When I was in the fifth grade, I memorized a limerick about Iran:
There once was a girl from Iran
Who had trouble in finding a man
It was funny you see
Until she spotted me
Then I ran and I ran and I ran
When I was in the fifth grade, this was all I knew about Iran.
When I was 16, however, a group of Iranian college students took over the U.S. embassy in Tehran and held 52 Americans against their will for 444 days. Iran was no longer a funny word that made a good limerick. Iran was now a country. It was now an enemy of America. These people, it was concluded, couldn’t be reasoned with. So they were sanctioned.
Almost forty years later, Iran is still an enigma. They are still being sanctioned. They are still acting like adversaries. This is what most Americans know about Iran.
But as is so often the case, there is more going on here than what meets the eye. According to an article in ‘The Christian Post’ (September 23, 2019), a Gospel movement is exploding inside Iran:
For the last few years, researchers have credited the underground church in Iran as the fastest-growing Christian church in the world. It has unique characteristics that defy comparison with churches in America and Europe, and in the opinion of some who know it well, the church in the West could learn by studying it.
“The fastest-growing church in the world has taken root in one of the most unexpected and radicalized nations on earth,” according to “Sheep Among Wolves,” the outstanding two-hour documentary about the revival that has taken place inside Iran. “The Iranian awakening is a rapidly reproducing discipleship movement that owns no property or buildings, has no central leadership, and is predominantly led by women.”
Efforts by the ayatollahs to destroy Christianity have backfired, but have served to refine and purify the church… an Iranian church leader noted. “All these church planters found out that converts run away from persecution, but disciples would die for the Lord in persecution. So our model inside Iran is that we don’t convert to disciple, we disciple so we can convert.”
Reading this report on Iran makes me grateful to be on mission in the Texas District, where new approaches and new networks are giving rise to new movements of the Gospel. Disciple-making, evangelist training, and church planting are among the ordinary means through which the extraordinary Gospel is growing and bearing fruit. Although we have much to learn from what God is doing in other parts of the world, our churches and partner ministries in Texas are responding to current challenges with hope, vision, and faith. We praise God that He continues to build His Church in such surprising ways.
By Rev. Pete Mueller
Area C Mission Strategist