What Options for Survival Does Iran’s Government Have?

What Is Happening in Iran?—Part 4

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Iranians continue to protest in Tehran and elsewhere despite arrests.

What Options for Survival Does Iran’s Government Have?


This post is part 4 of a six-part series on the current state of Iran and its church. To read the entire series now, click hereIf you missed any earlier posts, you can read them here: part 1, part 2, part 3.

The government of Iran (IRI) is going down with or without sanctions. The sanctions will merely speed up the process. The IRI has few options left:

Option 1

Try to reform itself. Reforms will not work because the leaders are too corrupt and disjointed to implement a comprehensive reform and the people of Iran will not buy into any plan that the government supports. The IRI has passed its window of opportunity when reform might have worked.

Option 2

Try to stifle the protest with violence. This option has a high probability of occurring. The IRI has shown that it has no respect for lives. When cornered and their existence threatened, they might easily turn to violence. Not long ago, a top clergyman said, “If we have to kill 1 million to keep Islam in Iran, we will.”

Option 3

Save themselves and let the regime collapse. It is very possible that those in power will abandon their positions and flee the country. Many have already stored their wealth in foreign banks, anticipating the day when they have to flee. The dollar exchange rate tripled recently because those in power were buying billions of dollars to send their wealth abroad. At this point, a military coup is also very possible. If this coup helps dethrone the mullahs and very quickly establishes a secular and democratic government, it could work.

Option 4

Negotiate with the US government. I believe negotiation is the number one option for the IRI and they will take it. Of course, they will not do this publicly. They do not want to lose the little respect and credibility they have before their people and the world by admitting defeat. They will ask for negotiations behind closed doors while at the same time bad mouthing the USA and Trump in public and the media.

 

The IRI has already started planning for reform (option 1). But they are finding fast that they are not capable of doing it and the people will not be fooled by it anyway. I believe that, very soon, unannounced secret negotiations between the IRI and the US will start (option 4)—if they have not started already. These negotiations may prolong the IRI’s existence for a time but not indefinitely.  Eventually, they will again try violence (option 2) followed by giving up power (option 3).

History is in the making in Iran. As the 40th year of the anniversary of the Islamic revolution approaches, we are seeing the end of this regime. Much is happening in Iran today politically, socially, and spiritually. I believe we will see a major change in Iran soon and it will be in weeks, months, but not years.

Location Iran. Green pin on the map.
Much is happening these days in Iran.

There is much news daily about Iran. Following the news carefully and being constantly and directly in touch with the people of Iran has given me a perspective that might be helpful to those who want to understand what is going on. So each day for the next week, I will provide a short commentary on What is happening in Iran.


Next up: How will a regime change in Iran affect the underground church? 

What Is the United States Doing about Iran?

What Is Happening in Iran?—Part 3

Power of democracy

What Is the United States Doing?


This post is part 3 of a six-part series on the current state of Iran and its church. To read the entire series now, click hereIf you missed the earlier posts, you can read them here: part 1 and part 2.

Trump and his administration are following three main plans to push out the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI):

Pressure with sanctions. The US is putting more financial pressure on the already pressured government of Iran through sanctions and an oil embargo. Trump may talk of violence, but he will not enter into a full-fledged war with Iran because all he needs to do is just wait for sanctions to effectively destroy the IRI.

Approach Iran from a point of strength. Trump’s constant threat to engage in military action puts extra pressure on the IRI. Iran’s government knows its military is no match for the power of the USA and Israel. They know that if a war starts, their people will not support them as they did in the eight-year war against Saddam in the 1980s. Obama negotiated from a point of weakness: he begged Iran not to start a war and bribed it merely to slow down its development of nuclear bombs. But Trump approaches the IRI from a point of strength. Many Iranians living inside Iran are pleased with and support Trump’s approach because they feel Obama threw the IRI a lifeline to survive, but Trump has pulled it back.

Keep open the possibility of negotiation. Trump says he is open to negotiation but wants Iran to take the first step. Trump is a strong negotiator—as shown in his book The Art of the Deal—and knows the one who first breaks down and asks for a meeting has a weaker position in negotiation.

Location Iran. Green pin on the map.
Much is happening these days in Iran.

 


History is in the making in Iran. As the 40th year of the anniversary of the Islamic revolution approaches, we are seeing the end of this regime. Much is happening in Iran today politically, socially, and spiritually. I believe we will see a major change in Iran soon and it will be in weeks, months, but not years.

There is much news daily about Iran. Following the news carefully and being constantly and directly in touch with the people of Iran has given me a perspective that might be helpful to those who want to understand what is going on. So each day this week, I will provide a short commentary on What is happening in Iran.


 

Next up: Does the IRI have any options for survival?

What Is Happening with Iran’s Government?

 


This post is part 2 of a six-part series on the current state of Iran and its church. To read the entire series now, click hereIf you missed part 1, you can read it here.

History is in the making in Iran. As the 40th year of the anniversary of the Islamic revolution approaches, we are seeing the end of this regime. Much is happening in Iran today politically, socially, and spiritually. I believe we will see a major change in Iran soon and it will be in weeks, months, but not years.

Location Iran. Green pin on the map.
Much is happening these days in Iran.

There is much news daily about Iran. Following the news carefully and being constantly and directly in touch with the people of Iran has given me a perspective that might be helpful to those who want to understand what is going on. So each day for the next week, I will provide a short commentary on What is happening in Iran.

 


Part 2: What Is Happening with Iran’s Government?

The Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) is in trouble. It is facing problems that cannot solve even if it decides to do so. 

