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Iran - A Gateway Nation

When it comes to missions and Iran, most people do not know what to do with Iran.

From a geographical point of view, people try putting Iran with the Middle East, but that does not work because the Iran Region stretches into Afghanistan which clearly is not the Middle East. Others try and put Iran into Central Asia. That is acceptable for the very north of Iran, but to call Iran south of Tehran, Central Asia, is geographically inaccurate. Some even try and tack Iran onto the Arab world, which explains why people can think Iranians speak Arabic (they don’t; they speak Persian). In frustration othersjust put Iran into Asia which is geographically correct, but as a category it fails since the strategic significance of Iran is lost in the vastness of the world's largest continent.

There is only one logical place to put Iran in and that is the Iran Region. In other words it is time for us to stop trying to graft Iran onto another region, and to acknowledge that there is an Iran Region which stands on its own and needs to be understood in its own terms. To do otherwise is to ignore the political, cultural, and geographical fact that Iran is a regional power.

The sheer size of the country, its strategic geographical position, its population of over 70 million and its oil wealth ensure that Iran is a regional power. It dwarfs both the Sheikdoms of the Gulf, and the new states in the south of the former Soviet Empire. However the political and cultural influence of Iran stretches way beyond the country's borders. In Sudan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and the Gulf countries, the importance of Iran is a political fact. Decisions in the region are simply not made without considering Tehran. Furthermore the world's 200 million Shi'ite Muslims look to Iran for inspiration and all the main Shi'ite seminaries and training centres are based there.

In short Iran is a gateway nation. A growing church in Iran will be a catalyst for greater harvest in other parts of the Muslim world. Therefore, for those who believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ should be taken to the whole world, the Iran Region must be recognised and understood. Not only because most of the 100 million in the region are totally unreached with the Gospel, but because of its potential to impact many others also.

The secular press is well aware of Iran's importance and senior foreign correspondents follow events there with keen interest. It is time the global church realizes Iran’s importance to mission in the Muslim world.