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Reaching into Iran with the Gospel

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering supplements Cooperative Program giving to support more than 5,600 Southern Baptist missionaries as they share the Gospel overseas. This year’s offering goal is $175 million. The 2009 Lottie Moon offering theme is “Who’s Missing, Whose Mission?” It focuses on overcoming barriers to hearing and accepting the Gospel in various parts of the world and the mission that the Great Commission gives all Christians to “go and make disciples of all nations.” The 2009 Week of Prayer for International Missions is Nov. 29-Dec. 6. To find resources about the offering, go to imb.org/offering.

TEHRAN, Iran (BP)–How can you reach people groups in Iran if you cannot live among them? You train Iranian Christians to share the Gospel. And you connect with Iranians who live outside the country.

Gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and through the Cooperative Program enable Southern Baptist workers to train house church leaders when they are able to travel outside the country to meet them.

The workers also reach out to Iranians who live elsewhere, some as refugees. Volunteer teams are needed to train refugees in business skills as well as in discipleship as they embark on new lives in other countries and in Christ, says Nick*, a Southern Baptist from Florida who works with the peoples of Iran.

More workers also are needed who feel a call to reach the peoples of Iran and are ready to embrace that challenge despite difficulties, adds fellow Southern Baptist worker Daniel* from Kentucky. “We need creative, long-term idea people who think outside the box,” he says.

“We do believe that God calls people intentionally, but we [also] believe that people can shut down that calling based on the biases that we hold,” Daniel says.

In many ways, Iran is a pocket of lostness to the Gospel because of restrictions and dangers to Christians, Daniel says. Many of the people, however, are more aware of and open to Christianity than some might think.


An Iranian who had accepted Christ while living outside the country returned nine years later to see his family and to share the Gospel with them, Nick recounts. The Iranian Christian told his brother of his plans to bring them electronic copies of the Bible so they would be less conspicuous in an Islamic republic where distributing Bibles is illegal and can lead to arrest.

The brother in Iran told him that if God is as strong and faithful as his brother had been telling him, then he should give the family the Book itself. Moved by the message of the Gospel and his brother’s bold faith to share it, the brother in Iran has since become a believer in Christ.

“The church is growing in Iran, especially compared to its neighbors,” Daniel says. Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the Persian Gulf and the “stans” of the former Soviet Union, border Iran.

But the church in Iran is growing quietly in small groups, often among friends and family, because Christian activity — especially evangelistic outreach — cannot be conducted in public. For it to be practiced at all can bring imprisonment, possibly death, to former Muslims discovered to be house church leaders.

“Christian leaders in Iran are being beaten and broken, much like in the New Testament, for sharing the Good News,” Daniel says.

One wife of a house church leader asked Southern Baptist worker Martha* from Kentucky to pray that the church members be protected from discovery and harm.

“But if someone has to be arrested,” Martha recounts, “she prayed that they [she and her husband] would be the ones because she didn’t think others in the church were strong enough in their faith yet to be able to handle it.”

Another pastor’s wife asked Martha for advice in how to share Christ with her family, some of whom were devout Muslims. Seeing a friend or family member’s outlook on life change because of Christ tends to draw the curiosity and interest of those around them.

“This ripple effect of changed lives is having a significant impact,” Martha says. “People are looking for answers.”


Southern Baptist workers provide training in theology and Christian life skills to Iranian believers who visit them. One of the most popular discipleship topics is how to build a marriage that honors God and each other.

Southern Baptist worker Darrell* from Texas starts Bible studies by reviewing Old Testament prophecy because Iranians have a beginning knowledge of it as part of their history. The stories of Daniel and Esther, for example, took place in what is modern-day Iran.

God’s love for His people and pursuit of a relationship with them through Jesus Christ is a revelation to most Iranians because their Muslim upbringing has taught them a personal connection with God isn’t attainable, Darrell says.

Misunderstanding the Trinity is often a barrier to the Gospel for Muslims, who believe that God is One and that Jesus was just a man, one of many Islamic prophets.

“I teach them to develop the habit of reading Scripture, not as a duty, but to learn and develop their relationship with the Lord,” Darrell says.
*Names changed. Kate Gregory covered this story for the International Mission Board. In addition to giving through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the Cooperative Program, churches can help fund training opportunities for Iranian Christians through a projects-based initiative called the Lottie Moon Challenge. To learn more, go to imb.org/giving. To express interest in volunteer opportunities, e-mail the Central Asia office at [email protected].

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  • Kate Gregory