By Lamont Colucci and Kathryn Colucci
Those that focus on international relations and diplomacy tend to concentrate on military power, political ideologies, and economic resources. When these foreign policy experts analyze religion, they often do so by lenses such as terrorism, extremism, or religious restrictions on behavior.
On the other hand, there are those that focus on religion where the emphasis is placed upon evangelism and belief. What the world is witnessing in Iran is a nexus where international relations and religious changes merge, creating the potential for a long-lasting positive change in both.
A new documentary, “Sheep Among Wolves II” produced by FAI (Frontier Alliance International) in conjunction with Dalton Thomas and Joel Richardson, depicts the growth of Christianity in Iran.
It begins with the revelation of a profound lack of faith among many in the Iranian population who remain Muslim-in-label only. Mosques are often empty, and religious laws are enforced due to the Shia extremists who hold power at the highest levels of government. These tyrannical actors overplayed their hand, and since 1979, have revealed to the entire nation that the purpose of their religion is to subjugate a people and rule them through the use of fear: beatings, tortures, assaults, and death.
So as the Iranian Shia theocracy attempts to pursue an imperial foreign policy endgame of ruling the Shiite Crescent (which stretches from the Persian Gulf through Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon), there exists an underground Christian movement that fosters peace and is not only pro-Jewish but pro-Israel. This Iranian Awakening has exploded across the country, majority-led by women who are former Muslims.
The movement, whose members potentially number in the millions, is characterized by a non-denominational, decentralized conversion process that the Iranian Christians call “Disciple-Making Moments” or DMM. DMM engages heavily with the super-natural aspect of Christianity, and at its roots is “relational” rather than “positional.” It begins with one believer within the movement engaging in prayer to be led by the Holy Spirit to a “person of peace,” sometimes even to a specific location where this person is. Once contact has been made, the believer initiates a conversation with the non-believer, shares personal vignettes of finding Jesus, witnesses to the nonbeliever, and prays for the non-believer’s needs.
In the documentary, one Iranian Christian says that Jesus moves among the non-believers faster than he had originally thought. In other words, many Iranian non-believers have already had visitations or dreams where Jesus appears to them, which makes the dialogue with potential new disciples much easier. After having this initial dialogue, the non-believer would be free to share the conversation with anyone within his/her social circle, although it usually begins with family members. If the non-believer returns to the Christian with at least two other people who are interested, this would be regarded as the beginnings of an infant church solely under the dominion of the Holy Spirit as it was conceived without a pastor, teacher, or evangelist. The leaders of DMM also make it abundantly clear that the number of people in a church is unimportant. Compared to churches in the West, the DMM method requires radical belief that God can plant seeds in hopeless deserts where Christianity is illegal and still achieve fruition under the threat of bodily death — not unlike the genesis of 1st century Christian-making under Roman rule.
There are many statistical debates about the number of Christians in Iran. The Iranian government, which has a vested interest in a propagandistic, low number, puts it at 117,000 people. However, both OpenDoors USA and the World Christian Database concurs with the documentary that the number is approximately more than half a million to one million and growing. It is interesting to note that arrests of Christians in Iran are on the upswing, and those labeled pastors are often prosecuted as threats to national security.
The implications made by “Sheep Among Wolves II” for international affairs and diplomacy are titanic. An Iran where Christianity flourishes is an Iran that will no longer harbor a desire of weapons of mass destruction, sponsor the worst forms of terrorism, commit horrible human rights atrocities against their own people, and seek the death of the Jewish people and Israel. It is also an Iran that comes back into the normal fold of civil international relations and has a flourishing relationship with the West, as it once did before the late 1970’s.