Christians are leaving the Middle East, but ministry continues

By January 25, 2006

Middle East (MNN) — Lack of religious freedom. Violence. Biblical education. All of these are reasons why many Christians are leaving the Middle East, the area of the world where Christianity was founded. Has this affected evangelism, church planting and discipleship? According to the Southern Baptist International Mission Board the answer is both yes and no.

President of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, Jerry Rankin, says. “Yes, there is a vast exit of Christians. Just the harassment, the persecution (legally and socially) has somewhat weakened the established church. We’re still seeing a harvest and seeing people coming to faith in Jesus Christ,” says Rankin.

Historically, this area of the world had a large number of Christians. “Most of your listeners would probably be surprised to realize what a large percentage of Christians are in the Middle East, particularly Palestinian Christians in Israel, in Lebanon and in those places and in others; Jordan and Egypt, throughout the Middle East.”

Rankin says since it’s difficult in these areas, new believers in these areas are strong. “They’re coming into the Christian faith and embracing faith in Jesus Christ with a passion and witness that is going to continue to make an impact.”

While people are coming to Christ in these areas, the exodus has made it difficult for ministry, says Rankin. “We’re very committed to an indigenous strategy that is contingent on training and discipling national leadership to lead the churches. It does tend to decimate the potential leadership.”

However, Rankin doesn’t want people to think evangelism isn’t taking place among the people groups represented in the Middle East. “Just because they’re not living in their native environment doesn’t mean that they aren’t going to continue to have a global influence among their own people and others when they move to other countries.”

Pray that as many people come to Christ that they’ll return to their homeland to proclaim Christ. Pray also that believers who remain in the Middle East will be protected and they be effective in reaching that lost to Christ.

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