The IRI has totally lost its credibility with the people of Iran. Nobody trusts the government anymore, and there is nothing they can do to win back that trust. Even reforms will not work at this point. Every move and decision of the government is looked at with suspicion and is rejected as “another ploy to deceive us.”

It is facing financial troubles. Mismanagement of the country’s income; widespread embezzlements; an 80 percent loss of its money value; and an overcommitment to helping Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, and Yemen has drained the government’s cash. It is struggling to meet its monthly payroll. 

Sanctions will add pressure. Even without the sanctions, the IRI is in big trouble. The sanctions that started this week and the oil embargo starting in November will yet be another big financial hit and will speed up the downward spiral of its demise. 

The people no longer support this regime. In the previous round of sanctions imposed by the Obama administration, the government’s rhetoric was, “America is our enemy and wants to destroy us by sanctions. So if you are under financial pressure, it is the United State’s fault. Let us be united and suffer in silence so that we will not let our enemy USA win.” This approach no longer works. Today, the people say, “We are in trouble because of you and not the US. America is not our enemy, you are.” Many Iranians even support the sanctions saying, “Yes, we are willing to suffer a little more from sanctions because it will bring down the government faster!”

Flags at sunset Iran
Tehran skyline at sunset Photo by Borna Mirahmadian

Sunset is fast approaching for this regime. Its members will try to present a calm face to the world, but its day of power is almost over.


Next up: how the actions of the United States are hastening the fall of Iran’s government.

What Is Happening with Iran’s People?


What Is Happening in Iran?

History is in the making in Iran. As the 40th year of the anniversary of the Islamic revolution approaches, we are seeing the end of this regime. Much is happening in Iran today politically, socially, and spiritually. I believe we will see a major change in Iran soon and it will be in weeks, months, but not years.

Location Iran. Green pin on the map.
Much is happening these days in Iran.

There is much news daily about Iran. Following the news carefully and being constantly and directly in touch with the people of Iran has given me a perspective that might be helpful to those who want to understand what is going on. So each day for the next week, I will provide a short commentary on What is happening in Iran.


This post is part 1 of a six-part series on the current state of Iran and its church. To read the entire series now, click here

Part 1: What Is Happening with Iran’s People?

Since December 2017, citizens have protested almost daily on the streets of many Iranian cities. These protests are intensifying. What is the main reason people protest, knowing that they may be arrested or even killed? It is the economy. 

Iran is a rich country. It has the second largest gas reserves and fourth largest oil reserves in the world. But corruption and mismanagement have deteriorated the economy to a point where millions struggle to meet basic necessities such as bread, milk, eggs, and meat. Many cities have no water or electricity during this hot summer. The unemployment rate is high and jobs so scarce that even those with higher education have no jobs. People with master’s and doctorate degrees are willing to drive cabs and wash dishes in a restaurant, but they cannot find even that work. 

One thousand Iranian rials on a dinner spoon
The rial has lost nearly 80 percent of its value in the past year, and the middle class can’t make ends meet.

Last week, the Iranian Parliament admitted that 50 percent of the population is under the poverty line. Others put that number at 80 percent. 

Why are the people of Iran so angry?

Terrorism prioritized over people. They are angry because they see that their government is not using its income to build its economy but to finance its agenda in Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, and Yemen. People get angry when they see money spent to help Syrian Bashar Al-Asad stay in power. They get angry when they see their government helping the needy children in Palestine and Lebanon but not in Iran. 

Unchecked government corruption. They get angry when almost weekly for the last three years, they have heard about multimillion-dollar embezzlements by government officials. (After the removal of sanctions by the Obama administration, the government saw a sudden jump in its income, which fueled many large embezzlements by well-known government officials.) What makes the people even angrier is that these government officials have not been prosecuted but keep their positions. Yet, a thief’s hand is amputated for a small crime. 

Religious double standards. They get angry when they see that the government’s morality police prosecutes the people over the slightest infraction of dress code, but the children of those in power host illegal parties (posting clips on social media) with no consequences. The people see that double standard and get mad when they see a teenage girl publicly prosecuted on television because she posted a clip of herself on Instagram dancing.

Vast economic inequality. They get angry when they see the lifestyle of those in power and their families. They see many Maseratis and Lamborghinis on the streets of Tehran, they see other luxurious trappings of the few in power, they look at themselves struggling with basic necessities, and they get angry.


Next week: Learn more about Iran’s government, Iran’s church, what the United States is doing, and what you can do in these historic days to make a difference in our world.

Is Trump the Next Cyrus?

Looking at All Sides of the Coin

 

Have you seen the new half-shekel coin in Israel? Donald Trump’s face appears on it in raised relief alongside King Cyrus. The image implies a connection between the two world leaders—one an American president in modern times, the other a King of Persia from 2,500 years ago.

Mikdash Educational Center Coin 2
This coin minted by the Mikdash Educational Center in Israel implies a connection between two world leaders—one an American president in modern times, the other a King of Persia from 2,500 years ago.

Why this connection? After King Cyrus conquered Babylon, he allowed the exiled Jews to return to Jerusalem and even financed the rebuilding of their temple (2 Chr 36:22–23). By doing so, he returned conquered territory to its previous owner. In similar fashion, President Trump’s recent announcement moving the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem sends a strong message confirming Jerusalem as the territory of the Jews and not the Palestinians.

Now the question is: Is this good or bad? The answer is: It depends on whom you ask.

Different Points of View

Orthodox Jews – The coin will not actually circulate as currency, of course. The new Sanhedrin and Mikdash (Temple) Educational Center minted only a thousand of these coins to honor America’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. They hope that with the support of Trump’s administration, they will be able to rebuild their temple—just as Cyrus helped them to do so.

