Advanced Training for House Church Leaders in Iran

 Name of Partnership: Advanced Training for House Church Leaders in Iran

Name of Ministry: Elam Ministry

Type of Project: Evangelism/Discipleship

Country/Region: Iran/Middle East

Project Overview:

Operation World identifies the church in Iran as the fastest growing church in the world. Though numbers cannot be verified, the results of Christian satellite TV and wide-scale Scripture distribution over the past decade have helped to spawn a house church movement where new churches are popping up like popcorn—replicating, multiplying, and new groups starting from existing ones about every six to twelve months.  Across the region, Elam’s trained leaders and church planters are reporting the same thing: Iranians continue to respond with joy and enthusiasm to the gospel. Within this context, leadership development remains perhaps the greatest need of the Iranian church.  Trained leaders are needed to serve as evangelists, pastors and church planters so that the church is able to make the most of the opportunity for growth. This partnership involves one-week advanced training conferences for 40 leaders serving courageously and fruitfully inside Iran.

Project Description:

Iran: Closed Land, Open Hearts

image1Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iranians have become increasingly disillusioned with Islam. Despite the persecution, Iranians Christians are showing great courage in preaching Christ. Hundreds who have received training through Elam are sharing the gospel across the region and distributing the Scriptures. While the government tries to restrict the church, general society is not hostile to Christians. In fact, because of the disillusionment with Islam, the normal expectation is that if someone comes to Christ, other members of their family will soon follow. 

Unprecedented Church Growth

In 1979, there were less than 500 known Christians from a Muslim background in Iran. Today the most conservative estimate is that there are at least 360,000 believers in the nation, and even more moderate estimates place the number of believers as well over one million. Church leaders believe that millions can be added to the church in the next few years-such is the spiritual hunger that exists and the disillusionment with the Islamic regime. More Iranians have come to faith in Christ in the last 10 years, than in the last 1300 years combined.

image2Elam Ministries is one of the premiere ministries reaching Iranians both in Iran and in the diaspora through evangelism, church planting, leadership training, Bible and literature distribution, and media. Elam actively supports church planters, evangelists and pastors who are serving in over 100 cities in Iran and the wider region. Elam provides them with ongoing training opportunities, provides them with Bibles,  evangelistic materials, discipleship books and other resources, offers pastoral support, and advocates on behalf of those who find themselves persecuted because of their ministry.

Since the beginning, Elam has believed leadership training is far more than educating the mind, important as that is. Effective Christian leaders are more than people who know the Bible and theology well. They are people who truly know the Lord and are anointed; they have healthy relationships; they live lives of integrity; they closely follow God’s will and not their own ambitions; and they know how to ge things done.

Persians are Iran’s largest ethnic group, but nearly a dozen other ethnicities represent well over a third of the 79 million population, including groups like the Azeris, Kurds, Arabs, and Baluchis. People from all segments of society are now following Christ. Former hardline Islamic Mullahs and drug addicts worship Jesus together. There are highly educated people, such as university professors and lawyers, as well as working class people, such as taxi drivers and street vendors, in the church. There are old and young, men and women, city people and nomads.

Screen Shot 2016-11-22 at 7.58.24 PMIran is a regional superpower with unparalleled influence in the Islamic world. Missiologists agree that Iran is a strategic “gateway” nation that has the potential to reach the people of the entire region because of its strong historical, cultural, and linguistic ties with its neighbors Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, the Gulf States, Iraq, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

This is harvest time in Iran.  Now is the time to fuel partnerships where God is clearly at work. Training Iranian church leaders remains among the highest priorities to help meet the needs of the fastest growing church in the world.

Global Opportunities for Christ has enjoyed a longstanding partnership with Elam Ministries since 1998, which has involved helping to fund training initiatives, Bible and literature distribution, and support for house church leaders.

Leadership Bio:

image1Sam Yeghnazar, born in Tehran in 1944 to a devoted Christian family and coming to know Christ at an early age, is the founder of Elam Ministries. He came to know the Lord at a young age. As a young church leader, his love for the Word grew and he traveled to India to complete his theological training. Sam then returned to his country and joined the Bible Society of Iran in 1968. His passion to spread the Word of God took him to every town in Iran.

Throughout the 1970s Sam held various positions for the United Bible Society (UBS) offices in Asia and the Middle East. In 1983, Sam relocated to England to be the Consultant for Europe and the Middle East for UBS. The next year, while still with UBS, Sam became the pastor of a small Iranian fellowship in London, The Iranian Christian Fellowship, which has now grown to be one of the largest congregations of Iranian Muslim converts outside of Iran. Sam left the UBS in 1986 to dedicate his life to ministry among Iranians. He then established Elam Ministries in 1988 with the vision of reaching Iran and the Persian world for Christ.

