Their middle-class salaries now worth peanuts, evangelicals struggle to maintain a faithful presence amid debate over serving God elsewhere.
In 2019, as Lebanon witnessed an unprecedented uprising against its entire political class, evangelical sermons grappled with applied theology:
Whether to join in for justice or honor the king.
Two years later, amid an economic collapse the World Bank says is the worst in 150 years, Lebanese Christians face an even greater pastoral challenge:
Whether to stay and help or escape abroad.
The nation has largely made up its mind.
Estimates indicate as many as 380,000 people have left Lebanon. Every day witnesses another 8,000 passport applications. Food prices have increased 557 percent since the uprising, as the inflation rate has now surged past perennial basket cases Venezuela and Zimbabwe.
Once featuring an economically vibrant middle-class, Lebanon now has a poverty rate of 78 percent. The minimum wage of $450 per month has devalued to almost $30.
“Ask first, ‘Where can I love the Lord, obey the Lord, and serve the Lord—me and my family?’” Hikmat Kashouh, pastor of Resurrection Church Beirut, preached in his recent sermon. “Praying faithfully, we may come up with different decisions.”
Kashouh urged people not to emigrate easily, to seek counsel with church leaders, and to help the suffering whether they stay or leave.
Fellow evangelical pastor Walid Zailaa, however, was blunt in his assessment.
“Your presence is important. How can we enact God’s will if you are not here?” preached the pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Mansourieh. “If you want to search for a better life for yourself and your children, it is your right. But it says to God, ‘You are not able to provide for me in Lebanon.’”
Even the lions and tigers are leaving.