Israeli Government – Prime Minister Netanyahu has recently embraced this comparison between President Trump and the great Persian king who was “appointed” by God to do his will as it concerned Jerusalem. President Trump hosted a VIP reception for Netanyahu on March 5, 2018. This was a large contrast to how President Obama had treated him for the previous eight years. For example, Obama publicly insulted Netanyahu by refusing to see him when he visited the United States in September 2012.

Palestinians – Palestinians are angry that America has broken with long-standing diplomacy and sided with Israel on the Jerusalem question. They say that this undermines the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Iranian Government – The Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) is set to wipe Israel off the map, and also is set to wipe Cyrus from Iran’s history. For the last 39 years, they have been trying to induce hatred towards Israel in the hearts of the people of Iran. They are developing nuclear bombs and intercontinental missiles to bring to reality to their goal of destroying Israel. Their first intended target will be Jerusalem. They have been backing the Palestinian cause and financially supporting Hamas since the 1979 revolution. They have been also trying to downplay the importance of Cyrus and the glorious history of Iran (Persia). Last October, they arrested some youth who were celebrating the birth of Cyrus at his tomb.

Iranian People – Most Iranian are very proud of their history, including King Cyrus. They compare the human rights declaration of Cyrus to their current situation and believe Iran was more civilized then than now.

Even though Iranians are not happy with Trump’s immigration laws restricting them from coming to a country they admire, they hope he will bring down the Islamic government and replace it with a secular democracy—but without war. There is such a great divide and distrust between the people of Iran and the Islamic government that they are furious their money is being used to support Palestinians. Also, after 39 years of government-sponsored rallies to shout “Death to Israel,” the people of Iran are saying, “Tell us again why should we hate the Jews and be against Israel? What have they done to us? Should we hate them just because you are telling us so? We do not trust you. We do not see a reason to hate Israel and the Jews.”

What Is Our Position at Iran Alive?

We at Iran Alive are committed to proclaiming the mind of Christ and the heart of God, as stated in the Bible, into every situation. So we follow the below policy when facing issues like this Cyrus-Trump comparison.

We never take sides in politics – We state the issues and discuss what the Bible has to say about those issues but do not take sides. We are neither pro– nor anti-government. But we are anti-injustice and pro social justice as is clearly commanded in the Bible (Isa 1:17, Zech 7:9–10). Our call is to transform Iran with the power of the gospel. We believe when a society is truly transformed, it will naturally impact the government that rules it.

We show that we value Cyrus and Iran’s glorious history – We take this position first because the Bible has much respect for Cyrus and the past of Iran. Cyrus’s name and birth were predicted in the Bible 150 years before he was born, and the Lord calls him “My Messiah” (Isa 45:1) and “My Shepherd” (Isa 44:28).

Second, we show the Iranians that we, as Muslims who have become Christians, have not forfeited our nationality to embrace a western religion. We want to signal to them that we are even more Iranian than before our conversion, and we have more love and respect for Iran and its past because of what is written in the Bible.

No-Rooz-1
This Persian New Year set at Iran Alive television studio helps connect with millions of Iranians who prefer their ancient heritage to Islam.

Third, this position is the best way to connect to the heart of millions of Iranians who have rejected Islam and are finding their national identity not in Islam but in Cyrus and the Persian empire. That is why for the Persian New Year week, we had a TV set that resembled Persepolis (see picture).

We promote Love and Unity among nations and racesOne of our goals is to help Muslim background believers to get rid of any hatred they have toward other nations. If they have any leftover hatred toward the Jews, we want to help them get rid of that. We teach them that since “God so loved the world” (Jn 3:16), we must also love all nations and races. On the Israeli-Palestinian issue, we state, “God loves both Israelis and the Palestinians. He loves both the Jews and Arabs and wants both sides to be saved.”

During my live broadcasts, I occasionally bring on a Jewish Christian, an Arab Christian, an Indian Christian, a black Christian, or a white American Christian for this reason, so they might teach our viewers to have the heart of God, to love all people and desire that all come to salvation.

I don’t know if God is using or will use President Trump as he did King Cyrus. That question in one for future history books to answer. But I do know Iran is turning to Christ in record numbers, and Iran will become a light to the entire Middle East as these Muslim background believers love their former enemies.

What people group is hard for you to love? I pray you reach out to them with the love of Christ today.


Related articles:

Associated Press. “Israeli Group Mints Coin Bearing Trump’s Image.” CBS News, February 28, 2018. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/israel-trump-coin-honours-recognition-jerusalem-as-capital/.
Ravid, Barak, and Natasha Mozgovaya. “White House Declines Netanyahu Request to Meet With Obama.” Haaretz, September 11, 2012. https://www.haaretz.com/white-house-no-netanyahu-obama-meeting-1.5160303.
Brennan, David. “Israeli Group Mints New Trump Coin to Honor U.S. Embassy’s Move to Jerusalem.” Newsweek, February 28, 2018. http://www.newsweek.com/trumpcoin-israeli-group-mints-new-coin-honor-us-embassy-move-823981.
“Remarks by President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel Before Bilateral Meeting.” The White House. Accessed March 27, 2018. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-prime-minister-netanyahu-israel-bilateral-meeting-2/.
Wadhams, Nick. “U.S. Speeds Up Timetable for Moving Embassy to Jerusalem.” Time, February 24, 2018. http://time.com/5174043/us-embassy-jerusalem-may/.

 

Starving Christianity: Hungry for the Word of God

God is moving in Iran, bringing Muslims to faith in him at a higher rate than in any other Muslim nation. A vibrant church in Iran has the potential to change the face of the entire Middle East. But the church is heading toward a crisis.

