Planting churches in Iran sounds like a difficult challenge because of the real danger of persecution. But ask an Iranian house church leader, "what is your stratergy for planting churches in Iran?" and you'll be suprised by the simplicity of the answer.
While it is safer to start a church in the West, it may actually be simpler to plant one in Iran. Go to a church planters' conference in North America, and you will hear about budgets, programs, marketing campaigns, and the need for a good worship set. Attend a conference for Iranians, and you get a very different picture. They'll talk about starting by sharing Christ with friends and family, gathering new believers for a weekly Bible teaching and fellowship, and then encouraging and praying with them to go and share with their friends and family.
D and F, a married couple, finished their Bible training in 2009 and then headed to a city with a reputation as deeply Islamic. "We started with two people who were Christians, but had no Bible teaching. We met with them and began to disciple them. The Lord has blessed us and we now have twenty faithful believers," D shares.
How did they grow in such a hostile environment?
D explains, "We have a saying in our church and we begin every service with everyone affirming it - I'm not here as a pew-sitter. In other words, all are reminding themselves they are here to serve the Lord. We learn in church to use every opportunity to share the message of God, even when stopped at a traffic light or outside a mosque or Islamic shrine."
J, a senior church planter began a network in 2005 with one family and now oversees over 20 house churches. "Our churches grow through our members. We started with one family in Tehran. We would visit them in their home for worship and fellowship. We taught them the Bible and encouraged them to share Jesus with their family and friends. They did and the church grew."
J shares how a breakthrough occurred for their church in 2007, "A new believer called me one day while she was on vacation with 20 family members. She'd tried to witness to them, but she was so new in faith she was struggling. So I drove a couple of hours and had a captive audience. I shared my testimony and two of the young women started to weep. The Lord was there and seven of them gave their lives to Christ that day. So we sent two of our emerging leaders to teach and disciple them, and now there are seven house churches in their city and over 100 believers."