COVID-19: Learning from Arab believers

By Lynn, mission mobiliser

When we come to Christ, we are united with Him and His body. But sometimes we have very little understanding of what life is like for some members of that body. As COVID-19 brings many changes to our lives, let’s take some time to look at how this season can teach us a little about the lives of our Arab brothers and sisters and pray more eagerly for them.

So what is church like in the Arab world?

The Church dispersed: 

As governments worldwide impose lockdowns and order self-isolation, the regular freedom we enjoy to worship together is denied: this is a glimpse into life for many across the Arab world. Believers from Muslim backgrounds often live in countries where there are no established churches or church buildings. Many of them are isolated, unsure even if there are any other believers in their city, relying on the internet for fellowship. For those who can gather in small home fellowships, they model something of the Church in Acts – believers pray together and care for one another’s physical needs in daily life. This is a definite lesson to consider at this time. where the need for care is heightened.

Growing disciples: 

We are used to having regular spiritual input, whether that be from our church leaders, Bible study groups, or Christian literature. For many Arab new believers, much of their spiritual growth has to be self-directed, seeking out Biblical material, finding answers to questions and meeting other Christians online for fellowship.

We are used to having easy access to a Bible, and probably even more than one. If we can’t remember where a passage is, we can just Google it. In some areas of the Arab world, although literacy is increasing, many of the believers are illiterate, or Bibles aren’t available in their language or dialect. There are often also legal restrictions. For them to have access to the Bible, they have to memorise passages.

Counting the cost:

When a Muslim comes to faith in Christ, they may suffer. They may lose their job, their family, their sense of significance. But they have given up earthly honour for eternal hope. For many Arab believers, it is easier and more obvious to see that they are different from those around them.

Currently you may be facing unemployment or financial hardship and you’re likely separated from loved ones, perhaps with an element of fear. You’ve almost certainly lost your regular rhythm and the ability to do some of the things that bring you joy and help you feel achievement and purpose. Let this time be a reminder to not take the freedom we have to worship for granted, to be proactive in our spiritual growth, even when the normal structures are removed – maybe we can take time in our new routines to memorise some of God’s word. Let this be a time where we care for each other and to remember that we are distinctive to the world around us, that this life is not our final destination. We have Christ’s resurrection hope. As John Newton said on his deathbed: “I am still in the land of the dying; I shall soon be in the land of the living.”

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