Do you know that I am constantly humbled by the young people of Iran? They come to Christ in record numbers and serve God with passion and great love for Him. And they share their Savior even more when the government tries to stop them.
Youth in Iran Choosing Christ
Last week, Fox News spoke with my friend Mani Erfan, CEO and founder of CCM Ministries. Mani has been on our board of directors, and together we have served the underground church movement in Iran for the last fifteen years. Fox News reported an astronomical increase in Iranian citizens converting to Christianity in recent years. Mani explained, “It’s been predominantly young people. We call it an awakening.”
If the current trend continues, experts predict that the number of Christians in Iran will soon exceed 7 million. It’s true that due to restrictions and persecution, no one can count with full certainty the number of people adhering to a faith outlawed by the Islamic regime. But we at Iran Alive know through our daily interactions with Iranians that far more Muslims are committing their lives to Jesus than is often told to the public by news and tabulating services.
Therefore, it is very possible that Christians will account for 10 percent of Iran’s population by 2020.
Middle East Paradigm Shift
This number constitutes a major paradigm shift not only for Iran but the whole region. War with the Islamic State (ISIS) has decimated the numbers of Christians in regions such as Iraq and Syria. A majority have been killed, forced to convert, or have fled. Iraq’s 1.5 million Christians in 2003 number only a possible 275,000 now.
So when I often say that I expect that Iran will become a Christian nation in this generation and a light to the whole Middle East—even to Israel—this is why: Iran’s Christians are multiplying and becoming an army of love and good news, reaching out to their neighbors and pointing them to the true Savior. The youth have seen the ugly insides of Islam and a repressive regime—and they have discovered the love and joy of Jesus. To them, there is no comparison, and no other option for them other than to surrender their lives to Christ, whether that means living or dying for Him.
Iran—A Spiritual Battleground
But, my dear friends, this astounding growth of Christianity—and with it the growth of secret and illegal church meetings in homes—also means that Iran will continue to be a major spiritual battleground over the next few years and beyond. Satan is losing his stronghold over Iran. A losing enemy is a dangerous enemy.
We must increase our commitment to pray for our dear brothers and sisters in Iran—and we must also pray for those dear Muslims on whose behalf God is working even now, to draw them to Himself. We must increase our commitment to support the growing but fledgling church in Iran as it works to disciple its members and throw off the chains of an oppressive regime.
I am honored to be a part of this great turn in the history of the Middle East. Won’t you join me?
Chiaramonte, Perry. “Underground Church Grows in Iran Despite Regime’s Efforts.” Fox News, November 28, 2016.
Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. —Ephesians 6:12, NIV
When people hear me talking or read my posts that say ISIS and terrorists are following the true Islam, some accuse me of hating Muslims. I do not hate Muslims. I love them. All people are treasures in God’s eyes. Muslims are treasures, and Jesus gave His life to buy them back—redeem them.
Muslims are not our enemy. Satan alone is our enemy, and Muslims are his captives whom we are called to set free. To set the Muslim captives free, we must strike a blow against Satan, and we do that by loving Muslims.
We Love Muslims by First Praying for Them
A huge part of loving Muslims is praying for them. The spirit of Islam blinds them to the truth of Christ. Islam is a spirit and not just a theology or a philosophy. You cannot reason a Muslim to Christ because Islam does not allow Muslims to think about and question what they believe.
In the past month, Muslims across the world celebrated Ramadan, a month-long time of fasting and recommitment to Islam. It’s a spiritual battle month because during this time Muslims are recommitting themselves to the spirit of Islam, and Satan is re-enslaving those that belong to him.
Ten ministries coordinated by author Tom Doyle and CBN News recently joined in a worldwide effort “to encourage Christians to pray specifically for a move of God’s spirit to draw Muslims to Jesus Christ during Ramadan.” Voice of the Martyrs, one of the ministries that participated in this Facebook Live event, has written about the event and my participation here.
I had the honor of being the second speaker for this CBN broadcast. Hundreds of thousands viewed it and prayed along with me despite some technical difficulties with the video. You can find the broadcast here. (Please scroll through the first few seconds to get to where I begin speaking.)
