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The Surprising Leaders of Iran’s Underground Church

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Feel broken, discouraged, or oppressed? Do you feel like you have too much baggage to fulfill your calling and purpose? Take heart from what is believed to be the fastest-growing church in the world. It is being led by Iran’s outcasts and downtrodden and most of them are women. So be inspired by the faith and courage of these heroes “leading one of the most powerful resistance movements on earth.”

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Despite Persecution, Women Are Thriving in the Underground Church

Iran is not kind to women. In fact, it is one of the most oppressive places on earth for females. Women are regarded as subhuman and are often subjected to cruel treatment. It is not uncommon to hear stories of girls married off to men that proceed to beat and rape them; women unable to divorce even though they are the victims of domestic violence; girls who are beaten by their dads for having been raped; women forced into prostitution. It is one tragic story after the other.

So if the culture can be so savage towards a person just because they happen to be the “wrong” sex, imagine the consequences awaiting women caught evangelizing the Christian message? The punishment for proselytizing to a Muslim in Iran is prison or execution. For women, rape will most assuredly precede the death penalty. The stakes are high, and yet, these are the very same women that have willingly subjected themselves to the risks of spreading the gospel message. And they make up more than half of the church leadership.

Per the video below, women make up approximately 55% of the church leadership within the Iranian underground church. That is a staggering number when you compare it to Western Churches. Think about the men-to-women ratio in the leadership of your own local church. The difference is stark and yet the Iranian church is considered one of the fastest-growing churches in the world.

What Leadership Looks Like in the Underground Church

Lest we think that the Christian women in Iran are leading the kids’ or women’s ministry within their churches, I want to expand on the nature of church leadership in Iran.

The Iranian Church looks nothing like the Western Church. They don’t have large buildings where they gather nor do they have sub ministries within their churches (men’s ministry, women’s ministry, kids ministry). It is an underground church; church happens in people’s homes. The primary movers within this underground church are individuals (and obviously the Holy Spirit). The church’s primary focus is making disciples and each person within the church bears that responsibility willingly.

House churches are popping up all over Iran with no real central leadership; rather, they have decentralized leadership. It is the result of one person inviting someone into their home and sharing the gospel. That person then proceeds to do the same. Leaders are created out of “necessity.” There is no seminary, no internships, and years of waiting before they can formally apply to a church leadership position. The result is that women are not only overseeing hundreds of house churches, they are leading a movement!

Despite No Formal Training, How Are These Women Being So Effective?

The answer is very simple, the leading of the Holy Spirit. Both men and women within the Christian Church in Iran are relying on the direction of the Holy Spirit for their every move. Who do I share the gospel with? What do I say? What part of my testimony will impact this person? The Holy Spirit is truly the teacher! That also means that prayer is their primary weapon. Prayer is central to their lives and they don’t move without it. They spend hours seeking the Holy Spirit’s direction every day.

And the men are not preventing the women from coming to the full measure of their calling. They trust that the Holy Spirit is speaking to them too. Without a very hierarchical central leadership to hinder the work, people that would otherwise be rejected from leadership in Western churches are bearing fruit. Even the male leadership represent the outcasts of society: former hackers, drug-runners, etc.

Why is God Choosing Women for This Important Work?

It is clear to me that God is choosing the broken, the downtrodden, and the least qualified (by Western standards), so that He can be glorified. A person that has been so rejected, abused, and neglected their entire life is in such desperate need of Jesus. Women, by the mere fact that they are women, are the most abused within the culture. When the laws and the culture are so against them, understanding the great love that Jesus has for them leads them to depend solely on Him. And when He has been the only one to show them love and grace, will they then deny Him the command to spread the Gospel?

It is a sobering lesson for us in American churches, but it is also encouraging for us women, especially those of us that may feel down trodden and inadequate. Although our walk may look different than the women in Iran, I want women to remember one thing. God does not need you to be “qualified” to do His work. He just needs you to be willing, regardless of the consequences. Make that first step, and He will meet you there. Give yourself over to prayer and be open to where He takes you. Remember, he already sees you as a warrior, because he made you for that purpose.

Relevant Article: Proverbs 31 Woman: Woman of Valor

I want women to remember one thing. God does not need you to be "qualified" to do His work. He just needs you to be willing, regardless of the consequences. Click To Tweet

Obedience Is Key To Their Success

This movement is not being led by women that have a feminist agenda nor are they seeking to increase women’s rights. They are not motivated by anger at the injustices they see all around them. Their motivation is much simpler, it is love for the King that first loved them and therefore they have submitted themselves solely to Him.

Because of their obedience, despite the persecution and oppression, He has exalted them and given them the strength, and courage, and leadership abilities to be such powerhouses within Iran.

Because of their obedience despite the persecution and oppression, He has exalted them and given them the strength, and courage, and leadership abilities to be such powerhouses within Iran. Click To Tweet

In the same way, as we follow the prompting the of the Holy Spirit, we need NOT bully our way in. We need to continue in a spirit of meekness and submission (just as men also need to move in the spirit of meekness and submission), but moving forward in faith letting the Holy Spirit open the doors. We are to be gentle with people, but always remember who the true Enemy is. We need to give ourselves over to prayer and not be afraid to carve our own path if the Spirit leads us in that direction.

Sheep Among Wolves

I encourage you to watch the following film about the underground church in Iran. It is inspiring and encouraging, but it is also convicting. The testimonies that you will hear in this video is a reminder that God is still very much alive and doing great things. And I plead that you continue to pray for the church in Iran and the underground churches across the globe.

Sheep Among Wolves, Produced by FaiMission.org.

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I am interested in your thoughts! Feel free to comment below!

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Suel

    Wow! This is such an encouraging post. I love your heart for ministry and i love hearing what God is doing in Iran:)

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