From Beirut

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Patty and I are in Beirut. We just finished helping lead a 2-day workshop for leaders based on Hugh Halter and Matt Smay’s excellent volume, The Tangible Kingdom. Hugh was with us and was the primary presenter.

Serving the Church in this region to move toward a more missional, incarnational posture is a significant challenge. It has been a sobering time. As we have been here, some of the comments we have heard include:

“Throughout the past 50 years, the church in the Middle East has imported models from the West, particularly the U.S., and we’re coming to the realization that these models have failed.”

“I left the church I am a part of here in Beirut because I came to be convinced that God wouldn’t give his Son for this.”

“Christians are supposed to only have close relationships with other Christians. If we relate to others, it is only to preach repentance and faith in Christ to them.”

“I don’t think we should relate to others outside of the church because we may loose our faith …it is dangerous and risky.”

“If I have an problem with God, I can always go to him and work it out. But heaven help me if I have a problem with a pastor. I am just expected to salute and obey.”


Of course, there are bright spots in this setting and these statements don’t reflect the totality of the context. But overall, the Christian movement, particularly that portion of the movement that is represented by the traditional, institutional church, oozes pathology. This is particularly discouraging because of the strategic nature of the region. The stakes are high.

2 Responses to “From Beirut”

  1. John Says:

    The words “Middle East” could be replaced with “Russia” – I’ve heard similar comments here. Do you think any kind of movement can begin in such traditional/institutional structures in Beruit? If not, how do you see a movement beginning outside of the such structures without creating a backlash from the (entrenched) leadership of the traditional church?

  2. Sam Says:

    John:

    The parallels between what the Middle East looks like today and Russia and the states of the former Soviet Union are striking. Even on my last time in Lebanon, I thought I was in a time warp and was experiencing some of the dynamics the church faced under communism back in the 70s and 80s. And many of the challenges are the same.

    What’s the solution? Probably both of the scenarios that you describe. I don’t believe it will be an “either/or” but most like “both/and.”

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