Fastest growing church has no buildings, no central leadership, and is mostly led by women

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By Mark Ellis –

Burka-clad Iranian woman in the shadows (screenshot from “Sheep Among Wolves”

For the last few years, researchers have credited the underground church in Iran as the fastest growing Christian church in the world. It has unique characteristics that defy comparison with churches in America and Europe, and in the opinion of some who know it well, the church in the West could learn by studying it.

“The fastest growing church in the world has taken root in one of the most unexpected and radicalized nations on earth,” according to “Sheep Among Wolves,” the outstanding two-hour documentary about the revival that has taken place inside Iran. “The Iranian awakening is a rapidly reproducing discipleship movement that owns no property or buildings, has no central leadership, and is predominantly led by women.”

The documentary was produced by Frontier Alliance International (FAI), which supports disciple-making teams targeting the “unreached” and “unengaged” within the 10/40 Window.

There is a mass exodus leaving Islam for Christianity within Iran, according to FAI.

“What if I told you Islam is dead?” one unidentified Iranian church leader says on the film. “What if I told you the mosques are empty inside Iran? What if I told you no one follows Islam inside of Iran? Would you believe me? This is exactly what is happening inside of Iran. God is moving powerfully inside of Iran.”

(screenshot:”Sheep Among Wolves”)

Many of the ruling class still follow Islam, “because that’s where the high paying jobs are,” according to the film, but the majority of the ordinary people love God and recognize that Islam is the problem.

“What if I told you the best evangelist for Jesus was the Ayatollah Khomeini?” an Iranian church leader asks. He maintains the ayatollahs brought the true face of Islam to light and people discovered it was a lie, a deception. “After 40 years under Islamic law — a utopia according to them — they’ve had the worst devastation in the 5,000 year history of Iran.”

Efforts by the ayatollahs to destroy Christianity have backfired, but have served to refine and purify the church. “What persecution did was destroy the church that were not disciples, and destroy the church that were about converts,” the Iranian church leader noted. “All these church planters found out that converts run away from persecution, but disciples would die for the Lord in persecution.

“So our model inside Iran is that we don’t convert to disciple, we disciple so we can convert.”

Often a disciple making movement (DMM) begins the first moment someone comes into contact with an unbeliever. “Everything is foundational on prayer. We find people of peace through prayer. We even find locations through prayer,” the Iranian church leader noted.

“When we do DMM, Jesus has gone faster than us. He has come in their dreams or he’s come miraculously in their lives. When we hear this, we know that Jesus has gone ahead of us.”

Surprisingly, their emphasis is not planting churches; it is making disciples. “He is letting unbelievers lead other unbelievers to himself and the kingdom of God. If you plant churches you might make disciples. But if you make disciples, you will plant churches,” the Iranian church leader said.

“One thing powerful with DMM is that it is obedience-based discipleship. It is based on the authority of Scripture and every time you read the Scripture you must obey it. This is how people become conformed to the image of Christ and sanctified. They are not just reading the Bible for information. They are reading the Bible to get transformed.”

About 55% of the disciple makers are women, according to one Iranian leader.

“What’s fascinating right now is that the most powerful leaders in Iran are women, but it’s not in a bombastic, humanistic way…in fact, they are the most gentle women. They are leading this movement, going out in the highways and byways sharing with prostitutes, drug addicts, with everybody they come into contact with, and that takes courage. They are courageous women.”

The women leaders in Iran have not embraced a feminist theology, according to one of the U.S.-based leaders with FIA. “In a biblical way they are submissive to proper structure and the order of the church, but when it comes to what Satan is doing, they are fierce. These are not like modern angry liberal women that are just upset. No, there is a gentleness and submissiveness that is beautiful and follows the biblical pattern.”

One stereotype of Iran promulgated by the nightly news involves crowds of angry Muslims shaking their fists and chanting ‘Death to America’ and ‘Death to Israel.

But the film presents a different reality beneath the surface. “The most mind-blowing aspect of the church in Iran is that central to their redemptive theology, and their understanding of not only who Jesus is, what he came to do and what he will return to do, is a covenantal theology that has Israel at the center.

“When you ask most people what the most existential threat is to Israel and they will say Iran – and that’s true. But behind the curtain of what God is doing, God is raising up one of the fastest growing movements of former Muslims that are falling in love not only with the God of Israel, not only Israel’s king, not only Israel’s Messiah, they are actually falling in love with the Jewish people. As a result of this you have a prayer movement in Iran that is crying out for the salvation of Israel.”

The film cites one Iranian couple that had the opportunity to move to the U.S. After living in America for a matter of months, the wife decided she wanted to move back to Iran, telling her surprised husband: “There is a satanic lullaby here. All the Christians are sleepy and I’m feeling sleepy.”

One leader with FIA notes the alarming nature of her conclusion. “That story was disturbing because that woman was discerning a threat to her faith that was a greater threat than the kind of persecution that happens in Iran. She saw that spiritual sleepiness is a greater threat to her faith than persecution.”