In 2014 David Yeghnazar (Sam’s son), who had served for a number of years as director of Elam’s operations in the USA, moved back to London to assume the position of Executive Director of Elam.

Testimonies:

“I had been praying for four years to have this chance to study and prepare to serve Jesus. We have been without a pastor for four years. The forty members of our house church were desperate for me to return and teach them what I’ve learned.” (House church leader)

Following completion of the [Elam leadership] training course I went back to Iran and began my ministry of evangelism and distributing New Testaments.  I was praying for and working with the people in Khuzestan Province.  [My friend] and I began our church in Ahvaz and every year another church was added to the network.  After five years we had eight churches in our network in Khuzestan Province.”   (Anonymous church planter)

Endorsements

Ravi Zacharias,
President of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries

“I wholeheartedly endorse the work of Elam Ministries and the unique work to which God has called them to.”

 

George Verwer, Founder of Operation Mobilization

“The Iranians represent one of the most unreached people in the world. I just praise God for the work of Sam Yeghnazar and all of his co-workers. I trust more of God’s people will become partners with them.”

 

Patrick Johnstone, WEC International, Author of ‘Operation World”

 “For some years I have followed the efforts to proclaim the gospel to the Persian-speaking world and related areas of the Middle East. I have rejoiced in the victories and wept over the suffering and setbacks of the Christians in the area. The developing work of Elam Ministries and the burden of its founder, my friend Sam Yeghnazar, I see as one of the keys for future progress for Christ’s Kingdom among the diverse peoples of this strategic part of the world. I commend this unique ministry as worthy of the support of Christians around the world.”

Project Budget: $29,800

The cost for these one-week advanced training conferences is $745 per person including travel, accommodation and the training. Total cost is US$29,800.

Sponsoring Organization:

Global Opportunities for Christ

Elam Ministries Partnership

Name of partnership: Elam Ministries Advanced Training Conferences for House Church Leaders

Code if one exists: 450Elam

Type of partnership e.g. evangelism: Training, Discipleship

Country: Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan

Budget: $29,800

Contact person details: info@Globalhopepartnerships.org

Funding status: New Funding Needed

Date commenced: January, 2016

Short blurb (2 – 3 sentences) describing partnership:

Operation World identifies the church in Iran as the fastest growing church in the world. Though numbers cannot be verified, the results of Christian satellite TV and wide-scale Scripture distribution over the past decade have helped to spawn a house church movement where new churches are popping up like popcorn—replicating, multiplying, and new groups starting from existing ones about every six to twelve months.  Across the region, Elam’s trained leaders and church planters are reporting the same thing: Iranians continue to respond with joy and enthusiasm to the gospel. Within this context, leadership development remains perhaps the greatest need of the Iranian church.  Trained leaders are needed to serve as evangelists, pastors and church planters so that the church is able to make the most of the opportunity for growth. This partnership involves one-week advanced training conferences for 40 leaders serving courageously and fruitfully inside Iran.

Personal story (someone impacted by partnership) and photo

Partnership overview:

Iran: Closed Land, Open Hearts

Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iranians have become increasingly disillusioned with Islam. The political, economic, and spiritual situation in Iran has resulted in a deep spiritual hunger for truth. Iran may be a closed land, but the people have open hearts. Iranians today are seen as the most open Muslim people to the Gospel in the world. More have become Christians since the revolution than the previous 1,300 years put together.

Unprecedented Church Growth

In 1979, there were less than 500 known Christians from a Muslim background in Iran. Today the most conservative estimate is that there are at least 360,000 believers in the nation, and even more moderate estimates place the number of believers as well over one million. Church leaders believe that millions can be added to the church in the next few years-such is the spiritual hunger that exists and the disillusionment with the Islamic regime.

Elam Ministries is one of the premiere ministries reaching Iranians both in Iran and in the diaspora through evangelism, church planting, leadership training, Bible and literature distribution, and media. Elam actively supports church planters, evangelists and pastors who are serving in over 70 cities in Iran and the wider region. Elam provides them with ongoing training opportunities, provides them with Bibles, evangelistic materials, discipleship books and other resources, offers pastoral support, and advocates on behalf of those who find themselves persecuted because of their ministry.

Since the beginning, Elam has believed leadership training is far more than educating the mind, important as that is. Effective Christian leaders are more than people who know the Bible and theology well. They are people who truly know the Lord and are anointed; they have healthy relationships; they live lives of integrity; they closely follow God’s will and not their own ambitions; and they know how to ge things done.

History of partnership: Global Opportunities for Christ has enjoyed a longstanding partnership with Elam Ministries since 1998, which has involved helping to fund training initiatives, Bible and literature distribution, and support for house church leaders.

