by Amy Delgado, Frontier Fellowship Board Member + Global Outreach Director, Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church (Houston, TX)
Iran has a rich Christian history. In the 70s, the Islamic revolution forced the closure of all churches and Christian schools. People were killed solely for their faith in Jesus. Many followers of Jesus fled the country; those that remained went underground, some leaving the faith over time. Despite this persecution, it is believed that more Iranian people have chosen to follow Jesus in the last 40 years than the previous 1,400 years combined. New house churches are multiplying in secret, and many consider the Iranian Church to be the fastest-growing in the world. Jesus is on the move!
Iranian Christians are often isolated and struggle to obtain access to God’s Word, training and other resources due to the persecution they face. Pars Theological Centre (Pars), a Frontier Fellowship partner, was founded in 2010 by Iranian theologians who had a dream of equipping and mobilizing the Iranian Church. Today, Pars is a flourishing organization that is faithfully educating and discipling Iranian followers of Jesus in Iran and throughout the Persian-speaking world.
In November of 2022, a 14-member team—representing seven US churches—traveled to the UK and Turkey to meet with Pars’ staff and participate in a conference focused on student formation. The protests and unrest in Iran at that time made for a very interesting trip. The words “Woman, Life, Freedom” could be seen on slides during worship services, worn on t-shirts and even shouted in the streets when our team came upon a protest near the Iranian Consulate in Istanbul. They expressed a renewed hope for a different future for their country. The students we met expressed their dream: a day in which those who have had to flee Iran because of their faith in Jesus may be able to return home.
Pars is leading the way of the modern Christian movement for Iranians—and now for many Afghan students as well. With Pars’ courses being online through secure digital connections, they are able to educate, mentor and provide counseling to Farsi speakers regardless of their location. The theological education and mentorship that Pars students receive is helpful to their formation as Christian leaders in this region and context.
Additionally, Pars now offers a Counselling Centre, which seeks to support Persian-speaking Christians through holistic mental health treatment and Christian counseling training. While counseling is not something many people think of as a key component to education, the persecution and trauma many of Pars’ students have experienced make it a necessary element. Pars has observed the deep importance counseling plays in creating healthy, well-rounded leaders who can, in turn, pastor and care for those in their churches and other new followers of Jesus. In conversations with the Pars leaders, we learned that there is a one-year waiting list for counseling. Adding to their counseling staff is a critical priority, and they are working to raise funds to do so.
In following Jesus, the people we met have given up so much. Many have lost their countries, careers and income, belongings and even family members, who reject and alienate them for being followers of Christ. Some have had to literally leave everything behind to pursue Christ. Those our team met with in Turkey are there as refugees, and their status doesn’t allow them to legally work there. Most are supporting each other with the limited finances they have or unofficial work. We felt the weight of what our Iranian brothers and sisters have been through, and yet we were inspired by their passion for Jesus and their undaunted pursuit of theological education to continue building the Iranian Church. They recognize the burgeoning need to be prepared in order to lead and support the growing number of people coming to faith in Christ.
The highlight of our visit was spending time with the students—working together in small groups, discussing a session topic, and sharing about our lives over a meal. After two days together, we spent time in prayer as a group. It was hard to say goodbye. Growing up, my mother taught me that it’s impossible to “un-see” or “un-hear” things. No doubt, the faces of our new friends and their stories will be with me forever. Please join me in praying for Pars. Support them if you feel led to do so. May God bless and protect Pars and their students as they shape the future of Christianity in Iran.
Learn more about Pars Theological Centre at frontierfellowship.com/pars