The film observes that the only church in the book of Revelation not critiqued by Jesus was under persecution and suffering. “If freedom is such a great thing for the Kingdom, then why is Europe and America in the state they are in?” an Iranian believer asks.

“When we walk outside, we really don’t care if we get arrested, we are not upset if we get arrested. What is 50 years in prison compared to eternity with Jesus?”

The filmmakers contend the church in Iran offers wisdom to impart. “I believe that what is happening in the church in Iran is going to become a measuring stick for the global body of Christ. It is not something we will be able to admire from afar. It is going to be something we are required to participate in. It is going to disrupt our lives,” one U.S.-based leader with FIA says.

“I believe the Lord is going to take this issue of the testimony, the story, the witness of the church in Iran and thrust it into the heart of the global body of Christ, that we would follow in their footsteps and learn from them. I believe the Lord is putting this message on blast for us to prepare us for the days ahead.”

To learn more about FIA, go here

43 COMMENTS

  1. This is so encouraging to know GOD is on the move in Iran. I identify with the spiritual sleepiness in America. I am in Canada but sense it in my family and friends, this sleepiness. I know GOD will make a way for us. HE will never leave us or forsake us.

    • Hello Carmen, I’m in Canada too. This presentation touched me deeply. Yes we are in a deeper than USA slumber living comfortable lives. I came from SA 24 years ago and lived through a number of terrifying experiences. I pray that we can get people wake up to our desperateness for Jesus.

      • Great move of the Lord of Glory. May the Lord continue to lead and strengthen His Body in all the world. Great encouragement

  2. Join Curry Blake’s Lifeteams worldwide. These are disciples in America doing what Jesus commanded us to do — heal the sick, cast out demons, love the widow and orphan, raise the dead. Lifeteams are burgeoning underground network in America, Europe and worldwide under jglm.org.

    Biblically based New Testament church living in Jesus’ dominion life and doing what Jesus did through the power of the precious Holy Spirit.

    This revival in Iran is heartwarming to know our brothers and sisters are standing for our Jesus in deep persecution.
    We love them and pray for them.
    Anne Hayler
    (407) 961-9480

  3. Great God doing great things in his own way, at His own time, through the so called weaker vessels in Iran. This will breakforth the whole world, even the sleeping nations will awake unto rigtheousness in Jesus name amen.

  4. Thank you Jesus. What an amazing story & testimony. We need this wake up call. It’s happening in our church here in Uhai Center Kiambu, Kenya…I need to wake up!

  5. Glory to God of heaven and earth! I sense this is a turning point testimony for the body of Christ. We are to love and pray for our enemies, and this is why! God cares about each one of his creation, and so must we. I’m a missionary in Europe; and I will renew my prayers for the Muslim people around me. Thank you Lord for your faithfulness and love for all! Let us continue to lift up the church of America, UK, and all of Europe. There are little fires already–Holy Spirit blow upon them and start a global fire for you, God!!

  6. Glory be to God Almighty
    We are celebrating with you Saints in Iran, such a move of God is amazing it proves that Jesus Christ died for all to come to the knowledge of God
    Oh Hallelujah !

  7. As a missionary serving in the field for over 21 years! It’s seems like my eyes has been open to a new revelation and the keys that i was praying for as I read this article.

  8. This is so wonderful..My friend in Jesus told me years ago that he and a group of men here in Abbotsford have been praying weekly for Israel..
    God listens when we pray and really mean it..
    I prayed after I read these awesome things happening that God would bring me back to my first meeting with Jesus as I accepted Him into my life when I was 19… I am now 66 and o am so excited in what our Lord is doing…
    Jesus …Thankyou for your faithfulness when I haven’t been strong and Thankyou for all those women who are loving and obeying you…
    Help us to have this kind of revival in Canada Lord Jesus….praise your Holy Name…

  9. Praise the Lord! This has lifted my spirit so much, thank you for this wonderful story. Just a testimony to share – I’ve been praying for people on the streets as the Lord directs He softens peoples hearts. A lady told me she’d been in a coma in hospital for months slowly recovered, but before she collapsed she heard a voice that told her “call 911 you are ill, open your door for paramedics”. I advised her this was God’s voice, she was given a 2nd chance. However, she still felt she was a “good person” and thought there as no hell. I shared the Gospel and mentioned she should pray to Jesus for a vision or dream showing where she’ll be going when she dies, she said she would. I learned how to witness recently through the Holy Spirit urging me, only 2% of Christians witness due to fear and not been educated in most churches. Also, I was shown much to my shock that a very small percentage in churches are actually saved, due to watered-down sermons with no mention of Judgement Day, hell, or that holiness is needed, also due to tradition, spiritual blindness, pride, religious spirit, hard-hearts, spending time doing worldly things & not personally studying the Bible. I didn’t realize that most people go to hell when they die! Most of you will probably know these things, but in case there is 1 person who doesn’t I’m reaching out to that person. Great websites for evangelism are livingwaters.com and Bill Wiese. Other fine websites explaining & showing the power of God through healing are Mark Hemans, John Mellor, Val Wolff, and streetministries seven. We’re called to receive the Holy Spirit and be modern-day disciples. I was a lukewarm Christian like most in churches, I was in huge trouble as Revelation 3 warns us the lukewarm will be spit out of God’s mouth, there is NO purgatory or second chance once we die, run from any church with wrong teaching, read the Christian Bible especially the New Testament. I knew I was missing something – I hadn’t understood true Repentance, or taken daily private time with Jesus to fully receive His Spirit. Holy Spirit grieves when we watch TV and listen to worldly music. I love listening to Praise music and hymns. Jeremiah 29:13 says “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for me with all your heart”. The enemy tries to bring negative thoughts, rebuke him and sing praise to Jesus and focus on Jesus, ask Jesus to baptize you with His Spirit, you won’t be the same! Thank you Jesus!!

