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When Israel had its rebirth in 1948, it is thought there were about 25 Jewish followers of Jesus in the land. Now it is estimated there are 25,000. There are about 5,000 Arab evangelical Christians living in the land.
New York Times best-selling author Joel C. Rosenberg, also of the Joshua Fund, hosted three leaders from each of these groups at the latest Epicenter Conference at Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, California, over this past weekend (Oct. 6-7, 2017).
Sitting together on stage, with all their differences set aside, they focused on the love of Jesus to bring a report of how God is moving in the land of Israel. In the body of Christ, we don't have to agree on every political or theological point to come together in fellowship. It is very powerful when believers from people groups who are enemies let God's love override their own positions. They have a common goal that is more important than their differences and that is proclaiming the good news to the lost and dying.
Each group shared its particular struggles. The Arab Christians talked about their difficulties living in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). They lack funds, are restricted by the checkpoints from moving freely and are hindered by the historical churches in the area. Many of the Orthodox churches don't accept the evangelicals. Since they own half of the buildings, it makes it tough for the evangelical groups to find meeting places. Also, the standard of living is low in some of the Arab areas so the youth want to leave as soon as they can. This makes it hard to grow the churches.
The Messianic Jews struggle with the Orthodox Jews, who are afraid of their teaching and reject it. Today, Jewish life in Israel is directly descending from the Pharisees. It is not like the first century, when the church was born. It centers more on tradition than the Scriptures. Not all Jews in Israel are religious. There is a growing group of atheists in Israel, as in many other parts of the world today. Some are just secular Jews and know little about the Scriptures. Still, when a Jew in Israel accepts Jesus as Messiah, they are often disowned by the family. So, evangelism is very difficult for them too.
The Jews are utilizing the internet to reach the lost. They heed the call to "Blow the trumpet in Zion" in a new modern way—through the cell phone. Apparently, Israelis use the Internet 60 percent more than even Americans. There are 7 million Jewish people in Israel. That's more than the rest of the world combined. These men told of websites—www.oneforisrael.org/met-messiah-jewish-testimonies/ and www.oneforisrael.org/ —that show video clips in Hebrew and English of testimonies of Jewish people coming to Christ. They've been viewed 30 million times.
The Arabs have satellite dishes in their homes. There are many Arabic-speaking TV programs being broadcast into the homes of Arabs, including Muslims. Many are accepting Jesus and calling into the stations with their confession to Christ. It is important that these Arab churches stay active in these areas of Israel so the new converts can have a place to grow in their faith. As Joel Rosenberg says, the war is fought in the air and on the ground. The church needs both. The technology of the "air" and the ground troops of the believers forming local churches.
Rosenberg said it was hard to calculate real numbers of believers now in the Middle East, but he gave these rough estimates:
Israel 25,000 - 30,000 Messianic Jews
4,000 - 5,000 Arab evangelical Christians
Lebanon 15,000 - 21,000 evangelical Christians
Syria 21,000 -23,000 evangelical Christians
Jordan 10,000 - 15,000 evangelical Christians
Iraq 1,000 - 3,000 evangelical Christians
Egypt 11,000,000 Christians
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