City Bible Church is a church plant that began public worship gatherings in April 2018, but that’s not where our story began.
The story began with prayer. We can’t tell you who started praying or when they started (because there are too many to count and surely many that we don’t know of), but over the last few years we have come to find out that many people were praying for a gospel-centered, English-speaking church to be planted in the heart of the Beirut.
Sensing God’s call to start this church in Beirut, Pastor Marwan and Marci Aboul-Zelof moved to Dubai to the Middle East from the US. They first moved to Dubai to partner with Redeemer Church of Dubai. After completing a church-planting residency and being affirmed by the elders of the church, the Aboul-Zelofs moved to Beirut in October 2016.
Our church began as a bible study in a living room. We met together for 10 months as we studied through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. As the group grew, we began to meet together on Sunday mornings to pray for the city, gospel ministry, and our church plant. At that time we also held “preview services” so that those interested in our church could come and see what we’re all about. When our numbers grew, and it was getting tight to meet in a living room, we started looking for a new venue.
Early on Pastor Marwan knew he wanted the church to meet in the heart of Beirut. Somewhere central and accessible; between Hamra and Mar Mikhael. As we searched, Gemmayze drew us in for several reasons. We loved the life and spirit of the neighborhood. It’s both residential and yet filled with local businesses; English speakers (both local and foreign) often gather in Gemmayze; and there was no Evangelical presence in the area. The perfect spot opened up to us immediately (near the very popular Cafe em Nazih) and we knew it was where the Lord was leading the church.
In the years we gathered in Gemmayze, hundreds have worshipped with us on Sunday mornings and heard the gospel proclaimed. By God’s grace, many have been impacted and strengthened through the power of the gospel. And in God’s sovereignty, our church happened to be located less than 500m from the Beirut Port; making us the closest church affected by the Beirut Explosion.
We thank God the explosion didn’t happen on a Sunday as we gathered; if so, there would have certainly been many injuries and casualties.
It was a lot for a young church to experience, not to forget the ongoing challenges at the time with the Lebanese Revolution, economic collapse, and CoVid pandemic — but we declare that God has been faithful to us! The Lord provided many opportunities for our church to stand alongside our devastated neighbors and minister in various ways to them.
The Lord sustained us and continues to sustain us, and we’ve seen in many ways that our God cannot be stopped from accomplishing His purposes.
For different reasons, in 2021 we began to look for a new home for our church. We prayed the Lord Ould provide a place not far from Gemmazye, and He has! We were given the great opportunity to reconstruct a vacant church building that was damaged by the blast, and it will serve as our new church home (as of March 2023). We pray this new location would give us the stability we need to grow and minister in Beirut.
We love to think back on how our church came to be, but are even more excited as we look to the future of our church and city!