04/24/2023 | Middle East

The underground church of Iran

Underground church in Iran. © Heart 4 Iran

Iran is a country known for its strict adherence to Islamic law, which makes practicing any religion other than Islam difficult, especially for converts from Islam to Christianity who now form a huge “underground church.” Despite the challenges, the underground church in Iran has been growing over the past few decades, and it is shaping the future of this restricted country.

The underground church in Iran comprises a network of secret Christian believers who gather in homes, in small groups, and online. They do not have access to church buildings, and they worship in secrecy to avoid persecution. Iranian authorities view those converts to Christianity (known as Muslim Background Believers ‘MBBs’) as a threat to their Islamic regime, and MBBs who openly express their faith face arrest, torture, and even death.

Despite the risks, the underground church in Iran is thriving. Estimates suggest that there are currently between 300,000 to one million MBBs in Iran, most of whom are part of the underground church. This growth can be attributed to several factors.

Firstly, the underground church in Iran has a strong sense of community. MBBs in Iran face many challenges, including social isolation, discrimination, and persecution. The underground church provides a sense of belonging and support to believers who might otherwise feel alone.

Secondly, the underground church in Iran is innovative in finding ways to connect with other believers and spread the gospel. They use social media, satellite TV, and other online platforms to connect with each other and share the good news of Jesus Christ. This has been particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has made physical gatherings impossible.

Thirdly, the underground church in Iran is committed to discipleship and training new leaders. MBB leaders in Iran face significant risks, and there is a shortage of trained pastors and teachers. The underground church has taken on the responsibility of training new leaders and helping them to grow in their faith.

Despite the growth and resilience of the underground church in Iran, it is important to acknowledge that MBBs, as well as, traditional Christians in Iran still face significant challenges. The Iranian government continues to restrict religious freedom and punish those who express their faith openly. MBBs in Iran are often subjected to harassment, arrest, torture, and imprisonment.

However, the underground church in Iran is also a source of hope. It is a reminder that God's kingdom is not confined to physical borders or political systems. The MBB Church in Iran is growing, and it is shaping the future of Christianity in this restricted country. As the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome, "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16).

In conclusion, the current state of the underground church in Iran is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of God's love. Despite facing immense challenges, the underground church in Iran continues to grow and thrive. It is a source of hope and inspiration for Christians around the world who face persecution and discrimination for their faith.

By Dr. Mike Ansari

President, Heart4Iran