I want to thank the Lord publically for these prayers and His response. I know He hears and is moving even now to remove the blindness and fear from hearts and to draw Muslims to Himself.
Even though it is no longer Ramadan, we must continue praying for Muslims. Jesus is attractive. The message of the Gospel is sweet. But why don’t Muslims believe when they hear it? Because there is a spiritual battle for their souls that is trying to keep them in slavery through fear and intimidation. We can win this battle first through prayer and then through loving them.
We Must Love Muslims by Also Praying for Ourselves
We must pray for Muslims, and then, as our next step of loving Muslims, we need to pray for ourselves.
Terrorism and Islamic jihad are scary. I do not want to belittle the brutality and evil of what we have seen and heard, especially in recent months. But as Christians, we must remember that God is love and that love casts out all fear (1 Jn 4:8, 18). So if we are fearful and hateful of Muslims—even if we are indifferent!—that is not of God. The spirit of Islam is the spirit of fear and hate. May I even say that if you are fearful and hateful towards Muslims, you are submitting to the very spirit of Islam? So we must pray for our own hearts to be filled with God’s love—to be free from fear and hatred.
When we share the truth with love, the captives will be freed. Please join with me to confront the spirit of Islam with the best weapons we have: prayer and love.
VOM. “Praying for Muslims: Hormoz Shariat.” Persecution Blog. Accessed August 1, 2016.
CBN News. “Ramadan Prayer Outreach to Muslims Reaches over 7 Million People.” CBN.com (beta). Accessed August 2, 2016.
My dear friends, may God richly bless you in this new year. I thank you for all you have accomplished through Iran Alive Ministries in 2015 even as I pray for what God will do through us all in 2016. I pray earnestly for the year ahead because in looking back over what God has done in Iran and the world in the past year, the word on my heart for 2016 is “urgency.”
Major events are happening in the world very fast. Look at ISIS and the spread of terrorism in 2015 alone! Yet there is also another growing trend of which most of the West is unaware. Iran is the most open Muslim country in the world right now to the Gospel. It is the only Muslim country where Christianity is growing and Islam is experiencing its greatest defeat in its 14 centuries of existence. The government is threatened by this, but they haven’t been able to close the door of Christian growth.
“A great door for effective work has opened to me,
and there are many who oppose me.” (1 Corinthians 16:9 NIV)
But because the western Church is afraid of Muslim terrorism and has no working strategy to stop it, many in the Church have stayed spiritually blind to what God is doing in Iran. God wants to save the nation of Iran and make it a light in the Middle East.
We must work with urgency while this great door is open.
“We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day;
night is coming, when no one can work.” (John 9:4 ESV)
I fully believe that Iran will be the first Muslim country to bring the Jews to jealousy according to Romans 11:11 (“salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious”). The Iranian government has continued to proclaim that its greatest enemy is Israel, shouting, “Death to Israel!” and “We will wipe Israel off the map!” But I believe when the Jews see that the country that threatened their existence has suddenly turned friendly and started loving them, they will wake up to Christ’s message and become jealous of Christian faith among Iranians.
This transition is already happening.
In a country where Christianity is forbidden,
Muslim hearts are turning to Jesus
by the thousands every month.
Let us praise God for these Christ connections in 2015:
32,902—Phone and email communications
9,750,914—Total website hits and views on social media
67,810—Evangelistic chat room attendance
8,760—Hours of broadcasts
The number of people who have prayed with us
to receive Christ since our first broadcast in 2001:
Praise God for His work in the lives of Persians through Iran Alive Ministries. Our overall strategy is working! Here are a few main parts of that strategy:
- We are working toward not just converting people but also transforming lives. We teach not “easy believism” through television (as most Americans think of TV believers) but total surrender of life even unto death.
- We are targeting not only the masses to come to Christ but also those at the top: government officials, marketplace leaders, high-ranking military commanders, and top clergy. Yes, these top officials are secretly coming to Christ and sharing with us that they have done so.