In this series, I am writing about the three challenges that threaten the future of the church in Iran even more than the Islamic government. We have discussed the challenges of Shiite Christianity and Solitary Christianity. This third challenge—a growing crisis—threatens to uproot the foundation of the Iranian church.

Crisis 3: Starving Christianity

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Christians in Iran are starving for systematic truth and resources. They are passionate for Jesus and the Word of God. But the building churches are closed. Pastors and church leaders have been forced out of Iran. And the government makes it difficult to gather or talk to others openly.

The vacuum of mature teachers and experienced elders is a growing crisis for the 2 to 3 million believers that make up the Iranian church.

In America, amazing preachers and resources are everywhere. It is like a banquet table has been set for guests and filled with a feast made by top chefs. But few come. Few are hungry.

In Iran, Christians are so hungry for teaching about God’s Word that they fight for any dried-out bread crust they come across. They want it and they flock to it. But their table is empty—or worse—it’s filled with unwholesome imposters posing as real food.

In Iran, Christians are so hungry for teaching about God’s Word that they fight for any dried-out bread crust they come across.

Where can these new Christians go to find mature, faithful answers to their questions? Who will help them understand the whole counsel of God and separate what Islam has taught them from what God reveals in his Word?

Many wolves in sheep’s clothing are already stepping in, pretending to teach Christianity when they are really teaching something else. The church must make a move now to build a strong and deep foundation in Iran. Too much in the whole Middle East depends on it.

What Has Caused This Challenge?

As I mentioned in part two of this series, the Islamic government of Iran closed the doors to the building churches in 2013 and made it illegal to gather in homes. They also arrested a few key pastors and church leaders.

These arrests were no simple show of force but a distinct strategy to force all Christian leaders out of Iran. Avoiding persecution of high-profile leaders that might cause a worldwide outcry and pushback, they arrested lesser-known leaders instead and charged them with heavy offenses that carried long-term jail sentences. For others, after interrogations, they released the pastors, telling them to show up the following month for another court date and interrogation. And then they handed the leaders their passport. The message was clear: leave now or spend your life in jail.

They threatened a few pastors so that they could push all the leaders out through fear. If any Christian leader tries to go back to Iran now, they are arrested and charged. So all the mature, experienced leaders have been pushed out of Iran by force.

This purging has left the 2 to 3 million children of the faith without elders, pastors, or teachers that truly know the Bible. They are young and thirsty.

This purging has left the 2 to 3 million children of the faith without elders, pastors, or teachers that truly know the Bible.

The Immediate Danger: Cults

These Christians have so much passion—much more passion than many in the West who have good resources at their fingertips—but without biblical knowledge to have discernment, and without elders to guide them. The Bible is very new to them. They search out resources online and wherever else they can, but like hungry children who put everything in their mouths, they sometimes have difficulty knowing the difference between orthodox truth and cult heresy. How can they know what to eat unless someone older in the faith helps them?

Paul and the First-Century Church

This problem is very similar to the problem Paul faced with the first-century church. Despite opposition, the church continued to grow and spread quickly. The new Christians had only a few teachers and the Hebrew Bible. Gentiles often had neither the Hebrew Bible nor any background to understand God’s true nature. They were used to what they knew: capricious Greek and Roman gods and the type of worship those gods demanded.

In other words, they were very much like Muslim background believers who need to learn all over again the true nature of God and how he desires us to know him and worship him.

So what do we see over and over again in Paul’s letters to the churches? He warned them of cults (e.g., Acts 20:28–30; Rom 16:17). He had to explain how their cultural behavior and misunderstandings failed to fit with God’s Word and God’s standard (e.g., 1 John 4:1–3). He had to explain again and again who this Jesus was and what his followers should know to be true about God’s nature and their own salvation. He had to help them put together all the pieces of faith and knowledge and understand them systematically (e.g., 1Pet 1:18; Rom 5, 6).

Paul turned to the prevailing tool of the day to counter the rise of cults and the misunderstandings of the faith: he used high-tech media. Yes! At that time, the most advanced media was writing letters and passing them from city to city and village to village for believers to study and copy down. Today, media looks like social media apps, satellite TV, and the internet.

Opportunity 3: A Bible School through Today’s Media

The advances of technology mean that many Iranians do have access to some form of digital Bible that they can download and even pass on to others. But we cannot stop there and say, “They have God’s Word in their language. That’s all they need.”

If the Ethiopian eunuch of Acts 8, who was likely a Jewish proselyte, needed Phillip to explain how Isaiah 53 shows Jesus coming as a suffering servant, how much do more Muslims—people who have been fed much misinformation about Jesus—need a Phillip to explain the Bible systematically?

Social media, satellite TV programs, and all kind of internet resources—this technology is a huge opportunity for the church to reach out to believers in Iran and help them mature in Christ.

The 412 School of Ministry

That is why we are using the best high-tech media we can to create an online 412 School of Ministry, based on Ephesians 4:12. This school will provide systematic training for the church of Iran, develop leaders who can discern truth, disciple others, and model Christ not only in their understanding but also their actions.

A Call to All

Iran is the Muslim country most open to the gospel. Islam is being defeated at an enormous rate, making Iran the gateway to Christ for the entire Middle East. If we leave them to themselves at this critical moment and do not help them to develop a mature faith and systematic understanding of the Bible that they can pass on to others, we will be responsible for one of the great failures of the church in the twenty-first century.

This opportunity is not just a call for me and Iran Alive but for all mature followers of Jesus Christ to use the media of today to provide a sound, systematic foundation for a hungry church.

If we leave them to themselves at this critical moment and do not help them to develop a mature faith and systematic understanding of the Bible that they can pass on to others, we will be responsible for one of the great failures of the church in the twenty-first century.