  10. What an amazing testimony. The hatred of the Iranian regime surprised me, shocked that this isn’t widely known that they are bent on exterminating the Jews. Challenged by the response of ordinary Iranians turning to Jesus, not loving their own lives, not shrinking back form death in order to make Jesus known. This is God speaking to me “wake up, time is short, make disciples with me!” Oh Lord cause the UK Church of disciples to wake up, be heard telling the true gospel of Christ and be seen doing His works!

  11. Wow!! This is extremely powerful and encouraging. We all must be ready to lay our lives down for Jesus. I join in prayer and witnessing the gospel of Jesus Christ with the church in Iran.

  12. This is a GREAT testimony and challenging too, but am excited at what God is doing. More grace to the Iranian church in Jesus mighty name Amen.

  13. To God be all Glory Praise & Honor! For He chose us all in Christ before the foundations of the world to be His Beloved chosen people to the praise of His Glory. He Loves us all- before we even knew Him!!! What a inspirational testimony of these faithful Iranian women gently disciplining, and courageously leading the church in Iran. Even to love the Lord’s birth nation of Israel! The Lord strongly loves His people and is calling them all from every nation, tribe language they are in the world. We must Turn from from our ways, to live for JESUS and change our minds to God’s Word, and we will find Love & our unique Life’s Purpose in living for Christ! Mat. 22:34-40.

  14. Loved hearing God’s work in Iran. But I was disappointed that they chose to label the women leaders as gentle and submissive instead of bold and courageous.

    • What is wrong with gentle and submissive? We are all commanded to be gentle and submissive. And I do not think “gentle and submissive” precludes bold and courageous.

    • Its because women are standing up, sorry to say, that in today’s world, our man is not standing up…… if you reed the Bible we need to be humble and that is exactly what the women is doing….gentle and submissive….

  15. You wrote that unbelievers were leading unbelievers to Christ. How can this be so? Do you mean new believers are leading unbelievers to Christ? I would repost this if not for that problematic statement.

    • That confused me too, but notice also the article quotes an Iranian Pastor “What if I told you the best evangelist for Jesus was the Ayatollah Khomeini?”
      So maybe he means God is using unbelievers to bring people to Christ–in the case of Khomeini, he is pushing them away from Islam toward Christ.
      Unbelievers can quote scripture too, and God’s word does not return void. It will accomplish His purpose regardless of the instrument or vessel! And isn’t it really the Holy Spirit who leads anyone to Christ?

  16. This is how the end will start. This could pave the way for the Anti Christ don’t be sucked into this Rubbish!

  17. That’s exactly how our group works and has been working for decades: No name, no church buildings, no central leadership other than Jesus Christ as the head of the body. We’re international (in every country, I believe). We meet in our homes; speak in tongues, interpret, and prophesy in our meetings (and speak in tongues in our private prayers); and pray for all people. We believe what the Bible says rather than what people say about it. Our main thrust is walking by the spirit (i.e., walking with the one, true God) and trusting God.

    Isn’t that how the first century church worked?

  18. I thank God for this revelation today. It has warmed my heart and inspired me to arise from my sleepiness and get about the work God has given me right here in my own setting. Thank you so much

  19. It’s the first I’ve heard of it and it makes me wary whenever biblical facts are misstated. “The film observes that the only church in the book of Revelations not critiqued by Jesus was under persecution.”
    The fact is there were 2 churches, Philadelphia and Smyrna, that were not critiqued by Jesus.

    Even so: Act 5:38-39
    I say unto you… if this council or work be of men, it will come to nought.
    But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest ye be found even to fight against God.

  20. The message of “Sheep among Wolves” documentary is just great, but the editing is absolutely horrible. All the slow-motion scenes, all the views of the landscapes with someone standing there, the background sounds and background “music” — Oh, it was so awful and unnecessarily long! The 5-6 hours should have been shortened to 1-2 hour max, including both parts 1 and 2. Then, people might share it and the Western world might get some awarenes of the great works of God going on!

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