Lebanon (MNN) – Kingdom mindedness — it is this idea that instead of working only to further a specific ministry, the Christian community works with the goal of furthering God’s Kingdom.
Sometimes it takes a crisis to awaken the Church to this Kingdom mindset. For Lebanon, that crisis was the Syrian war. Now, for most churches in Lebanon, living out their faith is less about keeping to themselves and more about serving and loving others.
There was a time before the Syrian refugee crisis when churches in Lebanon kept to themselves. President of Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS) Elie Haddad says, “One aspect is if we look at the sociological models ‘bounded-set’ versus the ‘centered-set’; our churches had always been a bounded-set.”
Haddad goes on to explain how a bounded-set community defines itself by the boundaries it draws. Bounded-set communities often have religious norms for outsiders to conform to before they can become a deeper part of the community. However, Haddad says the Syrian refugee crisis has shattered this paradigm in Lebanon.
“It’s interesting that the whole mission world has been praying for the 10/40 window for the longest time; that people will come to faith. That’s starting to happen. But we don’t like it because it doesn’t look like something that we’re familiar with, something comfortable to us. It’s shattering our paradigms [and] it’s changing things. It’s shaking our own communities,” says Haddad.
Kingdom Mindedness in Lebanon
The humanitarian crisis in Lebanon has pushed churches to lean into God and respond with open arms. Haddad says many churches are more centered-set because of it. Haddad defines centered-set as “a community that defines itself by the center — that Jesus [is] at the center. Our job is to draw people to the center no matter how close or far [away] they are.”
Once this mindset takes root, personal ministry barriers are often dismantled and doors open, because the goal is not self, but to draw people to the one true hope — Jesus.
“The Kingdom mindset is now we want to invite people to have a relationship with God. [It] doesn’t matter if they come to my church or if they stay in their own church and be light within that church so that they help other people draw closer to God,” says Haddad.
Furthermore, a Kingdom mindset supports training and equipping people to go out and do ministry. Haddad says because of the refugee crisis, churches are reaching out to meet the physical and spiritual needs of strangers in their country. Through this selfless act of love, they introduce people to Jesus.
“I’m sure we have a long way to go as a Church in Lebanon. But having that Kingdom mindset in front of our churches is extremely important…. This is the mission of the mindset that we’ve been working on for a long time at ABTS as well. It’s not about how many chairs we fill in our building on Sunday morning. It’s how many people were released for ministry, and what are we doing to equip them to be released for ministry,” Haddad explains.
“The job of the Kingdom mind [and] missional mindset is to just release people for ministry.”
The genuine love which flows from a centered-set mindset is evident to refugees, immigrants, and newcomers. Haddad says these people recognize when others treat them as a project.
“Especially people coming from our own culture. If no one has come into their home, if they have not been invited to other people’s homes, then they don’t feel that they’re being cared for. So, it’s when these relationships take place and they grow…then I think that’s when they feel that, yes, we are living Christ among them. It’s not just a task…. It’s the person that’s important. It’s the relationship.”
A Shared Lesson
Churches beyond Lebanon also need to give their fears to God before they can impact their communities. Haddad says there is a lot Christians can learn from one another across the globe. Each community has different contexts, different histories, and different journeys to share.
“There was a time when Jesus came to our part of the world, but we had to hear the Gospel message from Western missionaries. I think now the role needs to be flipped a little bit,” says Haddad.
Haddad believes ministry in the West may be more difficult than in the Middle East because the mindset is different.
“Over there, the enemy is inside the Church and no one even notices — materialism, consumerism, and careerism, and [inappropriate forms of] patriotism and nationalism…. That’s much tougher to deal with,” says Haddad.
“How do you take comfortable people out of their comfort intentionally and put them out in the world? So yeah, you want revival? Pray for [a] crisis.”
Ask God to equip the Church in Lebanon for the ministry work before them. Pray for their encouragement and perseverance in the face of hardship.
Also, pray for the global Church to become more centered-set and for Jesus to use us to draw the hurting and marginalized to Him.
Header photo courtesy of Ramy Kabalan via Unsplash.