By Pauline Nasri
During the hardest days of the pandemic, Zoom church was a blessing. Yet for many churches around the world, the return to in-person church has been rocky. Routines shifted, and even committed members seemed less available.
In Lebanon, this shift in church membership has been magnified by the exodus of Christians, seeking stability abroad amid a severe economic crisis. Meanwhile, ministry needs are growing.
Noticing this shift, Dar Manhal al Hayat (DMAH) and the Lebanese Evangelical Baptist Convention partnered together to host a consultation on an increasingly crucial skill: how to nourish and manage a church body.
The 9Marks series, translated into Arabic by DMAH, is a well-known resource that helps pastors and church members see what a biblical church looks like, and to take practical steps for becoming one. With this series in hand, leaders of 20 Baptist churches gathered to engage with scripture and practical implementation. John Folmar, senior pastor at the Evangelical Church of Dubai, led the discussion and focused on three books in the 9Marks series – Church Membership, Church Discipline, and Church Elders.
Folmar said that church membership is the definition of who God’s people are. Discipline is significant because the Christian life should be different from that of the world. Lastly, the book on elders explains their role as shepherds of the church.
“It was a joy to get to know those brothers, it was a privilege, considering especially the difficulty that they face and pastoring in an environment with so many people leaving the country. Pastoral ministry is hard enough as it is, but to be pastoring in this kind of environment, I really respect those men,” said Folmar.
Dr. Nabil Costa, the CEO of the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development (LSESD), said that in Lebanon there is a major crisis of hope.
“COVID made our weaknesses obvious as individuals and as churches. The church needs lots of work, repair, and encouragement,” said Costa.
According to Information International, a research and consultancy firm in Beirut, 79,134 Lebanese citizens migrated in 2021 compared to 17,721 in 2020. This placed the church in need for pastors and ministers, as families and young people are migrating.
However, coming together was a good opportunity for the leaders to meditate on scripture, think together, discuss the topics, and pray together and for one another.
“It’s always good to have pastors and Christians meeting together. To pray together, to open up to each other… whenever we are together, it’s a big win,” said Costa.
Despite all the challenges the church in Lebanon is facing, the pastors were reminded during the gathering that a city on a hill cannot be hidden, and their light will shine regardless [Matthew 5:14].
Tony Skaff, pastor of Badaro Baptist Church and a participant at the consultation, reminded us, “Challenges are a chance to serve the Lord. God has put us in this place and at this time and in these circumstances to serve him, and so we will continue.”