Then and Now: A Look at What Forty Years of Islamic Rule Has Brought to Iran

This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series Then and Now: 40 Years Rule

Iran is the only country in the world led by Islamic clergy. Forty years ago this past February, Iran’s secular intellectual elites joined with the conservative clergy to overthrow the Western-backed monarchy of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Both the aristocracy and clergy wanted to remove the influence of foreign nations, stabilize an economy suffering from high inflation and overspending on large modernization projects, and regain previous power roles and wealth that government corruption and the Shah’s growing oppression of dissidents had taken away from them.

Soon after ousting the Shah’s regime, the revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini declared Iran an Islamic republic. The religious right quickly removed their secular, leftist allies from power, and enforced a return to the conservative religious and social values that the Shah had upended with his modernization program. The general populace—who had seen their country move rapidly from a conservative rural society to a modern urban and industrial one in less than a generation—welcomed the change.

Kashan, Iran: Iranian families suffer increasing inflation, unemployment, and distrust of their corrupt government. Photo: grigvovan

The Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) implemented Islam and forced its laws in every area: personal life, family and society. The people of Iran have seen theocratic Islam in action firsthand for 40 years.

What do they think now?

In a series of blogs over the next few weeks, I will discuss the current spiritual, political, social, and economic climate in Iran and why I believe Islamic rule in Iran is nearing its end.

Part 1

The Current Spiritual Climate of Iran

After 40 years of theocratic rule, the people have changed their spiritual thinking and behavior.

Rejection of Islam

The people of Iran have seen Islamic rule in action for 40 years. A growing number have concluded that Islam is not the answer to their problems; it is the source of their problems. They realize that if they want a better future for their country, they need to get rid of Islam and Islamic rule. 

The rejection of Islam has occurred little by little over many years, not overnight. It is not an emotional reaction to suffering and injustice but rather a thoughtful and deliberate decision. The number of people who want nothing to do with Islam grows daily. We now get reports regularly from our viewers saying such things as, “My uncle who was a devout Muslim and pro-government just one year ago now says Islam is not of God and is interested in Christianity.”

The rejection of Islam is so wide and deep that I can boldly say Iran is turning away from Islam and will never go back to it. Indeed, Islam is experiencing the greatest defeat of its history in Iran today.

“My uncle who was a devout Muslim and pro-government just one year ago now says Islam is not of God and is interested in Christianity.”

–Report from Iranian viewer

Growth of secularism

As a result of the rejection of Islam, Iranians have become attracted to secularism both politically and socially. They do not want to be religious. They want to be free, and they think that to live free means to do whatever they desire to do. Many are embracing a life of immorality, drugs, sex, and hedonism—a total reaction to the oppressive dictatorship of Islam. Since Islam was forced on them as the best religion in the world, they say, “If this was the best religion, let’s forget about the rest.” As a result, those who walk away from Islam usually do not want anything to do with any organized religion including Christianity, until we show them that Christianity is not like Islam. This is why so many have come to Christ through our satellite broadcasts.

Growth of Christianity

Currently, Christianity is more respected and valued in Iran than Islam. This attitude is amazing because Iran is still a Muslim country and almost all were born as Muslims. I just read a quote on Instagram from a Muslim addressing the clergy in Iran: “I’d rather go to hell with Christians than go to heaven with Muslims like you.” The media, and especially satellite broadcasts, have had a major role in dispersing the lies and misconceptions about Christianity such as these: Christians worship three Gods, they are blasphemers, they are drunkards and live immoral lives. According to Operation World Research, Iran has the fastest growing evangelical population in the world with 19.6 percent growth per year. 

Persecution of Christians

Persecution in Iran is a reaction of the government to the growth of Christianity. The government has, to a great extent, destroyed its opposition inside the country. They feel safely in control because they know the people of Iran are reluctant to bear arms and start a violent revolution. The only wildcard out of their control that can threaten their future is the growth of Christianity. They realize they cannot stop this growth, but they are trying to slow it by intimidating Christians so they will neither witness nor gather together. It is a campaign of intimidation and isolation. 

