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.
It used to take me weeks or months working with Persians who were interested in Christianity to convince them to choose Christ. For the older generations, the spirit of Islam lay heavy on them, a blindfold on their minds that prevented them from grasping the Gospel, truth, or often even logic. Fear of Islam and fear of the government would paralyze them.
But young people in Iran are now so open to Christ. The generation in their early twenties and younger often call or write to say, “I was watching your satellite TV program, and something in me said I need Jesus, and I’m ready.” No questions about Islam and Christianity. No fear of Islam or the government. Just, they are ready to choose Christ.
Why is this happening now? What is the change? Let me offer five reasons based on the regular testimony we receive from Iran’s young people.
- The depth of hopelessness is immense.
Young people under 25 look at their older siblings who have worked so hard to earn bachelor degrees, master degrees, and even PhDs and see that they are miserable. War and decades of harsh rule and sanctions have caused those in their thirties to early forties to name themselves the “Burnt Generation.” They can’t find jobs, they can’t afford to get married, and they have no future. So the younger generation says that even if we work hard, that’s our future. Life is empty.
- Sex and drugs have become normalized in the youth culture.
With no future or greater purpose to live for, young people even as young as 12 and 13 fill the void with promiscuous sex and drugs. In the larger cities, this destructive lifestyle has become so normalized among the youth that if a young person avoids these “fixes” for their hopelessness, they are considered weird and are ostracized.
- The spirit of fear has lifted from them.
While it is true that the Islamic government of Iran forbids such partying, the news media regularly report arrests of young people taking part in these activities. Unlike their parents and older siblings, who fear the consequences of such actions, the younger Persians assume that partying is the only pleasure they have.
They don’t care what the consequences are; they are not really afraid of the government. They say, “Kill me, kill me. I’m dead anyway.”
They aren’t afraid of Islam or Allah. They have rejected all religions and wanted secularism; they want to be like Americans.
- They discover that Christianity has a loving and forgiving God.
Yes, the drive toward secularism can become a challenge for sharing the Gospel. But these young people reject all religions because they assume that Christianity is just like Islam—or worse. So from just one broadcast on our Iran Alive satellite network, Network 7, they begin to see that Christianity is not what they thought before. The program speaks to what is in their hearts: that if there is a God, He is a loving and forgiving God.
Suddenly, they realize this Jesus is exactly what they need. They want Him, and they taste the hope He can give them. Now their lack of fear for the government and their understanding that they were “dead” in their life before Jesus becomes a huge positive for following Jesus. They are ready to live and die for Christ. The depth of their commitment frequently brings me to tears when we talk. We have to remind them to be careful so they can live and minister as long as they can!
As disciples, these young believers are ready to listen and be corrected. Unlike their parents, who would be offended by direct correction, the young people love straight talk. They become soldiers for Jesus, ready to run for the Lord.
- Jesus is moving in Iran, testifying about Himself through dreams and visions.
More than anything else, young people are choosing Christ because He is choosing them. We regularly receive testimonies from those to whom Jesus has appeared in a dream or vision. God is moving in Iran, according to His promise Jeremiah 49:38, “I will set my throne in Elam (Iran).”
This generation is so ready, so desperate. Give them a vision, give them a goal, and they will run with it.
We have in this current time an amazing opportunity to reach out and raise an entire generation of soldiers for Christ. I am grieved because time is passing, and we are merely harvesting the edges of a vast, ripe field. Many contact us weekly, and we cannot disciple them all in a meaningful way due to limited resources. We have to take in a few, and leave the rest outside the door.
Would you consider praying and thanking God for these young people? Would you consider joining in our efforts to give the youth in Iran hope in Christ and to transform Iran in this generation? You can find out more about our ministry through this link.
Islam demands obedience but provides no power to obey. Muslims are desperate for the power and grace to change that Jesus offers. I want to share with you a quick story of how Jesus is transforming Iran by letting His presence and His power become known to Persians through our ministry. Arman contacted us through email to let us know how Iran Alive’s counselors and satellite television broadcasts (Network 7) helped free him from bondage:
My name is Arman, and I’m 32 years old from Iran.
At the age of 18, I became addicted to pornography. By the time I was 24 years old, I was tired of myself and my addiction, and I didn’t know what to do.
I thought if I got married, I would be healed of needing to watch pornography. But my addiction continued even after my marriage.
It got to a point where I started cheating on my wife. I forced my wife to sleep with others, and I would sometimes find another woman to have a threesome with us.
Then I was introduced to Network 7. When I watched the program, I became disgusted with myself and the things I had done. I felt very filthy!
I contacted your counselors, and little by little the Lord started changing my ways of thinking. I received healing and freedom from this bondage. I now feel God’s presence and strength in my life.
Because of the changes in me, my wife has become interested to learn more about Christ, and she follows Network 7. I have been called to grow in the Lord and work with young people who are in the same bondage. I want to be a soldier for Him.
Praise God for how He is working in Iran! May He raise up an Army of Love that will transform the whole nation in this generation.
*As with all of my posts, names and faces have been changed to protect the identities of those involved.
In my last post, I wrote about how this nuclear deal will negatively impact the U.S. government and its citizens (click here), and also how it will benefit the Islamic government of Iran. Today, we’ll look at how this deal will impact the people of Iran and especially how it will affect the spiritual revival that is going on in Iran.
