their own in with the refugees to terrorize Europe.
I had to communicate to the congregation that no matter what your opinion is, the refugees are here. Today. But we must remember that God is sovereign. He’ll take care of us. We must understand he brought them here for a reason. He brought the mission field to us. So the real question: What should we as Christians do about it?
The main point of the message was that if we want to serve God, we have to serve others, and right now that’s the refugees. It won’t be easy, but God calls us to serve with a heart that’s willing to sacrifice.
How should German Christians be representing Christianity to the refugees?
In the mind of the refugee coming from places like Syria and Iraq, they believe they’re coming to a Christian nation. And I believe Christians should meet that expectation. The problem is that Germany has watered down the gospel for so long that most don’t know how to even present it. There are so many great ministries reaching out to help, but there’s little gospel. Christians need to find ways to reach refugees with the hope of the gospel.
Christians must be very open in whose name we are inviting these refugees: the name of the Nazarene. It’s the same name that they’ve seen marked on houses in their neighborhoods back home—the “N” for the Arabic word “Nasrani,” a follower of the Nazarene Jesus Christ. Then two weeks later, they saw that the mark and those people were gone. It’s in that same name that we are now serving them. I believe this is one of the greatest testimonies. We hear in the news that Muslim refugees are criticizing nations like Saudi Arabia and Qatar because they’re not allowed in and must go to the “Kafir,” to “the unbelievers,” for help.
You challenged Germans to realize that these refugees aren’t German.
Therefore German Christians should feel comfortable to initiate contact. What were you getting at?
Germans are very reserved. Germans have a hard shell, and it takes a long time to crack through, but once you do, you end up with a friendship that lasts a lifetime. But a German typically won’t invite you to his house if he doesn’t trust or know you. Whereas Middle East cultures are so different. So I wanted to get at the difference of cultures to say: “You don’t need to be scared! Go say hi!” My family recently visited some refugee families that moved into our neighborhood and brought them some chocolates. They only had a few pieces of furniture, but they had us in, served us the food we brought them on paper plates, and we all had a great time together. By the end, they almost wouldn’t let us leave.
How does a pastor explore and promote service opportunities for his flock?
As a pastor I need to take the practical steps to know what’s out there. I’m not saying I must be involved in every new mission and activity, but I must carry the vision. I myself will probably not be overly active in this ministry. But I’ve been to the refugee center; I’ve seen how it’s set up and works. I’m leading by example and with the knowledge I have to now show the flock how they can take action and serve. I’m a pastor, if I say something, then I need to make it practical.
I also need to show a willingness to make sacrifices to serve if I expect others to do so. The front part of our church is going to look messy. I can’t worry about that. Always bags of clothes, shopping baskets of food, piles of shoes to give to the needy. But it’s a sacrifice that brings so much greater beauty.
Patrick Henry Village [a former U.S. military base in Heidelberg] will have 10,000 refugees. We should be providing clothes since food is provided by the state. And we should make sure it’s done in a good way. We sort the clothes by size before we bring it to the distributors, and that’s an important witness.
We should pray about where we can help and what we can offer: language classes, participation in already existing programs, helping guide refugees to the different offices to take care of their paperwork or showing them Middle-Eastern stores that sell the foods they know. And we need to visit and serve the refugees that live in our neighborhoods, saying we do it because of the Nazarene who in the Gospels is the example of love that we follow.
September 2015 | by Ryan Hoselton (is a doctoral student at Universitat Heidelberg) | Source: christianitytoday.com "The Refugees Are Here"