Spiritual freedom of the younger generation

The emerging younger generation is free from fear. They have little fear of the government. They are convinced that Islam is not of God, so they are not afraid to deny Islam. Religion is a non-issue for them. They want change but are unwilling to use violence to topple the government. They live a hopeless life not seeing any bright future for themselves. Suicide, drug addiction, and sexual immorality are rampant among the youth in Iran. The good news is that once they come to Christ and find a purpose in their lives, they boldly spread the gospel. Many are not even afraid of arrests and even death. I heard many young Christians say “I am not afraid of death because before Jesus, I was dead; indeed, He gave me life.” Another young man told me, “I am not afraid of them. They are afraid of me and my gospel message.”

The role of satellite broadcasts

Satellite broadcasts have been essential for delivering information to Iranians’ living rooms despite the government’s obsessive control of media and communication within the country. The government regulates and monitors the internet in Iran, so searching online can be very dangerous. But watching the 40 illegal but available satellite channels in the privacy of a home is not dangerous. The people of Iran get the latest news and hear the voices of government opposition 24/7 via satellite. 

Iranians watch Church 7 on live satellite broadcast.

Satellite broadcasts have been essential for delivering information to Iranians’ living rooms despite the government’s obsessive control of media and communication within the country. The government regulates and monitors the internet in Iran, so searching online can be very dangerous. But watching the 40 illegal but available satellite channels in the privacy of a home is not dangerous. The people of Iran get the latest news and hear the voices of government opposition 24/7 via satellite. 

Satellite broadcast has played a great role in evangelizing Muslims and strengthening persecuted Christians as well. There are an estimated 3 million Muslim background believers in Iran (some put a conservative estimate at 1 million and some extrapolate up to 6 million). Most have never been to a church of any kind even once. They are prisoners in their homes when it comes to worship or learning more about Jesus. The number of underground house churches and the count of people attending them are very small compared to the total number of Christians. It is estimated that only 5 percent of Christians in Iran are a part of the underground church. That is why Iran Alive’s global church and its broadcast services are so popular in Iran—it is the only church the people have available and can belong to. 

Freedom from Islam’s spiritual bondage

Spiritually, a veil has been lifted from the minds of Iranians. Muslims, in general, prohibit independent thought and questioning their faith. I have seen intelligent Muslims with PhDs freeze up when I ask them questions that require them to think independently rather than repeat answers given by an authority. In Iran, however, using reason and questioning Islam has become a norm and even a fad. Unlike Muslims in other countries, an increasing number of Iranian Muslims are looking at Islam objectively and considering other options with an open mind. 

Diminishing hatred toward the Jews

Hatred towards the Jews and Israel is diminishing gradually. First, those who come to Christ learn from the Bible to pray for Israel and that the Lord has special plans for the Jewish nation. They also learn that the Lord wants them to love all nations including the Jews. Such love is expected of true Christians, but what is unexpected is that a growing number of Muslimsare also questioning the government’s mandate to hate the Jews and wipe Israel off the map. There is such distrust toward the government that when the government sets up rallies shouting, “Death to Israel,” they say, “We don’t trust you. Tell us why we should hate Israel. What have they done to us? You are our true enemy not them.”

Iran has been approaching this turn in its spiritual climate for many years, and now, especially in this past year, it is picking up speed.

Next week: the current political climate of Iran.


Why Is Christmas the Season for Persecuting Christians in Iran?

Recently, and especially in the past two weeks, we have seen massive numbers of Christians arrested in Iran. This surge in persecution has occurred every Christmas for the past few years. Some people have asked me why. To help you understand what is going on in Iran, I will give three reasons:

1. More Iranian Muslims come to Christ during the Christmas season than any other time.

Muslim women shop for Christmas items.

