We’ve been hearing for years now how the harvest is ripe among Muslims in the Middle East. It’s true, but at the same time the barriers are still very strong and very difficult to break through. In recent years online ministries have been making waves in the Middle East by giving Muslims opportunities to view and engage with gospel centered material, without the challenges that come with actually attending a church in their community, if there even is one. However, the local church still plays a vital role in the furtherance of the Gospel in the Middle East, especially in regard to the future of Middle Eastern believers. Most online ministries desire to be the door for which people to walk in and hear about Jesus, but they need the local church in order to provide people with long-term discipleship. As we have all learned in light of the global COVID-19 pandemic, online is nice but it’s not a permanent solution. We need to gather people together to fellowship, worship, and sharpen one another. Iron doesn’t sharpen iron without physical contact.
What, then, is the potential of combining the local church and the online platform? This is what we are currently discovering in the COVID-19 reality that is sweeping the world. Many churches across the Middle East are beginning to go online for the first time. We have the pleasure of partnering with a local church here in the Middle East that had no previous online presence. As lockdowns went into place, we quickly scrambled to create a Facebook page and a YouTube channel. Live videos are not a realistic option as the internet is too unreliable, but we figured we could post a video of the Sunday sermon and maybe a midweek bible study and at the very least the 15-20 people who regularly attend will still be hearing the Word of God from their local leadership. God, however had something else in mind entirely. Last Sunday, our morning service had been viewed over 270 times on YouTube and reached over 400 people through Facebook by the end of the day. It was even viewed in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. That afternoon, a Muslim lady contacted the church wanting more information about how she could follow along with the teachings of the church. Our Pastor, in a true sign of his humility, immediately connected her with another pastor in her more immediate area of the country.
The next day, some of our Sunday school teachers posted a video for the kids of the church to watch and engage with. It was complete with a bible story, an object lesson and even an easy to do, at-home craft. That afternoon, we received pictures of 4 kids in a local Muslim family who watched the video and all participated in the craft time, writing bible verses about how God holds our hands and helps us overcome our fears.
God is doing something unique and new through the COVID-19 crisis. The internet will never be a replacement for local body of believers gathering together, nor should it be. But necessity breeds ingenuity and God works in mysterious ways. By the time this crisis ends and lives are restored to normal, he may have used the internet to break down some barriers and open the doors for local believers to engage face to face with Muslim seekers in our region. I know it has opened the eyes of the local church to the power and potential of going online. I can’t wait to see what God will do as we combine the local presence with the online platform to see Gospel movements among least-reached people groups in the Middle East.
Help reach Muslims in the Middle East with the love and message of Jesus Christ.
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