Israel's Maturing and Persecuted Church

By Dick McLeish

Israels Maturing and Persecuted Church

A Maturing Church

Berry Johnson and I were in Israel in October. With the situation in Gaza, it is a little difficult to get a team together. After praying about the trip, Berry felt this was the time to go and offer support and encouragement to Christians in Israel.

We arrived in Israel on a Friday, and Yom Kippur began at 6 p.m. and ran until 6 p.m. on Saturday night. The streets were deserted on Saturday and children played in the middle of the streets as no cars were moving. The Beit Avi congregation had a meeting on Saturday night.

The congregation is slowly growing and spiritually maturing. On Thursday, the people had an outreach barbeque in celebration of Feast of Tabernacles with 33 people, nine of which were unbelievers. It is more of a fellowship time so that unbelievers can mingle with believers.

There were very few people in many of the places we visited, which indicated how much the conflict in Gaza has hurt tourism. It not only hurts Jewish Israelis but Arabs and Palestinians as well.

We had a time of fellowship in the home of Alex and Rima, both new believers, who have become my good friends. They have begun to assume some leadership roles in the congregation. In fact, Alex has brought the message on a couple of occasions. It is difficult for them as they work full time, have two young children, and other family responsibilities as with many in the congregation, with such a disparity in ages. Actually, Rima's mother has become a believer, and both parents are meeting to talk about the Bible and Yeshua (Jesus). They are a mature couple who could share the ministry burden.

Beit Avi continues to evolve as a ministry and congregation. There are many challenges; however, the Holy Spirit is using them to proclaim Jesus in a dry land.

A Persecuted Church

This is the first time that I actually felt the tension of everyday life that people live with in Israel. They go about their everyday lives, but with a tension of conflict simmering just below the surface. Perhaps what is happening in Lebanon and Syria brings it closer to the surface. Karmiel is only about 20-30 miles from the borders of Lebanon, Syria, and Gaza. We were with another couple from the congregation who live in a settlement about 25 minutes away from Karmiel. Their 21 year old son was home for a few days from the army and could talk very little about the situation because he is with a unit that is deployed along the Lebanon border. However, both his father and he mentioned that things are heating up along this border. You can sense that this situation is in the back of all their minds. Also, the Palestinian situation continues to be before them. The ISIS threat is not just against Jews but is also focused on Christians. Believers in Israel, and especially in the north, hear of the killings of Christians, and they realize they are not only facing an enemy that wants to destroy them for being Jews, but also for being Christians. We know that Christians across the Middle East face dire circumstances.

Since returning from Israel, I have repented for my personal lack of time and effort interceding for our brothers and sisters around the world. We live in such comfort and safety that it is hard for us to imagine what is going on in many of these places. Could we, as American Christians, in the coming years be facing the same things? So, while we have the freedom to support our brothers and sisters around the world through intercession, let us examine, with the Lord, where we stand. I would challenge you to do some research on the persecuted church and ask the Lord to give you a burden for one of the countries where persecution is very serious.

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