Last week I was on a trip to Egypt with Todd Thorpe and Nick Carter. Two guys who are passionate about not only reaching people in America, but across the world with the gospel. I have to be honest, I was a little nervous about the trip. Egypt is in a bit of turmoil is an understatement. But, we were given an opportunity to go and begin the process of beginning a church partnership (I will not disclose the area or pastor's name for his church and families safety).
To be honest we went on the trip as tourists as our cover to not cause any suspicion. In Egypt, you can be a Christian but you cannot openly evangelize in the streets. The people we worked with were of baptist convictions and believed in salvation by grace through faith alone in Jesus. The pastor made sure we knew that it was not his church that was involved in the riots a few days prior that was blanketed in the news (those were the Coptic orthodox Christians).
We were given an opportunity to preach in the church in Egypt and share the good news of Jesus. We were blessed to see 13 people come to know Christ! It was an overwhelming experience for me. I noticed the control of Islam but the passion and confidence of true believers worshiping God.
One lesson I learned is that their environment is not great. There was no free coffee, greeters, full band, perfect lighting, perfect temperature or thought provoking videos. Although the outward environment wasn't as appealing, the power of the Holy Spirit was evident! I'm honestly amazed that in America we have to provide a pre-packaged environment FIRST so that people will think about coming to church. We have expectations that we want before we respond in worship. In the Egyptian church, I simply realized that there are few "fake" Christians. Why would you be? What benefit would it be to you and your family?
One story I heard from the pastor has forever changed me. One student came to know Christ a few years ago at the church in Egypt. He listened to the sermon on prayer and that Jesus is the true prophet of God. At the end of the service he told the pastor that he realized that night that Jesus is the only way and received the gospel. The only problem is that his dad was the Imam. When he shared his decision that night his dad was angered. He stripped him and put him in the streets to die (it was winter). That night the student prayed for Jesus to rescue him. The next day he was still alive and his dad was amazed. His mom quickly sent him away to flee the country to save his life. Now, he lives in Canada and has changed his name to Paul. I would say his environment wasn't all that great! But the power and rescue of Jesus is life-changing and sustaining!
Environments are important and helpful but they are not the ultimate goal. The power of the gospel unto salvation is the goal (Romans 1:16). I noticed the power of their prayers. I noticed the urgency of their worship. I noticed the passion in how the pastor would interpret the preaching. I am still amazed that in a country that has one of the longest histories of persecution to Christians, there is a remnant that is worshiping the true God. What is our excuse?