The church in Lebanon traces its origin back to the first Christians. It always had a significant influence in the region. Unlike other countries in the Middle East Christians officially still play and important role in politics in the country.
Lebanon’s political system has a uniquely confessional character, which has its origin in the National Pact of 1943. Under this unwritten Pact, the President of the Republic must be a Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim and the President (Speaker) of the Parliament a Shiite Muslim. 50% of the 128 seats in the Parliament are allocated to Christians, and 50% to Muslims, and these allocations are further sub-divided for Christian and Muslim sects. In total, seats are allocated to each of 18 sects. Nationally, the 64 Christian seats are allocated as follows: Maronite 34, Greek Orthodox 14, Greek Catholic 8, Armenian Orthodox 5, Armenian Catholic 1, Protestant 1 and Others 1; and the 64 Muslim seats are allocated as follows: Sunni 27, Shiite 27, Druze 8 and Alawite 2. So, in total Christians have 50% of the seats, and the Sunni and Shiite communities just over 20% each.
Since November 2006, Hezbollah, and its Shiite and Christian allies, have been seeking a National Unity Government in which together they would have a blocking third. In reality, if Shiites has the representation their numbers deserve within the Lebanese political system, they would have a blocking third as of right.
In Lebanon, belonging to a confession is more than having certain theological beliefs, its having a certain social identity. In Lebanon belonging to a religious confession is very historical. A big part of social life is based on belonging. Converting is disloyalty, and those who do are generally banished from their families,
Lebanese citizens are not prevented, under Lebanese civil or criminal law, from converting between religions, including from Islam to Christianity. Converts are required to declare and register their change of religious status with the civil registration office. The issue of conversion is sensitive in Lebanon, where Christian missionary work has become increasingly evangelical in recent times. The issue of conversion is particularly sensitive where the 1975-1990 civil war was fuelled by religious rivalry.
American missionary work has a long history in Lebanon. That first wave of American Protestant missionaries abandoned the idea of pushing conversion, concentrating instead on charitable works that would improve the lives of the recipients. But in the late 20th century, missionary work took on an increasingly evangelistic bent,
Religious conversion motivated by faith is rare in Lebanon, while conversion motivated by legal gains, including “to bypass religious laws regarding marriages, inheritance and divorce is a common procedure.
Religious affiliation is encoded on national identity cards and indicated on civil status registry documents but not on passports.
Lebanon recognizes 18 religions, most of them variants of Islam or Christianity. When it comes to personal status matters such as marriage, inheritance, and child custody, each Lebanese is subject to the laws and courts pertaining to their religious community.
The Christians of Lebanon are politically not a united group. They are split and ally themselves with either Sunni or Shia political parties.
There are an estimated 20,000 Protestants in Lebanon. These comprise Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Baptists, Church of God, Nazarene, Brethren and Charismatics.
The Presbyterian and Congregational churches are similar, and form 75% of the Protestant community. The evangelical missions that established Congregational and Presbyterian churches started work early in the nineteenth century. They are heavily impacted by theological liberalism, and this has affected the training of their church leaders. In spite of the many problems, Evangelical ministry in Lebanon continues and the country continues to be the best base for outreach to the Arab world.
Evangelical churches in Lebanon like to depend heavily on the West for financial support. During war times they have been able to generate easily support. Evangelical Christians here seem to be a much closed knit community. Foreigners are very warmly welcomed if they have means to support the church financially and/or work for free. Evangelical churches own some of the prestigious school and universities in the country. Traditional churches are generally welcoming foreigners. Ancestors of Evangelicals have often been orthodox Christians or they might have had some problems with the traditional churches.
- Believers from most other Arab countries can more freely come to Lebanon for Christian training. Pray for this religious freedom to be maintained.
- Pray for better relationships between the traditional and the evangelical churches, they could both benefit from each other.
- Pray for a better understanding of all Lebanese Christians for each other and for unity among them.
- Pray that Lebanon will remain a country with a strong Christian influence
- Pray that churches will have the vision for Christian outreach
- Pray for Evangelicals to focus less on money but more on the poor and that the poor and handicapped are not being used to increase the wealth of their carers.