Our Persian Ministry Director answers hard questions about ministry to Persian-speaking people
I am heading out between March 9 - 14 to seven events for our Alberta Ministry Tour
. My special guests will be our Persian Ministry Director and his wife and I'm planning a special Q&A session about ministry in Iran. However, not everyone is able to make it out to the events in Alberta (though I would love to meet you), so I asked our Director some questions I won't cover in the events.How do you choose house church leaders and how do they grow in their faith?
Usually, if TWR Canada is starting a new house church, we are the ones electing the person who is the most mature and knowledgeable in the Scripture to lead. We ask them to lead a small group in their town or introduce them to a group that needs a leader. The group trusts us so they trust this new person. That is important. After a year or two, we ask the group what they think of the leadership. We ask if there is someone new who can lead. The group makes the decisions after that.
The only way believers (even house church leaders) can grow spiritually is through media. They have to go to a coffee shop to download off the internet so that makes it risky for them because the internet is monitored. The best thing is to bring the believers out of the country and teach them. Only God knows how many small groups or house churches have been started, but we have been giving spiritual support or providing material or teaching to many many groups as well as lots of counselling.We share stories from people who stand firm in their faith when in jail, but this is rare. What is the more common experience?
The reason those people have not denied their faith when facing jail is simply because they had more knowledge of the Bible. Those who are weak in their faith often fear that they are not ready to give up their job or family or freedom, so they deny their faith and then leave the fellowship. This is much more common. Simply because of a lack of teaching.
With new believers, the biggest challenge for them is to deny Islam and believe in Christ as the only way of salvation. For this to happen, they need good teaching for at least a couple of years. If they face persecution and have been believers for less time than that, they will almost certainly deny their faith. That’s why we don’t usually baptize new believers right away because we know they are not strong enough to face the persecution that inevitably follows such a public admission of faith.Is the persecution strategy of the government working in turning people away from Christ?
Yes, persecution is working. It has stopped the growth of Christianity. Not the mature believers, but the new and weak believers are turning away. If their foundation is not strong, the persecution will bring them back to Islam. We know a lot of people who have turned away. That is a key point. But for those who are strong, they are arrested repeatedly and still stand strong. They encourage those who are weaker in the faith.
Remember, these people are born into Islam, into an ideology they blindly accept. They are convinced from the time they are small children that Islam is the final message. So, when they hear about Christianity they have to change their mentality of what they believe is right. That takes time.How Can We Pray for You?
I am very stressed emotionally. Most of those facing jail or who are in jail, I look at them as my children. I feel their pain, their weariness, and struggle. I did not know this would be part of the ministry. I have to encourage people – to find a Scripture, a right word, or right letter for them for trial after trial and it is not easy. You can only quote Job so many times.
Pray that God would give me wisdom when I try to choose new house church leaders that I am not deceived, but would find the people God is already at work on in their hearts. We’ve had well educated and qualified people come forward and then later found out they are a spy for the government. That is hard to determine.I asked our Director's wife how we should pray for her husband.
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- Pray that he would keep his focus on Jesus rather than the problems, and trust in God so he does not get swept under the storm waves of discouragement.
- Pray that he might recognize again and again that God who begins a good work in people will complete it.
- Pray he would constantly equip himself to be a good shepherd and use God's Word as he counsels those who are being persecuted to remind them of God's promises and exhortations.
- Pray he would have the perfect balance between spiritual guidance and physical help. In other words, that he would have wisdom to know when it is time for Christians in the West to intervene and how best to support those in need.