3) Bad Deal – for the people of Iran (physically)
The people of Iran—and specially the younger generation—have been celebrating this nuclear deal by dancing in the streets. The reason for their celebration, however, is totally different from why Iran’s government celebrates. The Islamic government of Iran rejoices because they were thrown a lifeline. It now has the resources to extend its existence and power and to pursue its goals nationally and internationally.
On the other hand, the people of Iran have been praising this deal because:
- They think the removal of sanctions and the influx of more than $100 billion will improve their economic condition.
- They think that this is the start of a normalized relationship with the U.S. Yes, most Iranians, and especially the younger generation, love and admire the United States as a country as well as its people. If it were their decision, they would want a close relationship with the U.S. You should know that “Death to America” is the goal of only Iran’s Islamic government—not Iran’s people.
The people of Iran are happy because of these two hopes. But I believe they will soon be very disappointed because:
- This money will NOT improve the economic condition of the country and will not benefit its people. On the contrary, this money will be used to oppress the people even more. The government will buy and develop a better technology to control and suppress its people. I believe that the Iranian government will use this money to establish a National Internet—just like China—to disconnect its people from the outside world.
- Since the supreme leader, Khamenei, has already declared that the U.S. is still Iran’s number one enemy, its relationship with Iran will not normalize anytime soon. Iran’s policy towards the U.S. will not change.
4) Good Deal – for the people of Iran (spiritually)
Over the last few years, Iran’s government has totally destroyed its political opposition. At the moment no political movement or leader is a threat. The only situation that alarms the Iranian government is the growth of Christianity. It is the only group out of their control. That is the reason that the persecution of Christians has increased drastically in the last two years.
I believe as the number of Christians and the house churches grows, Iran’s government will increase its persecution even more. It will allocate more money and personnel to stop this transformation of its people. As a result, more Christians will be arrested and jailed. Terrorist acts against Iranian Christians outside the United States will start. (Please pray for us as once again we are receiving serious threats.)
But this new wave of persecution will strengthen the church in Iran. First, the disappointment, hopelessness, and disillusionment of people in Iran will increase. This will make millions more Iranian Muslims open to the message of the Gospel. Second, the persecution of Christians will strengthen and purify the church. Since the rise of persecution two years ago, we have seen the rise of a generation of young leaders (under 25) who are not afraid of the government—not even afraid of dying for their faith in Jesus. We will see more Christians rise up with that type of deep relationship with the Lord and commitment to serve Him.
In spiritual terms, then, the nuclear agreement will become, with much heartache, a good deal for the Iranian people.
Please pray for us at Iran Alive as the Lord has graciously positioned us to have a major impact in Iran. Over the last 14 years, by His Grace, we have established a heart connection with millions of Iranians inside Iran, have been instrumental in bringing tens of thousands of Iranian Muslims to Christ, and had a major part in establishing hundreds of house churches in tens of cities in Iran.
We are now starting new underground house church networks. The government of Iran knows that we have such plans and understandably is not happy about it. We are already getting a new wave of threats. We need your prayer for protection. We also need your support so that we will not shrink back in ministry but will take full advantage of this opening of heaven in Iran to establish a strong church that will not be wiped out but be strengthened by persecution.
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5. Will the US and Iran partner in Iraq to stop ISIS?
- Both have similar interests: to help the current Shiite Government of Iraq maintain control and stop the Sunni ISIS from taking over Iraq.
- They may partner in some ways to help stop ISIS but will never acknowledge it publicly.
- Iran has a major influence in Iraq where the majority of the population is Shiites and the government is led by Shiites.
- Iran’s goal has been to get the US out of Iraq and be the sole influencer of the Shiite Iraqi regime. They are happy that the US has pulled out of Iraq and do not want to see the US’s influence and presence increase. Therefore, they may work with the US for the short time but will want the US out of Iraq as soon as ISIS is stopped.
- Christians in Iraq and Syria have been persecuted and have been leaving as refugees.
- Under ISIS, the killing and persecution of Christians will dramatically increase. It has already started and there will be a mass exodus of Christians.
- The brutality of ISIS will cause millions of Muslims to have an objective look at Islam. Many of them will come to reject Islam and become open to the message of the Gospel. This is what happened in Iran. Millions of Syrian refugees have seen the brutality of Islamist “freedom fighters” of ISIS. Many of them are coming to Christ in refugee camps in Turkey.
3. Who is ISIS?
- ISIS stands for Islamic State in Iraq and (greater) Syria.
- They are the coalition of Sunni forces in Iraq and Syria.
- Their immediate goal is to topple two Shiite governments in Iraq and Syria.
- Their intermediate goal is to have a unified Sunni state that covers the whole region including Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Israel.
- Their long-term goal is to bring back a worldwide rule of Caliphates. They believe that they are mandated by the Quran to do so and use as much violence as needed to accomplish that goal.
- They are much stronger than Al-Qaeda in numbers, unity, and finances. They have performed mass executions, even including women and children. They are so violent and brutal that Al-Qaeda looks conservative and moderate comparatively.
- When in power, they will be the number one source of terrorism in the world.