By Pauline Nasri
“My prayer is not for [believers] alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me, and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” – John 17:21
When we are more than one, we can help carry the burden of others, express our thoughts, suffer together, and celebrate together. This is exactly how the disciples and apostles worked together to lay the blueprint for missions.
In this spirit of unity, 20 different churches and ministry institutions from the Beqaa Valley gathered in July to learn, exchange, and evaluate best practices for sustainable development. Evangelical church leaders in Lebanon currently face a heavy responsibility to the growing needs of their communities. Yet they are also operating in a tense, complicated environment because of the economic crisis and pandemic.
The Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS), MERATH, and Heart for Lebanon saw a need for capacity-building within the Evangelical community, as humanitarian needs often outstrip the training required to execute.
“This program intends to develop specific skills, and we have chosen three types: transparency, accountability, and professionalism. This program gathers diligent workers in the Lord’s field, which in the past three years has become more ripe and ready for the harvest,” said Nabil Costa, CEO of LSESD.
This conference was an opportunity for participants in the field to recharge and collaborate while getting training and applying important skills. Each leader was invited to bring two team members to the four- day conference in Zahle, so that those in implementation roles would be well-trained as well as those responsible for vision and mission.
Before beginning, Costa challenged the group to consider the difference between influence and power. For example, Paul had authority over the church in Philemon, but he chose to urge and address them with love, rather than commands. (Philemon 1:8-21)
“Some people seek to have influence and specifically a positive one. They are not captivated by power, but make every effort to impact people’s lives… Among them are people who have a cause, and what cause is greater than that of people meeting Jesus through our lives and ministries?” asked Costa.
As the conference continued, you would be hard- pressed to find a more engaged, collaborative group. Especially when analyzing case studies, the room was alive as the tables debated the best response. This active discussion also gave attendees the opportunity to meet other mission workers outside their sphere, to think critically, to listen to one another, and most importantly, to realize the significance of working collectively. To strengthen this emphasis on working in unity, Bassem Melki from ABTS also led a session on peacemaking.
In a seminar on the theology of partnership, Elie Haddad, ABTS president, emphasized that neither churches or NGOs have a mission. It is God who has a mission in the world, and the church is here to fulfill his mission.
“We cannot each come up with a mission. Our vision must well up from what we are convinced God is doing in our region through the Church, all while being faithful to this calling and vision. So it is very important to remember that the mission belongs to God. The ministry belongs to God. The field belongs to God. And we are soldiers in His hands sent out to fulfill His ministry, mission, and field,” said Haddad.
Haddad also explored the meaning of the word fellowship in the New Testament. Most of us think of fellowship as a shared meal, a fun group activity, or a worship service. While these are all wonderful, we can also think of fellowship as serving together.
“The context in which the word “fellowship” (koinonia) is used in the New Testament is always one of ministry. Whenever we experience fellowship with one another, we are doing so in the context of ministry. This is its context in the New Testament, so whenever we think of fellowship with one another, it is good to think of how we are ministering with one another. We do not each have an isolated ministry. We do not go for coffee with one another and then each return to our isolated ministry. Fellowship is ministry,” said Haddad.
At the end of the conference, we closed in a time of prayer. Each team shared their current prayer requests, the needs in their community, and opportunities for improvement. It was beautiful to see the newly discovered areas of growth and interest in subsequent trainings across the region.
Please pray with us that these leaders would continue to foster a deep sense of partnership, love, and unity between the churches and ministry institutions in the Beqaa Valley.
A Flourishing Arab Church
Our mission at LSESD is to strengthen the witness of the Church in the Arab World. We do this through partnerships with local churches, ministries, and schools.