Support for Middle East pastors

By June 4, 2009

Middle East (MNN) — Global Advance recently partnered with
the British Assemblies of God and Bethany
World Prayer
Center to hold a Frontline Shepherds
Conference for Middle Eastern pastors in Lebanon. 

165 pastors and a few of their wives traveled from a variety of
Middle Eastern countries represented almost all of the Middle
East's evangelical denominations. 

"These are men and women who bear the heat of the day in a
tremendous way for the advance of the Gospel," said Global Advance's David
Shibley. "Many of them live under
constant threat either to themselves, to their families, or to their churches." 

Some denominations provide training for their pastors, but
interdenominational pastors' conferences rarely occur. None had been held in Lebanon, which is usually something of a safe haven for Christians, for at
least 20 years. 

"For Baptists, Assemblies of God, United Methodists, Nazarenes, and other evangelical churches to come together
under the lordship of Christ and under the banner of the Great Commission, was
truly historic," Shibley said. He
counted it a privilege to serve pastors who make sacrifices every day for the
spread of the Gospel. 

"I was…deeply humbled, just to be in the
presence of some of these magnificent men and women who literally are putting
their lives on the line for the sake of the Lord Jesus," said Shibley.

The population of evangelical Christians in the Middle East is "minuscule," Shibley said. It faces opposition not only from the
majority Muslim population, but also from some Christian traditions that have
been in the region for a long time. 

"There's also the challenge of an historic representation of
Christianity that often is not vigorous or alive and sometimes is not truly
faithful to the Gospel," Shibley explained. 

The pressure against converting to Christianity is
heavy. Many new converts keep their
faith secret for that reason. Other very
courageous believers face serious consequences when they declare their faith in
the Lord. 

"Some have seen their own funeral taking place, as their
family said, 'You are now dead to us since you're a follower of Jesus,'" Shibley

Yet God is moving powerfully among the Muslim people, and
significant numbers are turning to Christianity. Shibley said that many people have begun
seeking the Lord after Jesus appears to them in dreams. 

"Muslim people are being visited by the Lord, either in a
dream or in a vision, and this very dramatic occurrence sets them on a quest to
come to know Him," Shibley explained. "I
talked to two pastors at our conference who had seen the Lord according to
their reports, and that began their walk of faith in Jesus Christ. And today,
they are proclaiming the Gospel."

Global Advance's pastors' conferences emphasize the
importance of planting more churches and evangelizing other communities. The pastors go home from the conference with
tools, resources, and a renewed vision for ministry. About 50 to 75 percent of the pastors at this
conference pledge to plant another church within the next 12 months. 

"If that happens, or even if a portion of that happens,
there's going to be a tremendous advance for the Gospel in the Middle East," Shibley said. 

Despite economic challenges, Global Advance plans to run
Frontline Shepherds Conferences in about 20 different countries this
summer. It costs thousands of dollars to
run each conference.

"We have not backed up one inch on our commitment to equip 1
million pastoral leaders in the neediest nations of the world, challenging them
to plant 1 million new churches worldwide," Shibley said. "We believe that now more than ever, the
Gospel must get out. The church must be planted among every people and in every

Shibley encouraged Christians to pray for the Middle East. 

"It's not only Jews who live in Jerusalem,
but many Arabs live in Jerusalem
as well. So to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and the Middle East
is to pray for the peace of that entire region," he explained. "The apostle Paul said that we're to pray for
peace so that there can be a conducive climate for evangelism." 

Many of the people of the Middle East
are receptive to the Gospel right now, and there is a window of opportunity for
evangelism, Shibley said. 

"Even with all of the saber-rattling coming out of Iran, there is
a season of reprieve right now that is very conducive for the Gospel. And the church needs to go in with great
strength right now to proclaim a risen Christ. People by the thousands, and
probably by the millions I believe, are ready to receive Him in the Middle

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