To be a Christian in Iran 50 years ago meant to be a part of small ethnic groups of Armenians, Chaldeans, or Assyrians-- communities of a few hundred thousand that had lived in Iran for centuries.
Before the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, there were only a few hundred converts to Christianity from the country's majority religion, Islam. When the revolution successfully overthrew the secular monarchy, or Shah, it was reasonable to expect that the tiny Christian populations would diminish and that Christianity would be stifled under the newly applied Sharia law of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
For the past 44 years, there has been wave after wave of persecution against Iranians who decide to become Christians. To own a Bible in the national language of Farsi, is prohibited. Sharing the Christian faith with others is outlawed. Christian leaders have been arrested, interrogated, and imprisoned in the nation's notorious Evin prison.
Iran's regime has even sentenced some to death under charges of apostasy and as spies threatening its Islamic system. The Iranian government refuses to acknowledge Iranian converts to Christianity and denies them all religious freedom.
With such an environment, it would seem surprising to hear that in the past decade Iran has been one of the fastest-growing churches in the world. Some estimates point to a million or more Iranian converts to Christianity. Neighboring Afghanistan rivals Iran as the fastest-growing church--influenced by Iranian Christians whose similar language and cultural connections have built bridges for the spread of the gospel.
God used the Armenian, Chaldean, and Assyrian churches as a source of light, especially in the early years after the revolution, for Iranians who became disillusioned with the Islamic Republic and were searching for answers. Though these communities' numbers inside the country have dwindled to only around 100,000, the number of new Iranian coverts has surpassed it as much as perhaps 10 times the number!
Christianity is also growing in Iran through believers simply telling their friends and family about their new-found faith. House church movements have begun all over Iran, providing deep fellowship that has helped many Iranian believers to remain firm in their faith amid great persecution.
These converts come from all sectors of society--from street vendors and taxi drivers to intellectuals, artists, and public servants. House churches, online media gospel programs, and person-to-person connections continue to be conduits of the spread of the gospel all over the country.
Persecution threatened to eliminate Christianity from Iran. However, the opposite happened; persecution only seemed to spur the growth of the church.
Today, the church in Iran still faces great challenges. As it grows so rapidly, there is a great need for discipleship of new believers. There is also a deep need for unity as continued persecution for their faith seeks to divide and isolate believers from one another. Pray for Christians in Iran under persecution.