6 ways to engage with your international neighbors this Christmas

December 20, 2017

I celebrated my first Christmas Eve service overseas a few years ago in South Asia. I went with a missionary family in my city to their church in a local school. I wore a Christmas dress much different than ones I had worn in the States, embroidered with bright patterns and sequins, with leggings and a dupatta for modesty. We piled into the wooden desks and benches; I sat on one side with the ladies in a sea of sarees and dupatta-covered heads. We sang unfamiliar songs in an unfamiliar language for two hours and afterward gathered outside to share some biryani with each other.

There was nothing familiar about this Christmas Eve service. No candlelight service. No Silent Night sung by a choir. No Christmas ham. But these believers were celebrating the same Christmas story we celebrate in the American church, and I would dare say despite the persecution they faced, with more joy. It was a reminder to me that the Christmas Story is certainly not American, nor is it intended to be. It has always been a story for the nations.

The Christmas story didn't actually begin 2,000 years ago. It began much earlier. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, chose disobedience in the Garden, and the result was sin and a broken world. But God promised in that there would be One who would come and crush the head of Satan (Gen. 3:15), providing a way of salvation for fallen man. God fulfilled his promise. He sent his only Son into this mess of a world, formed in a virgin’s s womb, born in a stable, to live the perfect life we could not live, to die the death we should have died, and to rise again, conquering sin and giving us the gift of a relationship with him. This is the Christmas story. This is the gospel. This is not just good news. It is the best news! 

The Christmas Story is certainly not American, nor is it intended to be. It has always been a story for the nations.

Carl F. H. Henry said, "The gospel is only good news if it gets there in time." Christian, God has sovereignly placed nonbelievers in your life because you are the one he wants to use to proclaim this good news. The good news of Christmas can only be understood for what it is by your friend, family member, co-worker, or neighbor if they have the opportunity to hear it and believe it!

Amazingly, there is a good chance that you have an international friend, co-worker, or neighbor who only knows Christmas as the time Americans drink peppermint mochas and talk about an overweight old guy in a red suit who hands out toys. They have never heard the true meaning and story of Christmas. Many internationals worship gods they fear or live in fear that they have not done enough good or religious works to inherit eternal life. They do not know the hope of Christmas. They do not know the Savior who willingly and humbly chose to come and enter our broken world to redeem us. They do not know this God who loves them deeply.

The opportunities for gospel conversations at Christmas are ripe if you are intentional in seeking them out. I have listed a few ideas below on how to engage and share with internationals this Christmas, but of course, these ideas could also be used to engage with any of your lost friends, family, and neighbors.

  1. Invite them to church events and a meal or coffee afterward to talk about the content. For example, if it is a Christmas concert, you can ask if they noticed any themes in the songs or if they have any questions about what the songs talked about. This is an easy way to open the door to sharing the Christmas story.
  2. Bake some Christmas treats for your neighbors. This is a great way to start a conversation with your neighbors and a great time to invite them to your home. Internationals tend to come from more hospitable cultures, and an invitation to your home would be a significant way to begin a relationship with them. You’ll also learn along the way what they can and can’t eat, either because of their traditions or religions. But don’t let this stop you from taking the first step.
  3. Invite parents and children over to help decorate Christmas cookies or even your tree. This provides an opportunity to ask if they have heard the Christmas story and may open a door to share it with them. For example, they might inquire about ornaments you have and what they mean, especially if they display something about Christianity.
  4. Invite them to look at Christmas lights in your community. Who doesn’t love looking at Christmas lights? You could point out manger scenes you see and ask, "Do you know what that is? Have you ever heard the story of Christmas and why we celebrate? Could I share the story with you?"    
  5. Invite international students to celebrate Christmas with you. If you live close to a large university, I guarantee you there are international students that will be the U.S. during Christmas, far away from their families and home countries. As you can imagine, they are very lonely and would most likely welcome an invitation to celebrate Christmas with an American family. You can contact a local campus ministry, such as a BCM (Baptist Campus Ministry), that could connect you with an international student. You could invite them to a Christmas Eve service, take them to look at Christmas lights, or better yet, invite them into your home on Christmas Day to celebrate with your family.  
  6. Serve a local ministry that serves refugee communities. You can contact a ministry like this and ask if there are opportunities for you, your family, and/or your church to partner with them. If possible, you could ask to adopt a refugee family and provide them with a warm meal and winter coats for the family members. This could open the door to an intentional relationship with a family as you seek to meet their physical and spiritual needs.  

These are just a few ideas, but I would encourage you to think about the community around you, their needs and their habits, and use your creativity to find ways to engage that community with the gospel. Our Lord has come. Let us joyfully proclaim the best news to the world.  


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Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24