Korie and I had the honor of
spending this past week in the Middle East where I was invited to preach
several times at a church and then a conference. The church where I shared was the largest
evangelical church in the area, a truly multi-ethnic and multi-class church
that warmed our hearts. In reflecting on
my time of ministry there, several things come to mind:
The sobering effect of inconvenience. The church where I served is not in a region of persecution…yet. However, their nation has sent a resounding message that they consider the church of Jesus Christ to be a nuisance. It’s almost impossible to purchase land as a church. And right before I got up to preach (where services were held at a hotel) I was told that Muslim informers would be in the audience. These words sobered me in a way that I’ve never been before.
A looming persecution. While Christians have not been killed in this region, their close proximity to recent acts of violence against believers added a weight and seriousness to the current events. As the pastor of the church got up to pray for those twenty-one Christians who went proclaiming Jesus to their deaths, I felt an intensity in the room that could only be blamed on our nearness to the atrocity. In the states we are moved by such violence, but like reading about American slavery, one is only grieved to a certain point, whose emotions are held at bay by the boundary of distance.
A Universal Gospel. God was with me in the preaching moment. Many hands went up in response to the gospel. As I talked with these tear stained individuals at the end of the services I was struck by how universal the gospel actually is. I spent time listening to salvation stories from Australians, Iranians, Jordanians, South Africans and many more. Some had been shunned by their families because of their decision to follow Jesus. Others were still calculating the risk involved, weighing whether or not to yield their lives to Christ and chance everything. My prayers go with them.
Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” I feel beyond privileged to have played a small role in the coming of God’s kingdom in this section of his vineyard.