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WHAT DOES MUBARAK’S DOWNFALL MEAN FOR CHRISTIANS IN EGYPT? Update: Egyptian military vows to honor treaty with Israel

In Uncategorized on February 12, 2011 at 3:07 pm

JUST POSTED: Here’s my interview on Fox News Channel on Sunday (Feb 13) with Shannon Bream, discussing the implications of the fall of the Mubarak regime for Israel, for followers of Jesus Christ in Egypt, and for the battle between Radicals and Reformers in Iran.

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What does the downfall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak mean for Christians in Egypt? That’s the question I’m being asked about again and again in TV and radio interviews over the past few days, so I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts this morning.

First, senior pastors and ministry leaders in Egypt estimate there are some 2.5 million followers of Jesus Christ in their country. Most of these are born again converts who were raised as nominal Christians inside the historic Coptic (Orthodox) church. There are about eight to ten million Coptics in the country, all told, and there is a significant revival going on among them. By God’s grace, a growing number of Egyptian Muslims are leaving Islam and turning to Jesus every year. Amen. May this accelerate in the weeks and months ahead.

Second, believers in Egypt face significant harassment, ostracization, and outright persecution. Both the Mubarak government and the Islamists have worked hard to intimidate the Church over the years. While there are wonderfully bold and courageous pastors and lay leaders, many have come to live in fear and anxiety as a result.

Third, this is the most dramatic moment in the history of the modern Middle East since the downfall of the Saddam regime and the capture of Saddam Hussein in 2003. The Reformers are boldly proclaiming their solutions for Egypt’s problems. Likewise, the Radicals are boldly proclaiming their solutions for Egypt’s ills. Now it is time for the Revivalists — followers of our Lord Jesus who want to revive what Egypt once had before Islam: First Century, New Testament, Biblical Christianity — to boldly proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. True freedom and liberation — spiritually and socially — will only come when individuals choose to begin a personal relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ His Son. Only then does the Lord offer us the free gift of life eternal and life abundant, as we read in John 3:16 and John 10:10.

Fourth, our job as believers around the world at this moment of turmoil, change and uncertainty is to stand with our brothers and sisters in Egypt, encourage them, pray for them, provide whatever training or resources they need, and provide some funding if possible to help them proclaim the gospel, make disciples, train new pastors, plant new churches, care for the poor and needy, and minister to the people in many other ways. We can’t do the work of the Church in Egypt for them, nor should we. But we can — and must — let them know that they are not alone. The Apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians 12 that “you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.” He told us that “if one member [of the Body] suffers, all the members suffer with it.” In Philippians 2, he urged believers to be “of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.” He encouraged us to “do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” In other words, we need to do a better job understanding the needs of the Egyptian Church and seek ways to stand with them and encourage them, not be selfish or prideful or focused merely on ourselves.

My wife, Lynn, our four sons, Lynn’s mom, and I had the joy of living in Egypt — in a suburb of Cairo, actually — for nearly three months in late 2005 and early 2006 when I was researching and writing a book. During that time, we had the opportunity to see the enormous surge of Christianity underway in the Middle East and North Africa firsthand. We met with Egyptian Muslim Background Believers (MBBs) and Nominal Christian Background Believers (NCBBs). We met believers engaged in satellite television ministry, in radio ministry, in Internet ministry, in gospel literature distribution, and in all manner of evangelism outreaches and discipleship programs. It was also a remarkable time to study the history and culture of Egypt. We visited the great museum in Cairo, climbed inside the pyramids, and traveled around the country to places like Alexandria and Sharm el-Sheikh. We learned so much, saw so much poverty, so much sadness, such stagnation, such political and spiritual stagnation.

We also made some dear friends and visited a variety of churches to better understand the challenges facing believers in that historic country. One of these was the famous “garbage church” in the caves above Cairo, located right next to the biggest “city” of trash and waste products I have ever seen in my life.

To get to the “garbage church,” you must first drive through this “city” of badly built brick and cement apartment buildings teeming with an estimated fifteen to thirty thousand “garbage people”—no one knows for sure, and the numbers are always changing—living amid literally thousands of tons of trash. Everywhere you look you see people picking through it, sorting it, rebagging it, looking for objects of value and hoping to sell plastic bottles and the like to recyclers. The stench is unbelievable.

But then you come through it to the other side, to a paved parking lot and a lovely little Christian chapel, nestled against huge cliffs. Carved into the cliffs are the most amazing scenes of Jesus walking on water, Jesus on the cross, Jesus ascending to heaven, and so forth, each with a Bible verse inscribed below it in Arabic and English, all done by a Polish artist. Inside the six caves are six chapels, the largest of which holds twenty thousand people.

Our guide that day was an MBB named Addel. He shared with us (by translation) how he was lost in drugs and alcohol and the depression of living in the garbage village. He also shared with us how he came to hear an audiocassette of one of the priests at the church and how God used that sermon to convict him of his sin and point him to what Jesus did on the cross to pay the penalty for his sins and offer him forgiveness. Now Addel greets visitors who come to see this extraordinary ministry and tells them the story of what God is doing there.

The church was planted, he said, in 1978 by a Coptic priest with a burden for reaching the people Paul called “the scum of the world, the dregs of all things” with the Good News that they could be adopted by the King of kings. So many people became Christians in the years that followed that in 1992 they had to covert the largest cave into a worship amphitheater. On an average weekend, some ten thousand new and growing believers from the garbage community come to sing and hear the message of the gospel and learn how to be true disciples of Jesus Christ. Services are held on Thursday nights (the most popular service), Friday mornings, and Sunday evenings. In May of 2005, more than twenty thousand Arab believers gathered at the garbage church for a day of prayer for their unsaved Muslim friends to become followers of Christ. The event was broadcast throughout the Middle East on a Christian satellite television network, allowing millions more to see God powerfully at work.

With our kids, Lynn and I have been watching events unfold in Egypt through the lenses of our own experiences there, but more importantly through the lenses of Scripture. We know through Isaiah 19 that the future of Egypt is going to get far worse in the last days before the return of Christ. We also know that eventually Egypt will experience a great national awakening. Millions of Egyptians will come to faith in Jesus Christ and worship Him during the Millennial Kingdom, when He reigns from His throne in Jerusalem. We are praying for the Lord to show us and The Joshua Fund team board and staff how we can be a blessing not only to Israel, but also to her neighbors, like the dear people of Egypt who have suffered so long and need to find hope and freedom in Jesus. We’d love for you to join us in these vital prayers, as well. Thanks so much, and may the Lord bless you as you bless Israel and Egypt at this critical hour.

HEADLINES TO TRACK:

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