The Islamic government of Iran knows, just as we do, that more Muslims come to Christ during the Christmas season than any other time of the year. The joyful time of Christmas stands out against the many “mourning holidays” filling the Iranian calendar and so is attractive to Iranian Muslims. Therefore, not only Christians but also many Muslims love the Christmas season and celebrate it. Many Muslims set up a Christmas tree in their homes with decorations and gifts under it, knowing well that it is a Christian celebration.

Our underground house church network (and many others) do their greatest outreach during the Christmas season. They throw Christmas parties in their homes and invite Muslim friends and family members who gladly accept, knowing they are being invited to a Christian gathering. 

Even as the meaning of Christmas is fading in the US into merely a “holiday season” concept, people of Iran—both Christians and Muslims—celebrate Christmas distinctly as the birthday of Jesus. So, when Muslims are invited by a Christian friend to go to a Christmas party, they know the theme will be a celebration of Jesus’s birthday. Therefore, they are not shocked when the gospel is shared with them in those parties and an invitation is made to trust Jesus as Savior—they expect it, are ready for it, and many times go to the party prepared to make a decision for Christ. 

Muslims accept Christ as their Savior at a Christmas party given by underground house church leaders in Iran.

We take advantage of this open season through our satellite broadcast as well. Our programs become more straight-forward evangelistic conversations as we talk about the meaning of Christmas. Every Christmas, we broadcast the Jesusfilm multiple times in various dialects of Iran. We see many Muslims respond to these Christmas broadcasts and come to Christ. 

2. The government is alarmed and reacts out of fear. 

As the situation in Iran deteriorates financially, socially, and morally, more Muslims are open to the gospel. The underground church in Iran is growing, and the government is alarmed and increasingly feels threatened. Recently, Ayatollah Boroujerdi—director of a high-profile Islamic seminary in Qum, Vatican of Shiite Islam—stated that “accurate reports indicate that the youth are becoming Christians in Qom and attending house churches.” 

Because of sanctions, the Islamic Republic of Iran is in a financial crunch. They cannot afford to put much of their limited resources into monitoring and containing the fast-growing number of Christians. Therefore, they turn to a policy of intimidation. That is, they arrest some Christians and publicize it to put fear in the hearts of others, hoping that they will not dare have Christmas parties and will cancel ones already planned. 

“Accurate reports indicate that the youth are becoming Christians in Qom and attending house churches.

—Ayatollah Boroujerdi

3. Government branches compete for limited funds through persecution. 

In Iran, several offices from various branches of government work to make sure the power will stay in the hands of the Mullahs and the Revolutionary Guard. These offices all have a mandate and authority to arrest and destroy all who might threaten the future of the government. This includes Christians. So, because of the current scarcity of finances, they must constantly compete for better funding. They win more resources for their office by showing their effectiveness in stopping Christians. Therefore, they 

  • try to arrest as many Christians as possible, and 
  • they make a big deal out of the arrests and publicize them in the news. 

Their motive is not just to intimidate Christians, but also to show their higher-ups they are worthy of funding. As Christmas approaches, I expect that these arrests will continue and intensify. So please pray for Iranian Christians to be safe, wise, and alert. Also pray that they will be bold and not be intimidated by the Islamic government and will continue to evangelize Muslims through Christmas parties. Pray that many Muslims will come to Christ this month both in our underground house churches through personal evangelism and also through our satellite broadcasts as a result of our special evangelistic Christmas programs. 

What Should the Worldwide Church Do Now?

This entry is part 6 of 6 in the series What Is Happening in Iran?

 

What Is Happening in Iran?
Part 6

Building the church

What Should the Worldwide Church Do Now?


This post is part 6 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, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5.

Too many times in history, the Church has missed open doors for the gospel and arrived too late. Japan wanted the gospel message right after World War II. We missed it. Russia wanted the gospel in the years just before the Soviet Union collapsed. We missed it. Too many times, God has softened hearts through suffering, and the Church has stood on the sidelines and waited until those soft hearts have hardened again more solidly than before.

