Edited by Jonathan Andrews
Institute of Middle East Studies – Langham Global Library 2019, 180 pages
In this book we hear the authentic voices of Middle Eastern Christians addressing mission issues. We are told that the vision for the book was born in 2013 but that “overbusyness” prevented the original editors from realising their dream. The solution was to invite Jonathan Andrews to step into the editorial role and what a neat and tidy job he has made of the publication.
Ten chapters, a brief appendix outlining the history of the Middle East, a glossary and a comprehensive bibliography make this book exceptionally accessible to a broad spectrum of readers. Background introductions, factual descriptions of contemporary ministries and theological reflections provide a wealth of stimulating reading.
Many of the contributors and ministries, especially those in the chapter on media, are known to me and it is an encouragement to read contemporary culturally contextualised accounts of what is happening in the region. In addition, I volunteer at an asylum seeker project in the United Kingdom so empathise with the chapters recounting the challenges of displaced persons in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
This is a timely book and immensely encouraging coming from our Middle Eastern brothers and sisters.
The “mission of God” – missio Dei – is at the root of each of the ten chapters which address; Evangelism, Church Planting, Discipleship, Relief and Development, Engagement for Social Justice, Christian-Muslim Dialogue, Peacebuilding, Media, Children and Youth and Leadership Formation.
The ministry case studies and illustrations are drawn mainly from Lebanon and Egypt for reasons of security and vary from arresting personal vignettes to broader descriptions of sacrificial endeavours.
I would like to draw out several exceptional strengths of the book.
First, in a traditional patriarchal society it is refreshing to read the testimonies of women in mission. (Since the publication of the book Rita el Mounayer is now the CEO of SAT-7 in succession to Terry Ascott.)
Second, though the contributions are written from the perspective of Evangelicalism there are generous references to and collaboration with the churches of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC).
Third, the reader will be struck by the sacrificial dedication of many of those pursuing social welfare, peacebuilding, justice, and youth ventures.
Fourth, the reminder of the complexity and diversity of the MENA area draws attention to the opportunities for innovation.
Fifth, the illustrative strategies cause the reader to broaden their own understanding of being heralds of the Kingdom of God, e.g., in the context of social welfare and Christian-Muslim dialogue.
Sixth, the tension between being a passive minority Christian community (dhimmi – subject and protected peoples) and the desire to express their faith and participate in political discourse is succinctly stated. There is a bold attempt to challenge the status quo of some traditional church leaders.
Seventh, the commitment to reverse the long-held pessimism of a dwindling Christian community in the MENA region not only through leadership training and indigenous ministries but also through the transforming growth of those coming to faith from the non-Christian community.
This is a timely book and immensely encouraging coming from our Middle Eastern brothers and sisters. I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in the MENA arena and commend the work of the Institute of Middle East Studies to your prayers.
Reviewed by Keith Fraser-Smith