United, committed, prophetic …
a small moment of hope in Egypt
Christian unity is not the primary aim of Langham’s ministry, but sometimes it happens when our work brings people together around God’s word to explore the challenge of understanding and obeying it better.
That’s what happened in Egypt in December 2014 when 150 pastors and other church leaders from every Protestant denomination in the country, along with some from the Coptic Orthodox and Catholic churches, gathered for three days at the resort of Ain El Soukh. They were invited by Langham Scholar, Dr Andrea Zaki, who is the Director of CEOSS – the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Service. CEOSS is the largest indigenous NGO in Egypt, with more than 500 workers all over the country. It has a publishing house, Dar El Thaqafa (DET), which, in partnership with Langham Literature, has published (in Arabic of course) books by John Stott, Chris Wright, and others in the Langham Global Library.
The occasion was the launch of three more books by Chris Wright that DET has translated and published (making a total of nine over recent years): Knowing the Holy Spirit through the Old Testament, The Mission of God’s People, and The Message of Jeremiah (‘The Bible Speaks Today’).
So Chris gave five two-hour long presentations on these topics, with lively translation, and even livelier times of question and answer. He was accompanied by Pieter Kwant, Programme Director of Langham Literature, to strengthen the relationship with CEOSS and check up with Andrea and his staff at DET on the progress of the one-volume Arabic Bible Commentary – another project that has brought together scholars from many denominations in the Middle East around the task of explaining God’s Word.
But a remarkable expression of church unity was not the only significance of the event. In his closing speech, Andrea Zaki, emphasized two things among all that had been heard in Chris Wright’s teaching:
First, that the church in Egypt, in its participation in God’s mission in the world, must be committed to their own people in every possible way, living and sharing the truth of the gospel in every form of service to the community, and especially to the needy. This, he stressed, is a task for the whole church, not just for individuals on their own. To hear a Langham Scholar saying this loud and clear is a joy to Langham’s heart.
Secondly, as Jeremiah said in his prophetic insight into the political and international realities of his own day, Andrea encouraged the group to hold on to the sovereignty of God even in the midst of the turbulent and painful realities of the Middle East, as well as the recent political transitions and tensions in Egypt. The church, he said, must pray for and encourage the government to do justice, but the church must also keep its distance and speak with its prophetic voice in the midst of change and challenge. That too is part of the mission of God’s people.
Andrea’s words seemed to strike a chord, a united chord, among that very diverse group, and they broke into a closing song, a familiar one they said, singing in Arabic the words of Isaiah 19:25, ‘Blessed be Egypt, my people…’
by Chris Wright, Langham Partnership International