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FIRST-PERSON: Making evangelism good news again

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–Lebanon is on my mind a lot these days. When you think about Lebanon, the first thing that comes to mind is war, right? Not for me. When I think of Lebanon, I think of miracles! I have been there six times and I can tell you without hesitation that God is at work there. So are His people, and they are making evangelism good news in a place filled with so much bad news for so long.

Lebanon is a beautiful country of mountains and sea and wonderful, friendly people. Of course, there is a terrorist presence there. In fact, my friend Gary Witherall’s wife was murdered there by a terrorist several years ago. But I found the vast majority of the people I met to be kind, welcoming, and open to the Gospel. I have taken my family with me on one occasion and my 18 year-old daughter was so moved by what she experienced that she went back last year and spent the whole summer there loving and serving the people and sharing Christ with them.

I have prayer walked and even done door-to-door witnessing in Beirut and have been amazed by the hunger people have for the Gospel. Sometimes they will chase you when they hear you have Bibles to give away! I have seen many come to Christ there. And there are many committed Christ-followers who are reaching them, helping them grow and starting churches across the country. Pray for them during these dangerous days.

But miracles? Are there really miraculous things happening in this war-torn place? Somewhere in Lebanon today is a wonderful friend of mine I will call Mustafa. I have no doubt that wherever he is today, he is sharing the love of Christ. Because that is his life and danger has never stopped him before. In fact, he has been in jail four times for sharing Jesus with Muslims. I have two pictures of Mustafa — one recent picture of him beaming with joy and full of Jesus, and one from several years ago when he was preparing to be a terrorist and wanted to kill as many Americans as possible. He had memorized half the Koran and did the call to prepare at the most radical mosque in his city. As far as we know, he is the only former follower of Bin Laden to now be a full-time evangelist in the Middle East. Now that is making evangelism good news again!

A friend led him to Christ and the change has been so miraculous that I sent my daughter to sit at his feet and learn. I love Mustafa. Pray for his safety. Pray for him to be the Billy Graham of the Middle East.

One day while I was in Beirut, I found out that my driver for the week had come to faith in Christ. We had many wonderful conversations and he asked me to pray for his brother in America who he wanted to see saved. When I asked him where his brother lived, I was shocked to find out that he ran a restaurant just a few minutes from my parents’ house. Just two weeks later my dad and I sat in his restaurant talking to him. I asked him if he thought there was any way that all this could be a coincidence. He said, “No, this must be God!” And my dad and I led him to faith in Christ.

Yes, when I think of Lebanon, I think of miracles. And though my heart breaks over the terrible war that is hurting Lebanon and Israel, two countries that I love, I know that God is not surprised. Pray! Pray that God will use even this to open the door wide for His Good News to flood that war-ravaged part of the world.

A group of believers in Lebanon recently led a Muslim woman to Christ. In Lebanon, the word Christian is simply a political designation to most people. It has lost any sense of what we know the word should mean. She went home and said to her husband, “I met Christians who are not Christians!” And her husband came back with her to the group of believers and he accepted Christ too.

Maybe that’s what we need in North America as well. If we are honest, we will have to admit that a lot of our churches look more like clubs than mission forces and a lot of Christians are more concerned about opposing the lost than loving and reaching them. But we can change that. Maybe each of us should ask God to lead us to someone today that needs to see “a Christian who is not a Christian.” Someone we can surprise with the radical love of Jesus who touched lepers, talked to immoral women, noticed a little guy in a tree and wept over a city. That’s the Christ who makes us Christ-ians. And if we will really follow him, He will always lead us to people. People who need to see us make evangelism good news again.
John Avant is vice president for evangelization at the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board.

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  • John Avant