Let’s take some of the banquet feast from our table in the West and share it with our brothers and sisters in Iran. Join Jack Graham, Pete Briscoe, Child Evangelism Fellowship, Recovery International, World Amity, Michael Yusef, and Christ for Crescent Moon—some of the people and ministries who already partner with us—to send systematic Bible teaching to millions of Christians who are waiting and ready to learn. These believers have a chair and want to pull it to the table, if someone will only put something good to eat on their plate.

We need you to join us. Don’t miss this great opportunity.

For more information on how to partner with us or how you can be a part of our 412 School of Ministry, you can contact me at hormoz@IranAliveMinistries.org or (469) 982-0000. Or text “Iran” to 74784 for more information.

 

 

Solitary Christianity: We Must Awake and Arm the Sleeping Giant of Iran

In December 2017, I began a series about the three unique challenges that are creating a crisis for the church in Iran and the three opportunities we have as a Church to address this crisis. This article is the second challenge in that series.

What challenges are causing this crisis for the Iranian church?

The first challenge is Shiite Christianity. Without intervention, the Iranian church will allow Shiite cultural behavior norms to destroy the developing Christian community and the church’s witness. As individuals, Iranian Muslim background believers are very passionate about their faith and very grateful for their salvation. However, they have no knowledge nor experience of a vibrant Christian community. They need to be taught biblical principles for Christian fellowship because they have never before encountered fellowship in this manner.

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At least 9 out of every 10 Christian live between the walls of their homes and apartments feeling small and powerless, not knowing that in truth they are one part of many making up Iran’s sleeping giant—the church.

The second challenge is Solitary Christianity. At least 9 out of every 10 Christians in Iran have no Christian fellowship or live connection with other known believers. They are alone. They have no models, no mentors, and no support. They live between the walls of their homes and apartments feeling small and powerless, not knowing that in truth they are one part of many making up Iran’s sleeping giant—the church.

How and Why the Church Got Put in Such Isolation

Did you know that the history of Christianity in Iran goes back to the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:9)? Yes, Parthians, Medes, and Elamites were all residents of Persia. Aramaic-speaking Assyrian Christians formed some of the earliest churches, and Armenian Christians joined them in the early 17th century, settling deep in Iran. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Protestant missionaries arrived in Iran and began evangelizing the ethnic Persian Muslim community. But growth was very slow.

At the time of Islamic revolution in 1979, there were more than 500,000 Armenian and Assyrian Christians. Most have left Iran since then and that number is currently less than 100,000. However, during the same time span, the number of Muslim background believers (MBB) has gone from less than 500 in 1979 to an estimated 1–3 million today. Today there are no churches in Iran where MBB’s can attend. There are a few Assyrian and Armenian churches left, but they are forced to worship in their own language and are forbidden to allow any MBB in their midst.

In the last 40 years, the number of MBB’s has exploded, creating unprecedented growth of the Christian population and one of the highest growth rates of Christianity in the world. This tremendous growth has occurred despite the government forbidding conversion from Islam to Christianity and responding with arrests, torture, and death. This growth has threatened Iran’s Islamic government and has caused them to persecute MBB’s out of fear.

The number of Muslim background believers (MBB) has gone from less than 500 in 1979 to an estimated 1–3 million today.

How many MBB’s are in Iran? The most conservative number is around 400,000. Many concede that a more accurate estimate is more than 1 million Christians, with a majority being MBB. My experience and close work with Persians in Iran—and recent events that have contributed to yet another explosion in conversions—tells me that the real number sits easily somewhere between 2 and 3 million. Our underground house church leaders put the estimate even higher.

The reaction of the Islamic government fits with this higher number. They are scared that their oppression tactics are not reducing or even slowing the growth of MBB Christians.

In 2013, the government tried to stomp out the threat by quarantining individuals. They imprisoned many pastors, forced the rest to flee the country, locked the doors to every Farsi-speaking church, and banned and burned Persian Bibles. Evangelism is illegal, gathering in public places is illegal, gathering at home is illegal, reading the Bible is illegal, and Christians continue to be persecuted, tortured, and sometimes killed.

The Islamic regime intends to stop, silence, and suppress any expression of Christianity that might seduce the growing masses of Muslims disillusioned with Islam.

The Resulting Challenge

The result is that 95 percent of Iranian Christians live in isolation from one another just as if they were imprisoned in solitary cells in their homes. They hunger for the bread of life that comes from the Word; they thirst for the connection in the Spirit with other believers. But they worship and pray alone.

The result is that 95 percent of Iranian Christians live in isolation from one another just as if they were imprisoned in solitary cells in their homes.

Without connections and resources, they are immature in their knowledge yet supernaturally hungry for spiritual truth and growth. Unlike a large portion of the Church in the West that is content with spiritual immaturity, the number one request we receive daily from these Christians is “train us, teach us, equip us!” They want to pour out their lives for the One who saved them. But they don’t know how or where to start.

If no one steps in to help them, the Islamic government’s tactic of separation will succeed. Alone, these Christians are allowing their witness and supernatural gifts to stay hidden, asleep.

The Opportunity: Wake and Arm the Sleeping Giant

What would happen if we could encourage, equip, and mobilize this “sleeping giant” church throughout the country? Two to three million believers throughout Iran who are ready to be salt and light and share the gospel would impact families, friends, neighbors, and all people in their circle of influence in astonishing numbers.

This opportunity is why we have started the 412 School of Ministry (based on Eph 4: 12—equipping the saints for the work of ministry) in 2018, to equip and train Iranian Christians so they can multiply and mobilize others. This need is why we responded to the December 2017 and early January protests with nightly, live prime-time broadcasts. We shared God’s message of love to a hurting nation and showed believers how they could reach out to the people around them during this time with the gospel.

