By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
MURFREESBORO — Raouf W. Ghattas, a Tennessee Baptist pastor known for his work in reaching Muslims with the gospel, died Nov. 25 of an apparent heart attack at his home in Murfreesboro.
Ghattas, 69, was pastor of Arabic Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, a congregation he helped establish in 2011 along with his wife, Carol.
Ghattas was born in Cairo, Egypt to an Evangelical Presbyterian family. He received a degree from Cairo University and immigrated to the United States in 1976. He worked for 12 years as a nuclear engineer. God called him to pastor the Arabic Mission of University Baptist Church in Fort Worth, TX where he served from 1985-1990. While serving as pastor, he earned both his M.Div. and D. Min. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, completing his doctorate in Muslim Evangelism.
He married the former Carol Brown in 1990 and they served together as church planters and evangelists with the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board from 1991 until 2011 living in Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Tunisia, and Egypt. They have two children, David and Nathan.
“Heaven has welcomed home a champion,” observed Randy C. Davis, executive director/treasurer of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. “Dr. Ghattas was intelligent, passionate, forward, and unashamedly evangelistic. He was a missionary pastor, modeled after the Apostle Paul.”
Davis noted that Ghattas desperately wanted to see Muslims in Tennessee introduced to Christ. “Now, others must pick up the gospel torch that is being handed off to them from this servant leader,” Davis said.
William Burton, ethnic/church planting evangelism specialist for the TBC, had talked with Ghattas the day before his death.
“We were in the process of developing a network of Arab church leaders to prepare for the influx of refugees that will be coming to Middle Tennessee in the coming months so that we can reach them with the gospel,” Burton said. “We have lost a tremendous leader in the Arabic community.”
Burton said that World Relief projections conservatively place the number of Syrian refugees that will be located to Tennessee at 1,000 over the next three years. Currently, approximately 30,000 Muslims live in the greater Nashville area and Ghattis was in the process of leading Arabic Baptist Church to start a second work among Muslims in Middle Tennessee.
Kevin Minchey, director of missions for Concord Baptist Association where Ghattas served as a pastor, noted that Ghattas was the “go to” person for questions he and others had about Arabic culture and Islam.
“I will never forget that he told me once that the only proper response is to love [Muslims] with the love of Christ and to share the gospel with them,” Minchey said.
Ghattas is survived by wife, Carol, children David and Nathan, and five siblings; Samira Fahmy of Avon, Conn.; Ray Ghattas of Woodland Hills, Calif.; Ramses Ghattas of San Diego, Calif.; and Aziza Ghattas and Renee Ghattas of Cairo, Egypt.
Visitation with the family will be from 4-8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 28, at Woodfin Memorial Chapel. Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. Sunday at Woodfin, with burial following at Evergreen Cemetery. B&R