EDITOR’S NOTE: This revised story, posted Aug. 31, replaces the version posted by Baptist Press on Aug. 24 which erred in stating that a meeting of Arabic-speaking Southern Baptist leaders was the first such meeting on a national level.
ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) — Arabic-speaking Southern Baptist leaders gathered to talk about how they could team up to reach Arabic-speaking residents of North America during a meeting at the North American Mission Board in early August.
During the meeting, 16 Arabic-speaking Southern Baptists from six states met to form a Middle East and North Africa Baptist Fellowship with the purpose of building partnerships and ultimately working together to penetrate lostness among North America’s Arab population.
“Coming together will help us get a better idea of the challenges we each face,” said Gorashi Gangi, pastor of Sudanese Christian Mission Church in Atlanta. “Then we can face them together. I found out everyone has challenges, but some of them are the same as I face, and I can learn from them.”
Discussions at the meeting at the mission board’s Atlanta-area offices were preliminary, focused on developing a vision statement and goals for the new fellowship. The leaders also talked through some of the major challenges they’re encountering as they try to reach fellow Arabs for Christ. They also began to make plans for future meetings and agreed to try to expand the group to some 50 Arabic-speaking leaders in the next year. Representatives from New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia and Michigan participated in the inaugural fellowship meeting.
Aslam Masih, national coordinator for Muslim people groups and South Asians for the North American Mission Board, initiated the meeting to help team up Arab Southern Baptists in NAMB’s efforts to start churches through its Send North America church-planting initiative for key cities across North America. Currently, Masih noted, Southern Baptists have no Arabic-speaking churches planted by Muslim-background believers in North America.
Masih worked with layman Mike Sabbagh of Arabic Baptist Church in Decatur, Ga., who presided over the first meeting, to find potential attendees and work out the agenda.
“All the North Africans and Middle Easterners are working in different cultures,” Sabbagh said. “Once we identify the challenges among ourselves we can absolutely establish a cleaner and clearer vision.”
While the North American Mission Board organized and coordinated much of the inaugural meeting, fellowship organizers hope participants can take on an increasing role in the new organization’s management.
Sabbagh added that many churches from North African and Middle Eastern backgrounds are relatively small and will be able to reach out more effectively when they do it together.
“One small church will not be able to reach the 43,000 Muslims in Decatur, [Ga.],” Sabbagh said. “Two small churches won’t be able to do it.”
Masih hopes in future meetings the fellowship will get even more connected to NAMB’s Send North America strategy by adopting at least one of its 30 cities and building partnerships to reach the Arabs in those metro areas. He also would like to see five regional coordinators from the fellowship selected who could facilitate and help focus its Send North America work in the five NAMB regions.
“If we can’t reach the Arab population of North America, we can’t reach them anywhere,” Masih said. “With the religious freedoms we have on this continent, we can minister to Arabs in ways we can’t in other countries.”
Churches with a passion to reach Middle Easterners and North Africans in their communities may contact Masih at [email protected] for more information about the next fellowship meeting. The fellowship includes Southern Baptist churches that are Arabic-speaking SBC churches as well as churches sensing God’s call to reach Arab speakers in their community.
Tobin Perry is a writer for the North American Mission Board.