Consider how God goes about changing a nation (taken from this op-ed in Newsweek) and what we can learn from this for our own local contexts?
Something religiously astonishing is taking place in Iran, where an Islamist government has ruled since 1979: Christianity is flourishing. The implications are potentially profound.
David Yeghnazar of Elam Ministries stated in 2018 that "Iranians have become the most open people to the gospel." The Christian Broadcast Network found, also in 2018, that "Christianity is growing faster in the Islamic Republic of Iran than in any other country." Shay Khatiri of Johns Hopkins University wrote last year about Iran that "Islam is the fastest shrinking religion there, while Christianity is growing the fastest."
Notice the shape and focus of the church in Iran that is producing this transformation:
As a clandestine phenomenon, the practice of what are sometimes called Muslim Background Believers (MBBs) lacks clergy and church buildings, but instead consists of self-starting disciples and tiny house churches of four to five members each, with either hushed singing or none at all. Its lay leadership, in striking contrast to the mullahs who rule Iran, consists mainly of women.
Notice also that such a transformation of a nation is not taking place within an environment that is friendly to Christianity:
Iranian authorities routinely arrest and jail MBBs, often for extended periods; for example, the United Nations reported in 2013 on "more than 300 Christians" who were arrested in the prior three years, mostly for vague security-related offenses. An inquiry found that "those arrested have been subjected to intensive and often abusive interrogation."
Finally, note how extensive this ‘revolution’ might become:
Indeed Lela Gilbert and Arielle Del Turco argue that the [Khameini] regime considers Christianity "an existential threat." And it should, notes Reza Safa, the Iranian-born founder of Nejat TV ("ministering to Muslims living in Farsi-speaking nations"), who titled a book The Coming Fall of Islam in Iran. He sees Iran's Christians as "an army of God" who are bringing Iran to "the brink of another revolution, this time orchestrated" by a Christian spirit.
Possible lessons to be learned?
- The church and its influence is shaped by the power of the Gospel and the disciples of Jesus committed to its cause, not by governmental or political powers-that-be.
- The church can and often does flourish in environments that are not welcoming to its message.
- The church is not defined by clergy or buildings, but by ‘self-starting disciples.’
- God is still in the business of transforming nations.
His revolution continues...