The number one request we receive daily from these Christians in Iran is “train us, teach us, equip us!”

We have already started to see results from work we are doing to encourage and equip these Christians. Almost every week we hear testimonies of how Persian Christians have found ways to share their faith and bring others to Jesus. By watching us, they learn how to witness.

But we cannot awake this sleeping giant alone, nor arm it fully with the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and the sword of the Spirit without the help of the larger Church body (Eph 6:14–17).

We need the Church to work together on a larger scale, to reach out to the Iranian church with us, helping them learn to give and serve according to their gifting.

We need your help!

In addition to your prayers and your financial support, we need you to join us according to your gifting and calling. Others like Jack Graham, Pete Briscoe, Bill Hybels, and Michael Yusef already partner with us to broadcast their teaching in Iran and surrounding countries. Would you consider joining them and us?

You do not need to know Farsi to help us make good discipleship, theology, and Bible training available to Persians. We have resources for great-quality voice-over translations. We match the translation voice personality with the teacher’s mannerisms, tone, and passion. And we add subtitles when needed. We just need willing teachers and preachers with a heart for Iran.

We need teachers to record broadcasts and courses, and we also need technology specialists that can help us establish our online school. How are you gifted? Can you help with internet administration? Graphic design? Production? Course administration?

We need teachers to record broadcasts and courses, and we also need technology specialists that can help us establish our online school.

The task is enormous, but God has called us to it. Will you help us accomplish what he has asked of us?

The Church claimed Iran in the first century but was squeezed out. Now it’s time that God will set his throne in Elam (ancient Persia) and restore her fortunes (Jer 49:38–39). This time, if we equip her well, the Church will not only remain in Iran, it will spread and impact the whole Middle East and even the world. This is the pattern we are seeing.

Iran is the Muslim nation most open to the gospel. Iranians are hungry and coming to the Lord by the many. Even whole families at once! And Iran is positioned across the Middle East so that changes in Iran will affect the entire region.

Don’t miss this opportunity. Help us awaken and arm the sleeping giant. Help us equip an army of isolated Persian saints who want to bring light to the rest of the world.

I thank you for answering the call.

If the Lord is prompting to respond or inquire, you can contact me at hormoz@IranAliveMinistries.org or (469) 982-0000, or text “Iran” to 74784 for more information.

Signals of Change: How Christian Broadcasters Are Changing Iran

World News recently published a feature article that highlights what Iran Alive and other Christian broadcasters are doing to contribute to the fastest growing evangelical population on the planet.

I have reposted an excerpt here, with a link to the full article on their website. I pray you will find it encouraging, and remember us in your prayers as well.

Signals of change

by Mindy Belz

Protests in Iran have met censorship and brutality, but Christian broadcasters use daily media to spark lasting reformation. (Associated Press)

It’s noon in Dallas and 8:30 in the evening in Tehran when Hormoz Shariat, founder of satellite television’s Iran Alive Ministries, steps to the camera to begin the station’s daily live satellite broadcast. The 62-year-old Iranian-American pastor, wearing rimless glasses and a suit and tie, strikes a friendly posture whether he is preaching to a large studio audience or seated in comfortable chairs with his co-hosts. But he takes the one-hour live show very seriously: With a prime-time slot beamed from Texas into the Islamic republic, Iran Alive’s Christian programming has an estimated audience of 6 million people.

That’s nearly 8 percent of Iran’s population of 80 million, the overwhelming majority of whom are Muslims. Whether Iran has 2 million Christians—an estimate Shariat believes is not inflated—or closer to 500,000, as some experts claim, “that’s a lot of Muslims watching us,” he concedes. In addition to Iran Alive, the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) has Persian-language programming in the Middle East, and Cyprus-based SAT-7 PARS also carries round-the-clock Persian-language Christian shows.

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What Are the Differences between the 2009 Green Movement and the 2018 #IranProtests?

God is the God of history. He uses historical events to advance his purpose. In this blog, by looking at the recent uprising and comparing it to 2009 Green Movement, we will see that in the midst of all these events and even chaos, God is advancing the people of Iran, step by step, toward the fulfilment of his promise in Jeremiah 49:38: “I will set my throne in Elam (Iran).”

Protesters in Tehran's Valiasr avenue overturned a police car-VOA
Protesters in Tehran’s Valiasr avenue overturned a police car on 31 December 2017. (VOA)

Two Uprisings

In 2009, the Iranian people rose up in protest against the government and demonstrated in the streets. In late December 2017 and early 2018, the people again took to the streets in protest, tore down pictures of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and chanted death slogans. Government forces responded brutally both times, arresting thousands and killing scores of people.

But these two uprisings are very different. Their outcomes will be different, too. This time, the eyes of the people have opened.

What Happened in 2009?

The Green Movement of 2009 happened because the people protested fraud in an election that declared incumbent hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the presidential winner. A majority of people had voted for a moderate candidate, yet the election result did not reflect that vote. The demonstrators, protesting in a few large cities, demanded a recount.

After a brutal crackdown, the people also began demanding civil liberties promised them in the 1979 Revolution.

In 2013, a moderate candidate, Hassan Rouhani, won the election, and the people celebrated.

The Clerical Government’s Political Game

Over and over again, the Islamic government of Iran has deceived its people with a political game: alternately “electing” a hardliner or a moderate candidate to the president’s office. This game show has been going on since the mid-1990s. The people of Iran would become so desperate after a period of a hardliner rule that they would feel victory and relief when they got to elect a moderate president.

They celebrated on the streets when Rouhani was elected in June 2013 and again in May 2017. The majority failed to realize that this election was just a staged political play to keep them busy year after year, for president after president.

