Weapons of mass destruction" is a term commonly used by those bent on world domination. The Rev. Dr. Bassam Chedid, however, believes he possesses the most powerful weapon of all, what he calls a "weapon of mass instruction."
That weapon is the Word of God in the form of the Arabic Study Bible (ASB). With God's help, he's trying to place this weapon into the hands of as many Arab Christians and Muslims as possible.
Founder and president of the Children of Abraham (COA) organization based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Chedid is confident that the Holy Spirit will use the ASB to convict Muslims and erase 1,400 years of their misconceptions about the gospel of Jesus throughout the world.
"The Holy Spirit is moving in mighty ways among Muslims," Chedid said. "When we hear of the dreams and visions these precious souls have, it is only God illuminating to them the gospel truth found in His Word and drawing them to Himself, generating in their hearts the transforming knowledge of Jesus Christ applied by God the Holy Spirit.
"For many reasons, when they are first introduced to Christ, Muslims become confused about how to make sense of it. There are so many millions of brothers and sisters who are trapped in the Islamic system, but praise God, He is bringing the sheep back into the fold—He is bringing them to Himself."
Blessing Generations of Arabs
Published in 2014, the ASB took more than five years to complete. Chedid served as the general editor of the project, which he said took a lot of "prayer and sweat."
Working on the Bible was "a labor of love for me, a lot of work, but very rewarding," Chedid said.
The ASB became the first one of its kind to hit the market. Many of the Bible's features, including theological articles, notes on the unfolding of God's story of salvation and an appendix explaining Scripture's redemptive message, will be helpful to the readers of the ASB.
Because of the many Muslims coming to Christ throughout the globe, the ASB has become especially crucial for new converts.
"As a young Christian, I longed for a study Bible in Arabic where I could find exegetical helps, background information and definitions of theological terms, but it was simply nonexistent," said Tony Maalouf, director of the Islamic Studies Program and associate professor of missions at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. "This work will definitely prove to be a blessing for generations of Arabs. Today, we are witnessing crucial socio-political transformations in the Arab world. It is my deep conviction that the ASB will be a unique and great catalyst for that change."
However, like many other ministries, COA faces a huge challenge: finances. The leatherbound ASB is expensive to produce, and the ministry website says COA can send just one Bible per $60 gift.
COA also produces a basic Arabic Bible without commentary notes, which costs only $7.
Chedid's goal is to get the ASB into the hands of 100,000 Arabic Christians—and potential Arabic believers—in the hope that members of those groups will hold God's Word into their hearts and produce disciples exponentially. He realizes this outcome will require a massive partnership effort.
"Not only are the Bibles costly, but it's also costly to send them airmail," Chedid said. "The need is great, and the Lord is enabling us with the resources we have, but it certainly isn't enough.
"What we would like to do is get information in the hands of churches that have a real burden for reaching the lost and for making disciples. We can accomplish the task, but we need that 'weapon of mass instruction'—the Word of God—to do it."
Calling From God to Reach Muslims
A missionary first introduced Chedid's grandfather to Christ, who then passed this knowledge along to Chedid's father. Chedid's father went on to attend Bible college in Lebanon and years later, saw his young son come to Christ.
"Even though I am from Syria, I came from a Christian background," Chedid said. "Unlike the majority of the people in that country, I did not grow up in a Muslim family, and I knew about Jesus from a very young age. I thank God for that, and it only fueled the fire for me to help Muslims find their way to Christ. I knew all along it was a calling God had put upon my life. I realized how much of a challenge it would be, but I also realized how rewarding it would be. And, it certainly has been."
When it was time for Chedid to pursue his formal education, he came to the United States in 1977 to attend Simpson University in Redding, California, where he earned a bachelor's degree. He then received a Master of Divinity and Doctor of Missiology degree from Reformed Theological Seminary, during which time he founded COA, aiming to reach Arabs across the U.S. and Canada with the gospel.
After initially accumulating nearly 16,000 names and addresses of these Arabs, Chedid began publishing the magazine Al-Kawkab—translated "The Morning Star" from Revelation 22:16: "I, Jesus, have sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star."
Written from a distinctly Christian viewpoint, the magazine includes articles that capture the truth of the gospel and take a fresh look at issues facing the Arab Christian population.
Al-Kawkab has become the largest means of outreach for COA to the North American Arab community, which has large concentrations in the Northeast, Florida, Northern and Southern California, Chicago, Dallas and Houston. COA's mailing list has grown to nearly 200,000, but as with the ASB, finances have become a concern.
For instance, 20,000 names on COA's mailing list did not receive its magazine's December issue. When subscribers ask why, the ministry replies that it must do this on a rotating basis, and those subscribers will certainly receive the next issue.
"It's heartbreaking, because you know the need," Chedid said. "The great missionary to Islam, Samuel Zwemer, said at the turn of the century: 'If Muslims are ever to understand Christianity in its saving truth and its wholesome life, we must place before them the Word of God and good biblical literature.' We are trusting the Lord to help us continue doing just that."
Even with the distribution of Al-Kawkab, however, COA reaches only a small percentage of Arabs in North America. In 1930, only one mosque existed in the United States, but today, there are more than 1,200, and nearly 80 percent of those are less than 10 years old.
On the other hand, Chedid says more Muslims have come to Christ in the last 50 years than in the 1,400 years since Islam began.
Facing Ministry Challenges
Because of the significant differences in culture, problems arise when presenting the gospel to both Arab Christiansand Muslims.Chedid says that, for the most part, Muslims don't have a choice to pursue any religion other than Islam or any other God but Allah.
"Historically, the church has made meager efforts to present the authentic message of the gospel to Muslims," Chedid said.
In analyzing this issue, he refers to Romans 10:2, in which Paul says, "For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge."
"Most Muslims had had little chance to believe because they have heard and seen so little of the gospel," Chedid said. "They have zeal, but it is headed in the wrong direction. We need to remember that Muhammad and many generations of his spiritual followers have not had the Bible in their own language, and so they have not understood the gospel. The truth of God's glorious self-revelation in Christ and His Word has been hidden from millions of Muslims. We wonder why Muslims today look upon the Word of God with suspicion. History and our allegiance to the Word of God demand that COA be committed to place the Word of God in the hands of many Muslims."
When talking to Muslims about Jesus, Chedid and COA ministry workers must overcome another hurdle, the fear potential converts feel as they face reprisal for accepting Christ.
"Indeed, that is a challenge for all Christian workers," Chedid said. "To leave Islam and to embrace another religion—for them, this is treason. There are many punishments, including death, and the enemy uses that fear as a weapon against the gospel. Some are so confused and afraid to accept such a religion for fear of their families dishonoring them. Their churches, if they make it that far, are targeted by radicals. And then there are those who do not find a nourishing fellowship. It's a multifaceted issue."
Syrian refugees are pleading for Bibles. "Will you help us help them?" is the question a missionary working among Syrian refugees—who number more than 1 million—recently asked Chedid.
He says the ASB is the greatest gift to help them discover the truth of Scripture and grow in grace. It is the prayer of the COA ministry to send several thousand Bibles to Syrians.
In addition to distributing the ASB, Chedid says he hopes to increase subscriptions to Al-Kawkab worldwide to reach more Arab Christians.
In North America, COA conducts seminars to inform churches about the challenges of Islam.
"Once we equip these people with the tools they need, it is our job to help them get the Word of God in their hearts," Chedid said. "Then and only then can we take down the real enemy and his deceit and lies. Imagine a world where millions of Arabs come to Christ. It will certainly reinforce our confidence in God's promise: 'I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.'"
Shawn A. Akers is content development editor for Charisma Media.