Last week marked completion of the Middle East Consultation 2014 – Discipleship Today: Following Jesus in the Middle East and North Africa that took place from 16 – 20 June. This year we were pleased to have an unprecedented number participants, 170 in total, who came from all over the Middle East, North Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia, and North and South America.
It has been a very exciting week in which we have been able to listen to stories about discipleship in the context of our region. Please find below a sampling of what participants have been saying of their consultation experience and its significance them and their ministry settings.
Dr. J. Andrew Kirk, UK:
“Each community should develop its own contextualized theology which submits to the global theology of the Body of Christ, and this is exactly what this consultation is allowing us to do. Keeping lines of communication between different churches and movements open to the global church, allowing us to have insights and look at parallels in different contexts but all resembling the work of God on earth and the one Body of Christ.”
Alex, West Africa:
“The most significant part of MEC this year was the opportunity to listen to testimonies from various parts of the world and the exchange of stories about what God is doing in different parts of the world, which one doesn’t always get the chance to know about from a local’s perspective and experience. Each story and experience was truly unique. This will help me a lot in my work which involves contextual ministries, as it has provoked my mind to adjust my ministry as there is more than one way to share the gospel with others. I could see people from other cultures at the consultation who were challenged by what they heard, because for some it was the first time they got an insight of what is going on in this part of the world, but these stories will be food for thought for them.”
“We have a saying in the states: ‘Measure twice, cut once’ – I would say MEC 2014 taught me one important thing as a religious worker: we need to listen twice before we speak in order to better serve others and help the church be prepared to disciple believers. I thought I knew enough about the region, but listening to personal stories showed me how the discipleship experience is unique in each Arab country.”
“This consultation confirmed the need for discipleship training for those who have a discipleship ministry. One of the ideas that was important to me was that the church and believers have a role in being the buffering zone between church and the original community of the new believer – helping them remain in their indigenous environment while also helping them become rooted in their Christ-centered identity. This consultation made me realize how much discipleship is like raising up children, each with his or her unique identity but all from the same family.”
“It is the first time that I met with followers of Christ from so many different countries and cultures. Before the MEC 2014, I never knew Christians and new believers had different problems in different areas of the world. I have never personally faced a crisis with my identity in Christ vs. my culture and community; however, I discovered that Arab believers from other Arab countries are going through a great identity crises stage because of a lack of one-on-one discipleship and that it is harder in their countries than it is in mine. This has made me realize that we cannot set up a uniform discipleship program for the Arab world as a whole because each country and community is unique and needs its own program which respects the individualistic needs of the group.”
“During this week, I was able to see the work of God spreading all over the Middle East and North Africa. This has enabled me to thank God because I have been able to see the positive aspect of this hardship and turmoil that our region has been going through which is contributing to the growth of the gospel. I have also seen the great need for the church to live up to its role in encouraging its congregations and motivating them to be part of God’s work. The participation of so many different cultures enriches the cultural exchange and gives a fuller picture about discipleship in this region through people’s experiences and not just theological theories. It has opened up many discussions without giving a methodology for discipleship, but instead giving case-studies that make us pause a little and reconsider our approach to ministry. And, it has inspired us to take responsibility for new believers.”
Dr. Rosalee Velloso Ewell, Brazil:
“What is unique about this gathering is the way it has blended and brought together both theological reflection and stories from the grassroots. This has made it quite a unique consultation. Usually, theoretical and practical are not in such a conversation. It is an excellent way to equip and include the participants in what is going on in the region. The participants are hearing from one another. The table groups makes it a working consultation, instead of passive listening – and that is very important.”
We praise God for such a blessed week of hearing exciting stories from all over the Arab world, and we look forward to next year’s Middle East Consultation wherein we will continue this important and groundbreaking discussion.
You may also be interested in the following link from our friends at EthicsDaily.com: Ethics Daily Interviews IMES Director Martin Accad about MEC 2014.