Let us not let that mistake happen again! Here are steps we can take to honor what God is doing in Iran:

Keep busy evangelizing. The harvest is ready, but the workers are few. This is the time of the harvest and we must multiply our efforts. According to my experience, these days evangelizing Iranian Muslims living inside the country is very easy. Many Iranians come to Christ even with a simple message. This opportunity will go away when the government collapses. Then workers will come to the field and find the ground bare.

Focus on Bible education and discipleship. Iranian believers today have a supernatural hunger. They want to know the Bible. They want to grow in their faith and be useful for God’s Kingdom. This hunger will lessen in intensity after the government collapses.

Train Leaders. Training new leaders is the greatest need of the church in Iran today and the most strategic action to prepare for the change of government in Iran. There are many believers in Iran, but they are without shepherds. They are without leaders and elders. We must act now to train leaders. When Iran opens, it will be too late.

At Iran Alive, we pray and ask the Lord to give us the “Issachar” anointing, so we know what to do when. We continue to evangelize using the media. We are preaching and teaching the word of God to masses. But we believe the most strategic thing God is asking us to do is to train leaders now. That is why starting the 412 Leadership School tops our agenda and focus.

We invite churches, organizations, and individuals to join us in taking advantage of this historic opportunity to build God’s church in Iran. The time is short and this window of opportunity is about to close. We must act fast and decisively. We must remember that whatever happens in Iran—good or bad—will impact the whole Middle East.


If you wish to partner with us to train leaders and harvest new believers in Iran, please go to www.iranaliveministries.org and help us fund the launch of the 412 School of leadership.

To learn more ways to help, please contact me at hormoz@IranAliveMinistries.org or (469) 982-0000. Or text “Iran” to 74784 for more information.


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 this week, I have provided a short commentary on What is happening in Iran. Click on the navigation links below to read the whole series.

 

What Will Happen to the Church in Iran?

This entry is part 5 of 6 in the series What Is Happening in Iran?

What Is Happening in Iran?—Part 5

40226858 - christian religion. illustration with cross of christ and believers
The gospel and leader-training windows are open widest now —before political and economic changes occur. Photo: Carlos Castilla

What Will Happen to the Church in Iran?


This post is part 5 of a six-part series on the current state of Iran and its church. To read the entire series now, click hereIf you missed earlier posts, you can read them here: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4.

In Iran, Islam has experienced the greatest defeat in its history. According to Operation World, Iran currently has the fastest growing evangelical population across the globe. Iran’s desperate situation has created a perfect storm for the cause of Christ. Millions have rejected Islam and are open to the message of the gospel. There are now over 3 million believers in Iran.

What will happen when the regime changes in Iran?

Spiritual hunger will suddenly die down. Iranians will suddenly have another hope besides Christ. Non-believers will be more interested in and focused on bringing a democracy to Iran than considering the claims of Christ.

Iranians will have freedom to assemble and start churches. The underground believers will gather into large communities and start many churches. Many evangelists will visit Iran to conduct stadium-size gatherings. Many denominations will send their workers to start new denominational churches. Many Iranian believers will start their own independent churches as well. We must bear in mind, however, that the 3 million believers in Iran are mostly new believers. Many will be distracted by the political events. Many will be deceived by cults and will join cultish churches. Many will start weak churches because they do not have any biblical training. So the visible church will suddenly grow—but it will be weak.

Opportunities for expansion of the gospel in Iran will grow, but so will the dangers that can undercut the gospel’s power. The Church at large has a responsibility at this historic time to be wise concerning Iran and to redeem the time that God has given us.


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: What can the worldwide Church do to support its Persian brothers and sisters?

What Options for Survival Does Iran’s Government Have?

This entry is part 4 of 6 in the series What Is Happening in Iran?

What Is Happening in Iran?—Part 4

iran-protests-tehran-2
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?

This entry is part 3 of 6 in the series What Is Happening in 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 entry is part 2 of 6 in the series What Is Happening in Iran?

 


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?

This entry is part 1 of 6 in the series What Is Happening in Iran?

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.

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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

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Challenges and Opportunities for the Iranian Church

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.