Alavi’s recent observations (May 2019) echo those of church leaders in Iran—as well as other Iranian government officials.
Reportedly, Islamic clerics are expressing serious concern about many young people converting to Christianity. One Islamic seminary leader, Ayatollah Alavi Boroujerdi, remarked that “accurate reports indicate the youth are becoming Christians in Qom and attending house churches.” The seventh-largest city in Iran, Qom is the country’s epicenter for Islamic studies.
And reports from inside the closed country reveal that God is working through the faithfulness of courageous believers to expand His Kingdom. There are repeated accounts of God’s hand moving and Muslims coming to Christ.
Compared to roughly 500 known Christians in 1979, there are now approximately 500,000 (some sources say up to 1 million secret believers). According to Elam Ministries, an organization founded in 1990 by Iranian church leaders, more Iranians have become Christians in the last 20 years than in the previous 13 centuries put together since Islam came to Iran.
In 2016, the mission research organization Operation World named Iran as having the fastest-growing evangelical church in the world.
What’s driving the exponential growth?
Ministries and experts say the explosive growth of Christianity in Iran has been driven by the almost palpable spiritual hunger and disillusionment with the Islamic regime and the faithfulness of believers who risk it all to share their Good News in the face of inevitable persecution.
Violence in the name of Islam has caused widespread disillusionment with the regime and has led many Iranians to question their beliefs. Multiple reports indicate that even children of political and spiritual leaders are leaving Islam for Christianity.
Because Farsi-speaking services are not allowed, most converts gather in informal house-church meetings or receive information on Christianity via media, such as satellite TV and websites. The illegal house-church movement—including thousands of Christians—continues to grow in size and impact as God works through transformed lives.
Church leaders in Iran believe that millions can be added to the church in the next few years.
“If we remain faithful to our calling, our conviction is that it is possible to see the nation transformed within our lifetime,” one house church leader shared. “Because Iran is a strategic gateway nation, the growing church in Iran will impact Muslim nations across the Islamic world.”
And like the church of Acts shows us, the persecution that believers suffered as a group of committed disciples—inspired and ignited by the Holy Spirit—became a catalyst for the multiplication of believers and churches. When persecution came, they didn’t scatter but remained in the city where it was most strategic and most dangerous. They were arrested, shamed and beaten for their message. Still, they stayed to lay the foundations for an earth-shaking movement.
So it is in Iran. When the Iranian revolution of 1979 established a hardline Islamic regime, the next two decades ushered in a wave of persecution that continues today. All missionaries were kicked out, evangelism was outlawed, Bibles in the Persian or Farsi language were banned, and several pastors were killed. Many feared the small, fledgling Iranian church wouldn’t survive. Instead, the church, fueled by the devotion and passion of disciples, has multiplied exponentially. Iranians have become the Muslim people most open to the gospel in the Middle East.