Iran is seeing massive church growth, despite severe persecution
Elam, a mission partner of Elim, is making a big impact in a nation that is one of the toughest on Christians.
Ihaven’t seen anywhere else in the world where the Bible is having an impact like it is in Iran,” says Rev Sam Yeghnazar. “Iranians are so hungry for the Word of God. They’ve had 40 years of Islamic revolution and they simply say, ‘If this is Islam, we’re not interested. Is there an alternative?’”
In Iran, a hard-line Islamic regime has been in power since 1979. Fiercely anti- Christian, it bans and burns Persian Bibles, arrests and imprisons church leaders and Muslim converts and aims to terrify Christians into inactivity.
But the brutal strategy has backfired. Banning Bibles and censoring Christian media has made Iranians more eager to access them. Closure of churches has fuelled a flourishing underground house church net- work. And persecution has bred a Spirit-led boldness among believers.
The result is the fastest-growing evangelical church in the world, which Operation World estimates to be growing at 19.6 percent per year. It was this openness and opportunity which led Sam – who is Iranian and a former pastor – to found Elam Ministries in 1990 and dedicate his life to ministry among Iranians. The organisation seeks to reach the Persian-speaking world for Christ. It works to strengthen and expand the Church in Iran by training and equipping Iranian Christians to lead and plant churches, evangelise and disciple others.
It also distributes Scriptures, provides support via Persian-language media, resources, books and specialist women’s and children’s ministries, and advocates for persecuted Iranian believers.
At the heart of Elam’s work is leadership training.
“When the Islamic revolution was ushered in and people suddenly be- came hungry to know God and read the Scriptures, we didn’t have leaders. So the most pressing need was leadership development, and we started the Elam Bible College,” says Sam. “We’ve trained around 1,000 leaders now – and not just people working with Elam. Many of them have grown in amazing ways and brought many to Christ. They have gone all over the world and spread the gospel among seven million Iranians living outside Iran.”
This article was taken from the December 2019 issue of Direction Magazine.
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