- We aim not just to train church leaders but also to develop society leaders in government, media, arts, the marketplace, and education. As an example just this past month, a secular media mogul came to Christ. He and his family own the largest network of secular satellite channels in Iran. I am discipling and guiding them to be effective for Christ right where they are.
God wants to save Iran. Pray with me that we can transform it into a Christian nation in this generation!
In Iran, there are no above ground churches. Even underground churches, while effective and growing, are only accessible to 1% of all believers due to fear and security. That is where our Global Church for Iran, or Church 7 strategy, provides a lifeline for the estimated 2 million believers who have no other option for church of any kind. No option for fellowship, discipleship, training or encouragement that is readily available and enjoyed by those of us in the West.
Watch this exciting video to see what Iran Alive Ministries is doing about this problem.
Without question, Satellite TV is a tremendous vehicle for reaching vast numbers of people with the saving Message of the Gospel. In Iran, it is the safest, most effective and efficient method of reaching millions of people who are hungry for hope.
We believe that a conservative estimate of viewers of our network to be between 3 million and 6 million people inside Iran at any given time. When you consider that there are around 1 million believers in Iran, the overwhelming majority of our viewers are Muslims who are seeking and not yet followers of Christ. Many of these people are high-ranking government officials, top businessmen and key politicians who are looking for hope themselves.
Recently, one of these men called our Counseling Center Ministry to tell of his experience watching our programming. Watch the video to hear his story and learn more about our 2-fold strategy.
Only days ago, we received the following email from a viewer inside Iran. What struck me deeply, was her proclamation, “Our God is not a God of depression, but He is the God of joy!” To you and I, this may seem like a sweet, but logical conclusion that any Believer would make. I want you to know that this is nothing short of miraculous coming from a former Muslim… particularly a woman!
Depression and suicide are pandemic in Iran, especially among women who have virtually no value in an Islamic Theocracy where they are treated with disdain and cruelty. For Bahar (name changed to protect her identity) to draw this conclusion and embrace the identity of a valued daughter of the living God is one of the most tangible evidences we see of life transformation.
Here is her email:
Hello Dear ones,
I thank God for all of you at Network 7 for walking with the strength of the Lord. There is one thing that gives me a lot strength and it is that all of you always have smiles on your faces and are joyful.
I have decided to walk with the strength and joy of the Lord this week and receive my strength from Him. I want to claim the truth as to what an incredible God I have and what amazing things He is doing for me. I have come to know that our God is not a God of depression, but He is the God of joy and wants His children to live peace and joy! You prayed a prayer a few weeks ago and said that God cares about our tears and collects them with His hands. This strengthened me and made me realize that God is next to me, which I do not take it for granted. I proclaim that my God is a living God and close to me.
I felt like I should email this to you and tell you that I love you guys so much.
May the joy of the Lord be with you.
Please join me in praying for Bahar to be joined by millions of other Persian women who will encounter the living hope found only in Christ and find their value in the finished work of the cross for them.
Recently, I received a touching email from one of our Church 7 members via our Counseling Center Ministry. God is penetrating the hearts of Iranians unlike any other time in history. Amir is being transformed through hearing God’s Word and applying it’s teachings to his life. Here is what he wrote to me:
Dear Pastor Hormoz,
I would like to share a testimony regarding the topic of the Samaritan woman, which you have been preaching about for the past few weeks.
I always tried to have a good relationship with my family and others, but it had been so difficult for me and I prefer to be alone because these relationships have caused me so much sadness and stress in the past.
When I heard the sermon, Christ met me like He met the Samaritan woman and changed my life. I now love to meet new people, spend time with my family and I even love my enemies. It is so strange, but I do not feel like I did before and I am not upset with anyone anymore.
I have a joy that comes from the inside and I like to transfer this joy to others. I really receive more than I give and I enjoy these relationships with people in ways that I never thought I could. Now I understand what life is really all about.
Thank you for teaching God’s Word to me. I am grateful for you all.
Please join me in continuing to pray that millions of Iranians will be transformed by the Word of God, just like Amir!