According to a documentary released in August, the explosive growth of Christianity in Iran is a result of a rapidly expanding house church movement with most being led by women.
The documentary entitled Sheep Among Wolves was produced by Frontier Alliance International (FAI) and looked at the growth of Christianity in Iran perhaps one of the most repressive regimes in the world.
And we know Christianity is growing because of the repeated public statements made by Iranian officials and religious leaders in recent years warning of Christianity’s growth.
In their video, FAI explained what was behind the unusual growth. In its trailer, the documentary noted:
“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.”
In the video they were forced to disguise the Iranian believers because of fear of arrest. One Iranian Christian said “What if I told you the mosques are empty inside Iran.”
He went on to say that the political and the elites are the ones who have embraced Islam because of the benefits it brings through good paying jobs, but ordinary citizens are becoming increasingly disgusted with the corruption they see in government and because it is tied to Islam, thousands are now turning to Jesus.
And he added that the brutality instituted by Ayatollah Khomeini actually drove people away from Islam.
Along with this, Christian Iranians are finding that the Holy Spirit has often gone ahead through dreams and miracles to prepare people’s heart to embrace Christ before they come in contact with an Iranian Christian.
And then there is the unusual role women are playing in the church. According to one person interviewed, about 55% of the leaders in the movement are women including many of the key leaders:
“In a Biblical way they are submissive to proper structure and order of the church, but when it comes to what Satan is doing, they are fierce. They are not like modern angry Liberal women that are just upset. No, there is a gentleness and submissive that is beautiful and follows the Biblical pattern.”
These believers are also displaying an incredible amount of courage, because converting to Christianity can lead to a prison sentence in Iran. But as one person noted, Iranian believers no longer fear prison when sharing their faith because they are confident of their final destiny in Christ.
In many ways this resembles the early church seen in the book of Acts. It was basically a house church movement. And in the Book of Acts we also see the rise of women playing important roles.
This included Mary who was the mother of John Mark. She hosted a house church in her home (Acts 12:6-19), where the disciples had gathered to prayer after the arrest of Peter.
When Paul and his team arrived in Thyatira (located in modern Turkey), a prominent and undoubtedly wealthy business woman name Lydia became a believer in Jesus. Her conversion was significant enough for Luke to mention her by name leading some to conclude a house church probably met in her home (Acts 16:11-40).
Then there was Priscilla and Aquila, the husband and wife duo in Corinth, who played a prominent role in discipling an early key leader Apollos. There are a couple of odd things about this couple. First they are always mentioned together and most times, the wife Priscilla, is mentioned first suggesting she had a more prominent role in the Ephesus church (Acts 18:1-28).
Some have suggested that as the Iranian church successfully patterned itself off the early church, it in turn may be come a modern pattern for churches around the world.