Hundreds of thousands of Christians are worshiping secretly in a rapidly accelerating house church movement in Iran, as a London-based theological center is aiding the movement by training the next generation of its spiritual leaders.
The Iranian government labels Christianity as a threat to the nation’s Islamic identity and imprisons over 100 Christians for worshiping Christ. Such crackdowns on faith, however, have not prevented Iranian house churches from blossoming into a movement too big for the Iranian religious police to contain.
Some estimates, such as one provided by Open Doors USA, record as many as 450,000 practicing Christians in Iran, while other, more optimistic estimates, record over 1 million Christians in the Islamic republic.
Regardless of the number, there is a strong need for leaders-in-Christ who can lead individual house churches and help the movement grow to become not just a Christian movement, but also an inherently “Iranian” one.
At least 200 Iranian Christians are being trained by the London-based Pars Theological Centre to become the next generation of leaders to help the house church movement grow so that it can foster a better society for all in Iran, a source affiliated with the centre told The Christian Post.
“It is not anti-Iranian,” the source assured. “It’s an Iranian movement. It’s a great, great number of Muslims turning to Christ.”
The source explained that due to the fear of government crackdown, Iranian house churches consist only of about four to five members, and have to change their place of gathering every time they meet.
“If they want to sing, they have to sing very quietly or not sing at all,” the source explained.
About 70 percent of Pars’ students live in Iran and are trained within the country. Candidates who study with Pars are mostly accepted by the recommendation of their leaders. Pars is intentional in targeting its students’ hearts, hands and minds in all its courses. In addition, Pars has also developed a ministry program where the students are put under the care of a mentor who guides them in their spiritual journey and practical ministry.
The students sometimes gather in small groups to talk about the content of the lessons, the source added. In each group, a senior student leads the discussion.
“These are all underground, and the students need to keep extreme security measures,” the source said. “They have times of worship and prayer, but these need to be done very quietly and without attracting attention.”
Iranian government imprisons pastors who hold such gatherings and charge them with charges like crimes against state and keep them in jails for years to stop the growth of Christianity in Iran. Two such examples are Ps. Saeed Abedini and Ps. Benham Irani. Both of them were imprisoned in Iran for holding religious gatherings. Ps. Abedini was released earlier this year while Ps. Irani still awaits his release in the Iranian prison.