by Joe Culumber, Pastoral Staff, First FMC, Seattle, WA
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
Motivated by Christ’s commission to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:16-20), the Free Methodist Church, in partnership with Impact Middle East (IME), is responding to the doors God has opened. Outreach is currently taking place in Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, two North Africa creative access countries, and Israel – the newest thrust. The commission given to Joshua as God’s people were about to enter the Promised Land. His promises are still proving true today as FM work in Israel takes shape and expands.
Pastor Nabil Samara oversees the crucial task of leadership development in Israel.
Under his direction, three team members are completing bachelor degrees in Bible and theology; two others are working on graduate degrees. Four church planters are ordination candidates and have taken the required classes on Free Methodist polity and doctrine and Wesleyan theology. One of the church planters is the first woman candidate for ordination in the Middle East.
The primary strategy in Israel, as throughout the Middle East, is the biblical model of planting house churches (see Acts 16:31-34). The house church approach offers several distinct advantages: it is flexible, easily multiplied, works in any culture and surmounts the financial burden of churches owning property. A total of 11 house churches are meeting in Israel so far, with a combined weekly attendance of 140.
The work in Israel is centered in Nazareth, the boyhood home of Jesus, in the Galilee region. Nazareth is a modern city of 210,000 people and is known as “the Arab capital of Israel.” The 1.6 million Israeli Arabs are the primary ministry focus, but a new house church in the West Bank affords the opportunity to reach Muslim-background Arabs living in that region. Jewish background people are also showing an interest in the gospel message they are hearing about from their Arab friends and acquaintances.
As with all outreach efforts, prayer is a crucial ingredient. Ask God to prepare hearts for the gospel witness. Pray Pastor Nabil will be courageous as he leads our church planters in navigating the various ethnic, religious and political challenges in present-day Israel. Pray those individuals who are preparing for ordination will be encouraged. Finally, ask the Lord of the Harvest to provide the necessary financial resources and materials to equip church planters so God’s truth will be evident wherever His faithful servants go.
Click here to learn more about the exciting things God is doing through the Free Methodist Church in Israel and other Middle Eastern countries.