What are the odds that a son born to a Muslim father, raised for more than a decade in Saudi Arabia, schooled in western philosophy and psychology, and then trained in eastern mysticism, should become a resolute Christian and ambassador of the gospel? Small odds indeed, when counted by human probability. But Dr. Mateen Elass sees this prelude to his ministry as witness to the amazing power of God to find and call His children to service-regardless of the odds.
Mateen was the second of four children born to a Syrian Muslim who had married an American while studying at the University of Wisconsin. Some years after Mateen’s birth, the family moved to Saudi Arabia where his father worked as an oil company executive. During his early teens Mateen began a search for God, largely through reading. For six years he focused on eastern mysticism and meditation including a stay at an ashram in India. Yet his nagging questions, Who is God? How can I know him? remained unanswered.
God guided Mateen toward an answer to those questions by bringing him into contact with genuine Christians. They repeatedly pointed him to Christ and challenged him, “Read the four gospels of the New Testament. Get to know Jesus.” He took up the challenge. After days of reading, study, and prayer, at the age of twenty Mateen became a follower of Christ. As is common in Middle Eastern families, he soon paid a high cost for his newfound faith: isolation from his father for more than a decade.
By the end of his college years, Mateen sensed God’s call to Christian ministry. After completing a B.A. at Stanford University he graduated from Fuller Seminary, earning M.Div. and M.A. degrees in Biblical Studies and Theology. After several years of pastoral work he returned to school earning a Ph.D. in New Testament Studies from Durham University in England, studying under the world-renowned NT scholar James D. G. Dunn.
Mateen’s prior ministries include an associate position for a small-town Presbyterian church in Wyoming, solo pastor of a young suburban church in Arizona, and Minister of Adult Education at First Presbyterian of Colorado Springs, a church at that time of more than five thousand people. He then served as senior pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Illinois for seven years prior to completing his pastoral work as senior pastor of First Presbyterian, Edmond, OK, from 2007 to 2015.
In the fall of 2015, Mateen took up a new calling with Voice of the Truth in Colorado Springs, a ministry dedicated to reaching the Arabic-speaking peoples with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Mateen’s particular work is with churches and Christian groups eager to learn about Islam, its claims and challenges, and how to share the gospel winsomely and effectively with Muslims. He is eager to respond to opportunities for teaching and training Christians in these timely matters.
Mateen and his wife Cindy have three children: Brittany and Strider and Kendall, all now adults carrying on productive lives of their own.
His heart is for those who walk where he once walked, those who search but have not yet found the love of Jesus, especially those feeling trapped in the religious strictures of Islam. Mateen sees his experience on both sides of the Christian-Muslim divide as providing a unique opportunity to create bridges of understanding. His great hope is that God will use him to reveal the love of Jesus to those ruled by hate or fear. “God will provide mercy and guidance to those who seek him, and will equip his people to win the world with the love of Christ.”