Learning a Theology of Persecution

Iranian believers and Christian workers from around the world long to see Iranian churches strengthened and multiplying all over the country. Many are working to disciple Iranian Christians so that the gospel will spread further in Iran. 

Radical had the opportunity to hear from Christian workers who long to see more Iranians come to faith in Christ. They shared their joys and struggles in providing quality discipleship to new Iranian believers who are hungry for the Word.

One Christian worker noted that developing a way to think about and process the persecution that Iranian Christians face has been especially hard for these new believers. He explained, “When you’re persecuted, you have to ask yourself if it’s worth it. Is there something beyond the jail cell that makes this persecution worth it?” 

Contextualizing persecution into the bigger picture of salvation and their new life with Christ is often a great challenge in the Iranian church. For former Muslims, it can be tempting to see persecution as punishment from God. The prevalence of the prosperity gospel doesn’t help either, as it teaches that good people are rewarded and bad people suffer. 

What is needed early on in the discipleship of new believers is what a Christian worker called a “theology of persecution":

To help the persecuted church, we have to have this metanarrative that looks beyond the here and now to the Second Coming when Christ fixes this mess. There has got to be this sense that I have hope that one day my sitting in this jail cell is worth it—or that my going hungry because I can’t find a job is worth it. It’s the thing that the Bible says over and over—don’t invest in this world, there’s something better coming. The church in Iran must teach each person how to do ministry at a time when the government and the community is against them.

This theology of persecution then fuels how this Christian worker prays for his Iranian brothers and sisters whom he cares for deeply:

It’s a tough thing. Do you pray for God to stop the persecution? I don’t like to see people suffer. These are some of my dear friends, and I want them to find relief. But on the other hand, as a result of persecution, we are seeing incredible fruit. The church is being refined, and in that refinement comes effective gospel witness. The gospel is going forth into unreached places.

To support our Iranian brothers and sisters, we can pray that God will give them the grace to face their persecution with the confidence that Jesus is worth it. Let us also pray that their persecution would continue to produce gospel fruit throughout Iran. 

God’s plans are not thwarted by persecution. This Christian worker told us that Iran is incredibly receptive to the gospel right now, despite the pressure Christians face. He also thinks that Iran will one day become a hub for missions:

What we have is the potential of seeing Iran becoming a missions-sending hub for reaching Muslims throughout the world. Iranians are excellent evangelists. They come out of their training in Islam to be effective evangelists for the gospel. That’s why we’ve got to ground Iranians in God’s Word and give them a strong picture of what God is doing [through persecution]. From this field will emerge many missionaries to Muslims.

Let us pray for this dream to become a reality. 

____

At Secret Church 17 we will be praying for the persecuted church in Iran and for the unreached peoples of Iran to put their faith in Jesus Christ. To learn more about Secret Church, or to register for the simulcast, go here.

Sign up for Radical Updates

If you would like periodic updates on Radical and the ministry of David Platt, please sign up here.