Interview: Riad Kassis
by Tiffany Randall,
Langham Scholars Program
As a chaplain, lecturer, executive director, and author, Langham Scholar Riad Kassis has dedicated his life and studies to help the Arabic-speaking church better understand the Word of God. His new release, Have You Known Your Spiritual Gifts? A Practical Study on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit (Beirut: Dar Manhal al-Hayat & Arab Baptist Theological Seminary, 2009) encourages Christians in Arabic regions to develop their spiritual gifts and to explore deeply what it means to be moved by the power of the Spirit. Riad talks more about why he was inspired to write this book.
What prompted you to write this book? What need were you seeking to address?
Although I am an Old Testament scholar, my heart still longs to address church issues to see the church growing in a healthy manner. My experience of seeing many churches dependent on the pastor and his team and not exercising their gifts appropriately has prompted me to write this book. Moreover, there are only few books in Arabic on the topic of spiritual gifts. Most of these books are one-sided. My intent was to provide a balanced view on spiritual gifts.
2) In John Stott’s book Evangelical Truth, in the chapter “The Ministry of the Holy Spirit,” he writes, “The Holy Spirit has sometimes been referred to as the ‘neglected’ member of the Trinity.” What are your thoughts about this in the context of the Arab church?
First, I must say that my book in several places reflect John’s thoughts on the right use of gifts within the body of Christ for the unity of this body. This was a major concern for me in my ministry as well as in my book. I do agree with John that the Spirit is the “neglected” member of the Trinity. This is true in the Arab world. In some circles there are talks about the Spirit but little of practice of his fruit and gifts.
3) What guidelines do you provide for a believer to discover their spiritual gifts?
The book starts with an overview of the charismatic movement and an introduction on the question whether spiritual gifts have been ceased after the apostolic age. After explaining each of the spiritual gifts and referring to the available resources in Arabic and English to that gift, I lead the reader in three different but connected exercises to discover his/her gifts.
4) What kinds of spiritual gifts have you seen Arab Christians yearning for? Are these the same gifts as those you refer to as “controversial”?
All spiritual gifts are needed to be seen among Arab Christians. Gifts of healing and miracles are mostly needed in unreached areas of the Arab world. Gifts of mercy and administration are needed in the areas where the church is established. The gifts of teaching/preaching and counseling are needed where there is a lack of expository and practical preaching and where families are yearning for counseling.
5) How have you seen the Holy Spirit move in the Arab church? Do you have a sense of an overall direction of the Spirit?
Perhaps you are aware that on the Day of Pentecost, there were Arabs among those who were present on that day. I was recently visiting one of the countries in North Africa. As I listened to the stories of conversion and growth in Christ, I was overwhelmed by the power of the Holy Spirit who was moving in that particular country. The Spirit of God is also at work in many churches and theological institutions in the region. Many of these churches are becoming holistic in mission, with the fruit and gifts of the Spirit being evident in their ministries. It is my prayer and hope that the Arab church will be continuously and deeply moved by the power of the Spirit.
6) How can we be praying for the church in Lebanon and/or the Middle East?
Please pray for:
- Perseverance as many believers face trials, hardships, and persecution
- New church leaders to be dedicated to the ministry of teaching and preaching
- Peace and respect of human rights
- More Christian books that address church and society needs to be published in Arabic
- Better understanding and action concerning the holistic mission of the church