Beneficiaries of partnership: Persians are Iran’s largest ethnic group, but nearly a dozen other ethnicities represent well over a third of the 79 million population, including groups like the Azeris, Kurds, Arabs, and Baluchis. People from all segments of society are now following Christ. Former hardline Islamic Mullahs and drug addicts worship Jesus together. There are highly educated people, such as university professors and lawyers, as well as working class people, such as taxi drivers and street vendors, in the church. There are old and young, men and women, city people and nomads.  Elam evangelists and church planters serve in nearly 100 cities in the region.

What we like about partnership:

Despite the persecution, Iranians Christians are showing great courage in preaching Christ. More than 1,000 Iranians were taught at Elam training conferences in 2015. They are reaching their families, friends and communities across the region. While the government tries to restrict the church, general society is not hostile to Christians. In fact, because of the disillusionment with Islam, the normal expectation is that if someone comes to Christ, other members of their family will soon follow. 

Iran is a regional superpower with unparalleled influence in the Islamic world. Missiologists agree that Iran is a strategic “gateway” nation that has the potential to reach the people of the entire region because of its strong historical, cultural, and linguistic ties with its neighbors Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, the Gulf States, Iraq, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

This is harvest time in Iran.  Now is the time to fuel partnerships where God is clearly at work.

Key person profile: 

Sam Yeghnazar, born in Tehran in 1944 to a devoted Christian family and coming to know Christ at an early age, is the founder of Elam Ministries. He came to know the Lord at a young age. As a young church leader, his love for the Word grew and he traveled to India to complete his theological training. Sam then returned to his country and joined the Bible Society of Iran in 1968. His passion to spread the Word of God took him to every town in Iran.

Throughout the 1970s Sam held various positions for the United Bible Society (UBS) offices in Asia and the Middle East. In 1983, Sam relocated to England to be the Consultant for Europe and the Middle East for UBS. The next year, while still with UBS, Sam became the pastor of a small Iranian fellowship in London, The Iranian Christian Fellowship, which has now grown to be one of the largest congregations of Iranian Muslim converts outside of Iran. Sam left the UBS in 1986 to dedicate his life to ministry among Iranians. He then established Elam Ministries in 1988 with the vision of reaching Iran and the Persian world for Christ.

In 2014 David Yeghnazar (Sam’s son), who had served for a number of years as director of Elam’s operations in the USA, moved back to London to assume the position of Executive Director of Elam.

Vision of partnership: Elam Ministries’ vision is to see all the people of the Iran region have the opportunity to come to know the Lord Jesus Christ and follow Him as a disciple, and that they would be instrumental in taking the gospel to other Muslims.  Graduates of Elam’s training programs are playing a significant role in helping the Iranian church grow in strength and depth. Their conviction is that the more leaders they train, the more impact they will see.

Strategy of partnership: To provide funds for top-tier leaders inside Iran to receive advanced training, and then share what they learn and experience with those they are working with inside the country.

Budget detail – what funds are used for: 

The cost for these one-week advanced training conferences is $745 per person including travel, accommodation and the training. Total cost is $29,800.

Life change stories:

Despite the risks, many want to be trained for ministry. One leader who was trained in 2013 said: “I have been praying for four years to have this chance to study and prepare to serve Jesus. We have been without a pastor for four years. The forty members of our house church are desperate for me to return and teach them what I’ve learned.”

“Following completion of the [Elam leadership] training course I went back to Iran and began my ministry of evangelism and distributing New Testaments.  I was praying for and working with the people in Khuzestan Province.  [My friend] and I began our church in Ahvaz and every year another church was added to the network.  After five years we had eight churches in our network in Khuzestan Province.”  From the testimony of an anonymous church planter

Endosrsements:

Ravi Zacharias

President, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries

“I wholeheartedly endorse the work of Elam Ministries and the unique work to which God has called them to.”

George Verwer

Founder of Operation Mobilization

“The Iranians represent one of the most unreached people in the world. I just praise God for the work of Sam Yeghnazar and all of his co-workers. I trust more of God’s people will become partners with them.”

Patrick Johnstone

WEC International, Author of ‘Operation World”

“For some years I have followed the efforts to proclaim the gospel to the Persian-speaking world and related areas of the Middle East. I have rejoiced in the victories and wept over the suffering and setbacks of the Christians in the area. The developing work of Elam Ministries and the burden of its founder, my friend Sam Yeghnazar, I see as one of the keys for future progress for Christ’s Kingdom among the diverse peoples of this strategic part of the world. I commend this unique ministry as worthy of the support of Christians around the world.”

Iran is a regional superpower with unparalleled influence in the Islamic world. Missiologists agree that Iran is a strategic “gateway” nation that has the potential to reach the people of the entire region because of its strong historical, cultural, and linguistic ties with its neighbors Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, the Gulf States, Iraq, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

This is harvest time in Iran.  Now is the time to fuel partnerships where God is clearly at work and make the Scriptures available to the fastest growing church in the world.