Proclaiming the Gospel in Baghdad?
Coming Alongside the Church in Baghdad
1. Love Jesus taught us to love our enemies. Although it is not easy to love bad people, God can give us the grace to do it. Throughout my life I have listened to countless sermons, telling us we do not have to like our enemies—we just have to love them. Love is reduced to not pursuing the negative of hate.To this attitude I say nonsense! Love is real. It is difficult, it is costly and it changes lives because it enables people to see Jesus. In our context, it is not some liberal concept of evangelism without risks—even loving these people is taking great risks. Love does and has completely changed people. However, those doing the work of the gospel in the most traumatic of places cannot even talk about the true nature of their work for fear of their lives. Our Embassy here in Baghdad has had to send me home. In the past, I have said too much and the death threats have come in abundance. The truth around here is that we really need to deal with fear; however, perfect love does cast out all fear.
2. Pray We also need to seriously pray. I have a small group of intercessors who pray and intercede for us in our work. Although I cannot always tell them what is really happening, they often know because God tells them. There have been countless times when our intercessors have told me they have been praying about actual things that happened which I have not told them about. We should expect our Lord to work in supernatural ways when we are dealing with supernatural things.
3. Study Islam and Arabic Working in an Islamic culture means the need to study both Islam and Arabic. It is essential we know the context we are ministering in. It is necessary we understand how our faith is perceived in the Islamic faith and context. Among Muslims, I have often seen Jesus even more revered than in Christianity. In Islam, there is even the belief in the second coming of Jesus, so even before one starts talking about faith, there is a need to understand how our faith is seen by the other.
4. Seriously Support Local Christians It is very often the case that those who come to minister in this context have no idea about the local Christians. Here in Iraq, people have followed the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for a very long time since a really miserable and reluctant evangelist named Jonah turned up by submarine transportation 2,700 years ago. He was followed seven hundred years later by another miserable person, doubting Thomas, who was on his way to India. He also stopped off in Nineveh and told the people that their Messiah had come one thousand miles down the road in Israel. They believed him, and to this day Nineveh is full of Christians. Many in my church in Baghdad believe in Jesus because of these two miserable people. They were the best evangelists ever. The Christians here in Iraq are wonderful and have an amazing history. At Christmas their evangelistic activity is to have a party for the locals where they show them love and give them food. Before the event, the Christians seriously pray for the event. If we really support and love the people here, we will provide them with food, water and money so they can continue to show love so that the gospel will be made known.
5. Expect Miracles In such trauma, we must rely on the miraculous more and more. When people are sick, ill and dying, we often have no doctors to take them to. They have either left or been killed. Jesus often comes and heals our sick people. Because of this, people of other faiths see we have a God of miracles and it is not long before they want to come to the Great Physician as well. They want something back in their loss and Jesus alone can give it to them. Even in the midst of this crisis, God is still real and full of love. When people see him, they are drawn to him. And as we continue to serve him, we love, pray, seek to understand our context and the local church and expect miracles.