• OTHER \ Nov 24, 2004
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    Cooperative Baptists discuss Middle Eastern Christians
Cooperative Baptists discuss Middle Eastern Christians Jennings, founder of Conscience International and former professor at Wheaton College, pointed to the Old Testament prophet Isaiah's vision that "the earth will be full with the knowledge of God." But Jennings has concerns that Isaiah's vision is not coming true and even asked the question if it is possible.

He called the current situation in the Middle East "perilous and dreadful and so terribly bitter with hatred and ethnic divisions." Because of religious persecution and oppression from political systems, many Christians are fleeing the lands of their birth, causing steady declines in the Christian population in areas such as Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Iran, according to "Operation World," which Jennings called the authoritative missions handbook.

"If you look at the demographics, [Isaiah's] vision is receding rather than being fulfilled in that part of the world," Jennings said. "I think that the goal ought to be that people come to know Christ and that people in the West do what we can to aid and assist the people in the Middle East who are suffering."

The problem with this comes with the view many people in the Middle East have of Western culture. They equate Christianity with this secular culture and see any attempt to help by Western churches as arrogant and an effort to change their way of life.

"Would you like to be under our flag?" an Egyptian audience member asked. He said missionaries to these areas need to follow the rule: "Don't bring your denomination; we have our own. Don't come under your flag and try to place it on our heads."

Jennings said although it is impossible to separate oneself from a way of life, people need to get rid of their "cultural baggage."

"You go not with an attitude of cultural superiority," Jennings said. "The answer is to go to these churches of the Middle East and hear their stories and then ask how you can help."

Jennings said the only way to prevent the further decrease in number of Christians in the birthplace of Christianity is to put aside the arrogance that can come with being an American missionary in these areas. Instead of taking over and changing the traditions of the church, "we have to put the ideas we'd like to advance into the hands of those who can further them," he said.