Editor’s note: This article was edited after its initial publication.
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Raouf W. Ghattas, a Tennessee Baptist pastor known for his work in reaching Muslims with the Gospel, died Nov. 25 of an apparent heart attack at his home in Murfreesboro. He was 69.
Ghattas was noted for his love of Muslims and his desire to educate others about Islamic culture and sharing the Gospel with Muslims. He was pastor of Arabic Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, a congregation he helped establish in 2011 with his wife Carol.
Born in Cairo, Egypt, to an Evangelical Presbyterian family, he received a degree from Cairo University and immigrated to the United States in 1976. He worked for 12 years as a nuclear engineer.
God called him to pastor the Arabic Mission of University Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, where he served from 1985-1990 while earning a master of divinity and a doctor of ministry in Muslim evangelism from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
He married the former Carol Brown in 1990 and they served together as church planters and evangelists with the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board from 1991 until 2011, living in Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Tunisia and Egypt.
“Heaven has welcomed home a champion,” said Randy C. Davis, executive director/treasurer of the Tennessee Baptist Convention (TBC). “Dr. Ghattas was intelligent, passionate, forward and unashamedly evangelistic. He was a missionary pastor, modeled after the Apostle Paul.”
Noting that Ghattas desperately wanted to see Muslims in Tennessee introduced to Christ, Davis said “others must pick up the Gospel torch that is being handed off to them from this servant leader.”
William Burton, ethnic/church planting evangelism specialist for the TBC, talked with Ghattas the day before his death.
“We were in the process of developing a network of Arab church leaders to prepare for the influx of refugees that will be coming to Middle Tennessee in the coming months so that we can reach them with the Gospel,” Burton said. “We have lost a tremendous leader in the Arabic community.”
World Relief projections conservatively place the number of Syrian refugees that will be located to Tennessee at 1,000 over the next three years, Burton said. About 30,000 Muslims live in the greater Nashville area and Ghattas was in the process of leading Arabic Baptist Church to start a second work among Muslims in Middle Tennessee.
Kevin Minchey, director of missions for the area Concord Baptist Association, noted that Ghattas was the “go to” person for questions he and others had about Arabic culture and Islam.
“I will never forget that he told me once that the only proper response is to love [Muslims] with the love of Christ and to share the Gospel with them,” Minchey said.
The funeral was Nov. 29 at Woodfin Memorial Chapel with burial at Evergreen Cemetery, both in Murfreesboro.