Three dangers that can choke out a persecuted Church

By April 18, 2023

Iran (MNN) — We often talk about the paradox of persecution: When the Church experiences oppression, growth follows.

But is that always the case? Are there products of persecution that pose spiritual threats to the persecuted Church?

The Iranian Church is one of the fastest-growing Christian populations in the world. In 1979, there were only around 500 known Christians in Iran. Today, the Iranian Christian population has grown to between 800,000 and one million people.

(Photo courtesy of Mohammad Mardani via Unsplash)

However, the people of Iran do not have basic freedom of religion. Islam is the state religion, and Sharia law is the rule of the land. Around 98% of the population is Muslim. It is illegal for Muslims to convert to Christianity, and house church gatherings are banned.

The rapid growth of the Iranian Church amidst severe oppression often leads to discussion of the merits of persecution for the Church.

Joe Willey with SAT-7 says, “One [question] we have spoken about was, ‘Does persecution make a church grow? And if so, should we be praying for persecution? Should we say that persecution is the best thing for the Church?’”

“Often, we can say that with a glib response, and we can say it having a very romanticized notion of what persecution is or would look like. And often, that is said by people who are not being persecuted.”

SAT-7 PARS is a channel of SAT-7 broadcasting Gospel hope via satellite television to the Persian world. Most Iranians speak Farsi (a Persian dialect) and can access SAT-7 PARS on the unrestricted satellite broadcasts.

Willey says a SAT-7 PARS program called New Identity recently featured special guest Mansour Borji, the advocacy director of London-based religious freedom organization Article 18.

hands, prayer, talking Photo by Jeremy Yap on Unsplash

(Photo courtesy of Jeremy Jap via Unsplash)

On the program, Borji addressed the questions: “Is persecution good for the Church in Iran? If there is greater freedom in the country, will the Church shrink?”

Willey shares, “What [Borji] says is that ‘by God’s grace, the underground Church has grown despite persecution.’ I found that to be really interesting because coming with the premise that, yes, persecution is good for the Church, he brought it right back to ‘by God’s grace,’ ‘despite the persecution.’”

Willey goes on to explain, “When churches in Iran were closed, the fellowships and people that were attending a Christian church, they spread back to villages, they spread to remote areas in the country that the Church couldn’t reach or didn’t have a building.

“And [Borji] said something again, that’s really interesting…. He said that unity is one of the fruits of persecution, which the Church has seen in Iran. But he also says that the persistence of extreme persecution can halt the progress of the Church.”

Willey lays out three things that persistent, extreme persecution could potentially lead to:

  1. Disunity
  2. Mistrust
  3. False Teaching

(Photo courtesy of Amu via Unsplash)

These dangerous products of persecution can eventually choke out a faithful, biblical Church population rather than experiencing growth.

“When there’s no access to biblical teaching, people will adopt their own ideas,” Willey says.

That’s why “SAT-7 PARS and the theological teaching programs are really invaluable for isolated believers in countries like Iran.”

Willey shares, “I’m happy with what SAT-7 does to help disciple and to not leave a Church that, in some ways, is completely alone. We don’t leave them alone. We help them. We aid them with programs.”

Pray for the Iranian Church to continue to grow despite persecution. Ask the Lord to raise up wise, biblical leaders and protect Iranian believers from disunity, mistrust, and false teachings.

Finally, ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen and comfort Iranian Christians who are imprisoned for faithful Gospel ministry.

(Photo courtesy of SAT-7 PARS)

You can learn more about SAT-7’s Gospel broadcast ministry here.







Header photo courtesy of Lucas Sankey via Unsplash.

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