We’re Not Very Good at Being the Church (The Second Thing I Learned in Egypt about Being a Christian)

Last week I posted the first lesson I learned about being a Christian while I was in Egypt. Believe it or not, it was this: Political Unrest is Good for the Church. (click here to read what I mean)  The second lesson I recently learned in Egypt about being a Christian is…

Lesson #2 – We’re not very good about being the Church

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Photo by Benjamin Staudinger at CC

 It might seem a bit rude to say we, American Christians, are not very good at being the Church. But in some ways, it’s true – and I would much rather say (and hear) what is true than what sounds good.

In one of my classes last quarter I spent a lot of time reading, learning, and thinking about the differences between a missional church and an attractional church (I wrote a post about this for Trochia.org – read it here!), but while in Egypt this past month, I actually experienced the difference.

In short, an attractional church is one that says, “We’ve got something you need, so come to us to get it.” A missional church says, “We’ve got something you need, so we’re bringing it to you.”

In downtown Cairo, Kasr al Dobara Evangelical Church (KDEC) stands as the largest evangelical church in the entire Middle East, and they are definitely doing things that attract people to them.

But the church’s “attractiveness” is not its mission: it is the result of its mission.

Here is an example of what I mean. While in Egypt my friend Mike and I met with KDEC’s media department. They produce Christian television programming that is broadcast across the Middle East, and they operate multiple internet platforms that carry the message of Christ to the Muslim world. Their teams are highly motivated and extremely talented.

Mike’s church in Los Angeles also has a media ministry. Located near Hollywood, a large proportion of the congregation is professionally involved in the film and television industry, and a group of them create Christian content for the church.

But, when Mike told the Egyptian media team that his goal was to get his church’s entertainment ministry and mission departments to work together, he was met with blank stares. You could almost see the words “Does not compute” flash through their Egyptian eyes as their brains were grinding to a confused halt.

“What do you mean they don’t work together? Your mission and media teams are completely different departments? Why?”

It’s a good question.

The idea makes no sense to the Egyptian church because the Egyptian church lives and breathes mission. NO department is separate from their mission. Mission is what the whole church does, not what a designated department does. Mission is why the church exists.

Still not getting it? (Sadly, it took me a long time to get it too.)

You should travel to Egypt and let them inspire you. Seriously. The way in which the church is unequivocally devoted to Jesus Christ and obediently follows him in selflessly loving and serving their Muslim neighbors in Egypt (that’s 90% of the population, by the way) is plainly and simply, overwhelming. It is humbling and challenging, convicting and inspiring.

The church’s involvement in the community, it’s prayerfulness for the people of Egypt, its knowledge of Scripture and of Islam, and its passion for meeting the needs of the community in the name of Jesus are all encompassing.

They don’t wait for people to come to them, they go to the people. Ironically, the result is that people are coming to them. It’s their mission that makes them attractive.

I could spend another 1000 words giving you dozens of specific examples of how they feed the poor, heal the sick and injured, find jobs for the jobless, and give up all their days off (yes, all) to reach the lost in their country. They are creative, passionate, and committed to one thing – following Christ and helping others follow him.

It is contagious. When visiting Christians in Egypt, one gets the sense that the gospel of Jesus Christ actually matters, is actually compelling, and is about far more than sitting through a Sunday service.

They are a church on a mission. Not a church with a mission department. And this is as attractive to those without Christ in Egypt as it is to me, and American who knows Christ.

With God’s help, I will live an Egyptian-Christian kind of life – one that takes seriously God’s call to “Go ye therefore…” rather than waiting for them to come.

 

Thank you KDEC for showing me what a missional church looks like and acts like. You are the people of God, and I am both proud and deeply convicted as a member of your family.   

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