An Iranian evangelist says a spiritual awakening of
unprecedented magnitude is occurring behind the scenes in a nation known for
Most Americans have put Iran on a blacklist. We’re concerned about Shiite militants who spread terrorism around the world, we don’t trust Iran’s nuclear weapons plans and we can’t stomach Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s human rights record or his maniac ways.
But my friend
Lazarus Yeghnazar, an Iranian evangelist based in England, hopes you will
develop some compassion for this part of the world. Most of us associate the
Bible with Israel, but did you know that Esther, Daniel, Nehemiah, Ezra and
Habakkuk all walked on Persian land that is now called Iran? In fact, the tombs
of Esther, Daniel, Habakkuk, Cyrus and Darius are in Iran.
““Yeghnazar says the churches
are growing so fast in Iran that some leaders have wondered if they
evangelizing. ‘One church leader told me they have stopped sharing their
because every Iranian they witness to comes to Christ.’ “
Yeghnazar points out
that Iranians were among the first Christian converts. The people known as
Parthians, Medes and Elamites, who were in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost
(see Acts 2:9,11), were from what is now Iran. Jeremiah prophesied that God
would “restore the fortunes of Elam” in the last days (see Jer. 49:39). Elam is
This promise of
spiritual restoration is no longer a far-off dream. A vibrant New Testament
church is thriving in Iran, in spite of brutal persecution under Ahmadinejad’s
regime. And this growing spiritual awakening in Iran could play a significant
role in end-time events.
“In this repressive
atmosphere many Iranians are coming to Christ,” says Yeghnazar, whose 222
Ministries is reaching millions through television and Internet broadcasts.
Currently more than 3,000 Iranians are converted each month through 222’s work,
even though the Iranian government has cracked down on satellite television and
smashed satellite dishes in Tehran and other cities.
“The need is so
great,” says Yeghnazar’s wife, Maggie, who does special gospel broadcasts for
Iranian women. She says the women respond to Christ faster than men because
they tend to stay at home.
Yeghnazar and his
wife fled Iran in 1988 to base their operations in the U.K. Their
Farsi-language programs not only bring Iranians to faith in Christ but also
serve to strengthen the underground house church movement. Yeghnazar says the
churches are growing so fast in Iran that some leaders have wondered if they
should stop evangelizing.
“One church leader told me they have stopped sharing their faith because every
Iranian they witness to comes to Christ. [The leader] told me, ‘We don’t have
enough New Testaments to handle the growth.’ There is a huge need for
The challenges in
Iran are huge. The country has an extremely high rate of drug addiction, and at
least one-fourth of the people are depressed. About 60 percent of the nation’s
71 million people are under age 26—and many of these are university students
who are growing increasingly restless under Ahmadinejad’s dictatorship. Police
brutality is common—and it is often aimed at Christians who gather in groups smaller
than 20 to worship.
“Believers in Iran
are not praying for persecution,” Yeghnazar told me, “but they know it is
helping fuel the growth of their churches.”
Yeghnazar is aware
of the danger lurking inside Iran. The country has exported trained terrorists
for 30 years and has fueled the growth of Hezbollah, the Palestinian Intifada
and suicide bombers in Iraq as well as radical Islamic movements in North
Africa and the Philippines. Yet he believes there has never been such a huge
open door for the gospel in Iran.
quotes from Isaiah 65:1 to describe what is happening in his homeland. “God
said, ‘I permitted myself to be found by those who did not seek Me. I said,
“Here am I, here I am,” to a nation which did not call My name.'” Today Iranians
are not only coming to Christ in record numbers but they are downloading Farsi
New Testaments on MP3 players, receiving smuggled Bibles and training young
pastors to start new churches.
“In this repressive
atmosphere people are coming to the Lord in record numbers,” Yeghnazar says,
noting that almost 200,000 unique visitors come to 222’s Farsi gospel site each
month. Many of them are seeking discipleship because they just gave their
hearts to Christ.
I’ve been shocked
to hear some sword-rattling Christians say they hope someone drops a nuclear
bomb on Iran to stop Ahmadinejad. Let’s put aside hate and open our eyes to
what God is doing behind the scenes. The next time you hear bad news coming out
of that country, remember that a growing underground church full of new
converts is spreading from Tabriz in the north to the southern city of Shiraz,
where Esther prayed and stopped a genocide.
J. Lee Grady is an author, award-winning journalist and ordained minister. He served as a news writer and magazine editor for many years before launching into full-time ministry.
Lee is the author of six books, including 10 Lies the Church Tells Women, 10 Lies Men Believe and Fearless Daughters of the Bible. His years at Charisma magazine also gave him a unique perspective of the Spirit-filled church and led him to write The Holy Spirit Is Not for Sale and Set My Heart on Fire, which is a Bible study on the work of the Holy Spirit.