During last year’s election campaign for Rouhani, the people were very excited and involved, not fully understanding the implications of having only two clergy-approved candidates: Ebrahim Raisi (with a black turban) and Rouhani (with a white turban).

Both candidates were required to implement the will of the mullahs. The real choice that Supreme Leader Khamenei was giving the people was this: Do you want a president with a black turban or white turban?

The people did not realize that moderate candidates are just a faction of the extremists who want to give the people a little freedom (e.g., letting a woman show her hair a little more without threat of arrest). Otherwise, in policy and decision making, moderates are still committed to obey the Supreme Leader Khamenei and implement his wishes.

“Over and over again, the Islamic government of Iran has deceived its people with a political game: alternately “electing” a hardliner or a moderate candidate to the president’s office.”

What is Happening in 2018?

What is happening now is that the people of Iran are finally waking up to this game. They realize that the mullahs in power have been manipulating them for decades: keeping them busy with governmental politics while advancing their own agenda domestically and internationally and personally benefiting from their positions of power.

They now know that electing a moderate president is a hoax and will never do them any good. We are seeing a big shift in awareness and a desperation for something different, something more.

After the first large-scale demonstrations died down, many mainstream media outlets reported that the spontaneous uprisings had fallen apart. But the eyes of the Iranian people are now open, and this hunger will not go away. I am not the only one saying this. Alireza Nadar, a senior policy analyst at RAND corporation recently wrote the following:

There has been speculation that the uprising will die out or be crushed by the regime. However, a key barrier has been broken: Iranians are no longer contained by the wall of fear created by the Islamic Republic. Not only has Iran’s theocracy lost its legitimacy, but it has lost its ability to control the public through the instruments of violence. Unlike in past protests, countless Iranians have demonstrated that they will no longer participate in the political game of “reformist vs. conservative” (better known as “moderates vs. conservatives” in the West). For them, no one from the establishment, including the so-called reformists, can make their lives better. For them, the entire system has to fall for a new Iran to be reborn.  —Alizera Nadar, Politico Magazine

The #IranProtests are the beginning of change. It will take time, but change will happen in the next couple of years. The clerical government likely will not stay in power.

Consider these differences in the response of the people:

  • In 2009, the people rejected the result of an election; now they are rejecting the whole Islamic rule, even Islam itself.
  • In 2009, the people chanted, “Where is my vote?”; now they are chanting, “Death to the Islamic Republic” and “Death to Khamenei.” Even Rouhani, who was popular and celebrated in the streets after the May 2017 election, is facing “Death to Rouhani” slogans.
  • In 2009, the demonstrations occurred in only a few large cities; this time they started in scores of smaller cities and towns before getting to the big cities. The voices of some of these rural people have not been heard as a group since the revolution of 1979.

 

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“This time, the eyes of the people are open.”

How You Can Pray for Iran

The hopelessness and desperation that brought about these protests are real. Iranians are suffering. Officially, forty percent live below the poverty line. In reality, the number is probably higher. They cannot find work. They cannot buy food or gas. Drought and water mismanagement has made it difficult to grow crops.

During our live, prime-time, daily programs in January, we encouraged people that God loves them and cares about their suffering, just as we do. We also shared that God has a plan to save and bless Iran. We showed Christians how to reach out to the demonstrators and provide love and hope. Many did.

Please pray that, God willing, we will be able to continue to mobilize the 2 million Christians in Iran to share the gospel and be the light and love of Christ to a hurting nation.

Pray that their pain will be a bridge to salvation.

Pray that their eyes remain open.


To learn even more about what is happening in Iran and how Iran Alive is responding, read this article by Mindy Belz in World Magazine, “Signals of Change.” You can also text “Iran” to 74784 to sign up for updates and testimonies.


Related articles:

Belz, Mindy. “Signals of Change – WORLD,” February 3, 2018. https://world.wng.org/2018/01/signals_of_change.

Nader, Alireza. “Why the Iranian Uprising Won’t Die.” POLITICO Magazine.  http://politi.co/2mcuSiD.

Trump’s Nuclear Ultimatum: Now What?

My Expectations for the Next 120 Days and Beyond

Trump’s speech on the nuclear deal with Iran on January 12, 2018, has caused a jolt around the world. His ultimatum giving 120 days to fix “disastrous flaws” in the Obama-led nuclear deal has created shock waves not just in Iran but Europe and other countries as well. The reason is that the continuation, cancellation, or even modification of this deal will impact many countries in several tangible ways.

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Below, I give a summary of the reactions, the reasons behind them, and what I think various sides of this agreement will do. I hope this will benefit your thinking through the different opinions on this hot-button issue.

 

The Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI)

For the IRI, there is panic and fear. They know that if sanctions are restarted, it will put much pressure on both the government and the people of Iran. The government will become weaker, and the people, who are already fed up with the situation, may develop a more effective uprising that threatens even the IRI’s existence. It is a known fact that the previous set of sanctions imposed from 2012 to 2015 was bringing the government of Iran to its knees. The nuclear deal and the resulting $150 billion given to Iran was truly a lifeline to them, enabling them not only to survive but to thrive.

Secretary-General of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Hassan Rohani speaks to the media in Tehran.

The previous set of sanctions imposed from 2012 to 2015 was bringing the government of Iran to its knees.

Nevertheless, the IRI has several ways to stop America from imposing new sanctions. How? Many European countries have made lucrative financial deals with Iran since the removal of previous sanctions, and they receive a substantial portion of their oil from Iran. Therefore, new sanctions will not only damage Iran but will also damage these countries. Russia and China will also join the pack supporting the IRI, not because of financial gain—they benefit either way because they will continue a financial relationship with Iran secretly even with sanctions—but because they do not agree with US policy.

