Nearly 15 million Christians make their home in the Middle East, with some two-thirds of that number in Egypt alone. American Christians may think of Middle Eastern churches as recent missionary plants. But there have been churches in the Middle East for as long as there have been churches. Not only have Christians been a continuous presence in the Middle East, they have also been devoted to evangelism and missionary endeavors.
During a recent conference on Christians in the Middle East, sponsored by Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding (EMEU), CT's executive editor, David Neff, gathered four leaders active in the life of the Middle East church to discuss the progress of missions, East-West relations, and the role of the church in the Middle East's future. Participating in the discussion were Wafik Wahbah, a Presbyterian pastor from Cairo; Jean Bouchebl, a Lebanon-based field director for World Vision International; Mitri Raheb, a Palestinian Lutheran pastor from Bethlehem; and American Ray Bakke, executive director of International Urban Associates and founder and chair of Emeu.
MIDDLE EASTERN CHURCHES ARE NOT OFTEN THOUGHT OF AS BEING MISSIONARY MINDED. GIVE US AN OVERVIEW OF EVANGELISTIC WORK STEMMING FROM YOUR RESPECTIVE COUNTRIES.
Wahbah: The Coptic church—the original church of Egypt that was founded during the first three centuries of Christianity—has a strong history of evangelism. According to Coptic tradition, the church was started by Saint Mark and was composed of various Jewish communities. Eventually, it converted members of the Egyptian population. From there, it reached out to other parts of the Middle East—particularly Ethiopia. Later on, the church became separated by political and ...1
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