Massive numbers of Iranians have come to Jesus in recent years! From only 500 Muslim-background believers in 1979, many estimates suggest the number is even greater than 1 million just in Iran alone. Large numbers of Persian people have also encountered the risen Christ outside of Iran. The Church in Persia has not grown this fast since the 7th century. In Iran, a person can receive a death sentence for apostasy (abandoning religious faith). This growth is a remarkable move of the Holy Spirit, with many signs and wonders, dreams and visions.
The Iranian Diaspora is around four million. Most have found refuge in the USA, Canada, Western Europe, Turkey, Gulf States and other lands - where they can be evangelized. Western countries are making it harder for Iranians to immigrate. Pray for:
- Diaspora churches. There are probably over 1,000 Persian-speaking Iranian churches and house fellowships, totalling more than 200,000 people. Unity is frequently a challenge. Yet these diaspora Christians are highly active and generous regarding ministry into Iran and among other Iranians abroad; their contribution in this regard is crucial.
- Ministries reaching out to the diaspora, providing not only evangelism tools and outreach but also church planting, discipleship and leadership training, so that Iranians living abroad will be reached and hopefully then reach other Iranians. Christian refugees fleeing from persecution are also assisted. Many diaspora Christians visit Iran and powerfully minister to their countrymen. Significant ministries include Elam Ministries, 222 Ministries, Persian World Outreach, Iran Alive Ministries and Iranian Christians International.
Young people are particularly responsive to the gospel. With nearly two-thirds of the population under age 30, with disillusionment at an all-time high and with frustrated desires for freedom, there is a unique window of opportunity to impact this generation with the liberating good news about Jesus. Political, economic and social frustrations are often expressed in resentment against the regime and in increasing hedonism and materialism. Pray that the unmet longings of their hearts might be fulfilled as they meet Christ. Already, much of the underground church is made up of this younger generation.
Leadership training and development are absolutely vital if the burgeoning Church in Iran is to continue to grow and mature. The countless house churches need to see capable leaders trained, and these leaders in turn must be taught to train others as Iranian fellowships keep multiplying. Much training of Iranian Christian workers occurs abroad. Elam Ministries operates residential courses in the region and in Europe; much of their material has been filmed for wider distribution. There are growing numbers studying via correspondence courses, with one online Bible college in Persian having over 500 students. Short-term training courses are happening in several regions as well. Other Iranians study in English-language programmes. Pray for the development and distribution of programmes that will cultivate many passionate, capable and well-trained leaders for the underground Church in Iran.
Christian media for prayer:
- Bibles are in very short supply and very high demand - 10 million Bibles would be readily received. It is illegal to print and distribute the Scriptures, yet they continue to slip into the country. Several ministries, especially Elam Ministries and Open Doors, focus on increasing the availability of Scripture to Iranians. There are three translations of the Bible in Persian, with another version due out in 2012. Pray for innovative and effective ways of distributing God's Word and for a deep impact to be made through it. Pray also for translation teams to be raised up for the other languages that have a need for Scripture translation.
- Christian literature, when available, is much sought after, but many more publications are needed, especially in Persian. Elam, 222 Ministries, Sohrab Books, Persian World Outreach, Iranian Christians International and others are involved in production and distribution. Pray also that the Lord will raise up more indigenous writers to produce Christian material to meet the accelerating demand from the Iranian Church. Pray that God will continue to open new avenues for distribution. Pray specifically for the development of children's materials - a glaring need with 15 million Iranians aged 15 or younger.
- Radio remains a valuable ministry. Millions listen despite government restrictions, and thousands of response e-mails and letters are received. Voice of Christ Media Ministries, TWR and others prepare daily programmes in Persian and Azeri and broadcast them on satellite, shortwave and medium wave.
TV ministry is an area of huge growth for reaching Iranians. Many ministries pour resources and efforts into developing videos for evangelism and Christian teaching. Possibly 20 million illegal satellite dishes are used to access television broadcasts. Stations such as SAT-7 Pars, Nejat TV, MOHABAT TV, and producers such as Iran Alive Ministries, 222 Ministries, Elam Ministries and others reach millions through this popular medium. Live worship broadcasts with music and teaching prove especially effective. Pray also for the development of Christian video programming and materials for youth and children, who constitute such a large swathe of Iran's population.
The Internet is another powerful tool for the evangelization of Iran, enormously popular among young people in particular. It is the ideal medium for a host of materials - readings, audio and video - in Persian. Many ministries are developing resources, from evangelistic sites to Christian news, to teaching materials to worship music in the main languages of Iran. Just a few examples - Farsi Christian News Network, Kalameh, Farsinet, Iranian Christian Broadcasting, Online Kelisa, Farsipraise Ministries, PWO and many others. Around 23 million Iranians have access to the Internet. Iran is the world's third-largest blogging community, but the regime is very active in shutting down sites that pose perceived threats to the status quo. Over 40 million have mobile phones - another potential but unexploited means of transmitting the good news. Pray for the vast potential of the Internet to be realized for reaching Iran with the good news and for building up the body of Christ.
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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.