So, it is very possible that the IRI will persuade the other countries to stand up to any U.S. demands to negotiate a new deal and impose new sanctions.

 

The People of Iran

Surprisingly, most Iranians support Trump’s policy towards Iran. It is interesting to note that the U.S. mainstream media covers the reaction of the IRI to Trump’s remarks regarding rewriting the nuclear deal, but they do not cover what the people of Iran say about it. Why? Because contrary to the mainstream media, the Iranian people are mostly pro-Trump on this issue.

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Surprisingly, most Iranians support Trump’s policy towards Iran.

Here are the reasons:

  1. In 2012 when the previous sanctions were imposed, the people of Iran stood behind their government and blamed the American-led sanctions for their bad economy and hard life. But now they have seen that even when the sanctions were lifted and the Obama administration gave the IRI $150 billion, the people’s situation remained the same. They are desperate and know that with or without sanctions, they will have a hard time earning a living, they will be oppressed, and they will be killed if they protest. They feel they have nothing to lose. They are so utterly hopeless that Trump’s standing up to IRI and trying to restore sanctions gives them some hope that they desperately need. It gives them a faint hope that maybe the future could get better.

 

  1. Trump is addressing the human rights issue in Iran. President Obama never did that. Even during the uprising of 2009, he was silent and gave not even a word of encouragement or support to the Iranian people. Trump, in contrast, has put 14 Iranian individuals on the blacklist. One is Mr. Larijani, who is the head of judiciary in Iran and has been directly involved in the arrest and execution of the young people in 2009 and 2018. This gesture by Trump gives Iranians a feeling that finally somebody is caring and talking about the human rights violations in Iran and doing something about it.

 

  1. Trump’s tough stand against the IRI gives the people of Iran hope that maybe this administration somehow will remove the brutal dictatorship from Iran. They deeply desire this and will support Trump even if it means they will have to suffer through another set of sanctions. Through eight years of Obama’s foreign policy that appeased the IRI, the people of Iran lost hope that the U.S. would ever do anything to help them and even doubted that the U.S. cared at all. Do not forget that the Iranian people love and admire the U.S. If they were given a choice, they would choose to have an American-style democracy established in Iran. They even desire that Iranian society would adopt American social norms and lifestyles.

 

The European Governments

They will not support Trump’s call to renegotiate the nuclear deal and impose new sanctions. Why?

  1. They have much to lose. Just as Trump’s “America First” financial policy puts America’s financial interests above the interests of other countries, the European countries will also put their financial gain above Trump’s foreign policy toward Iran. Currently, Iran is sending 40 percent of its oil export to Europe, and these countries are dependent on that oil for their economy. Many have made lucrative long-term deals with Iran in the past two years. For example, the French energy giant Total has closed a deal with Iran to invest US$4.8 billion there.

 

  1. In general, these countries do not care about U.S. foreign policy, and they may even be against it. It is not an issue for them when Iran stands up to the U.S. in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. They are not alarmed when the IRI threatens to wipe Israel off the map—and for certain they are not ready to pay a price just to diminish that threat to Israel.

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European countries will put their financial gain above Trump’s foreign policy toward Iran.

Russia and China

They most likely will side with the European countries and stand up to Trump trying to renegotiate the nuclear deal.

  1. Russia and the IRI both have similar goals for the Middle East and in many cases are working together to accomplish those goals (such as in Syria). A weak Iran could mean that the U.S. gains the upper hand in the areas where the IRI has been effectively meddling.
  1. By supporting Iran against U.S. demands, they will improve their relationship with the IRI even more both politically and economically. Iran needs them to help stop new sanctions and will probably offer them new trade deals if they help defend against Trump’s ultimatum.

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Iran will probably offer Russia new trade deals if they help defend against Trump’s ultimatum.

Summary

It looks as though Trump does not have enough support or leverage with the world powers and European countries to renegotiate the nuclear deal and muster up new sanctions. Of course, the U.S. could put sanctions on Iran unilaterally, but that would not be effective. Canceling any American financial dealings would create a vacuum that would be gladly filled by offers from Russia, China, and European countries.

As a result, Iranians will continue to be oppressed by a dictatorship that has shown that its main goal is survival and not caring for its own people.

There remains one possible hope for Iranians: the Revolutionary Guards, with or without direct help from America, could topple the rule of the clergy and establish a secular government. For the foreseeable future, that seems like the only way the government in Iran might—and probably will—change.

Meanwhile, Christianity is fast growing in Iran. The current events are the perfect storm through which the Lord is weaning Iran from Islam and attracting them with his love. Through all the bad news in Iran, he remains as the only good news.

Unfortunately, if the government of Iran changes to a secular democracy, the spiritual hunger of the people will die down very rapidly. So the time is short for Christians to work in Iran while this supernatural spiritual hunger exists.

We must work together to establish a strong church now. If we wait for Iran’s government to change, it will be too late.

The time is short for Christians to work in Iran while this supernatural spiritual hunger exists—so we are starting an equipping school called the “412 School.”

In 2018, we at Iran Alive are focusing on strengthening the underground church in Iran through equipping each Christian to be an agent of transformation. We are starting an equipping school called the “412 School” based on Ephesians 4:12—equipping the saints for the work of the ministry.

Would you join us to make this happen this year? Without friends like you, we are not able to do what we are called to do. We are issuing a “Macedonian call” to come and help us. Please contact me if you feel led to answer this call.

To express interest, you may send an email to info@IranAliveMinistries.org, which I check daily, or call (469) 982-0000. We will contact you to explore possibilities for partnership.