In turbulent times, God is working out his agenda to add to his church, people from every nation, tribe, ethnicity and language on earth (Rev.7:9). Iranians of a Muslim family background are finding their way to Christ in unprecedented numbers. What’s more, they are also attaching to local churches. It’s vital that existing congregations respond well – here’s why.
An influx of Iranians at an Anglican church in Stoke-on-Trent, has led to superficial changes to the Sunday service (i.e. Bible-readings in both English and Farsi; sermons by translation to Farsi and a fun way of “doing” the Creed using physical actions, to help non-English speakers take part.
Such changes didn’t go down well with older members and some left, accusing the minister of “caring more about the refugee community than us”. Fortunately, they were able to worship at a nearby church served by the same clergy team, which made it a rearrangement rather than a loss.
Another church in Stockton, found the language barrier the main problem, posing a challenge to unity; but it was driven by the practical issue of how to integrate, rather than hostility.
The plus side is that churches are reporting that “Christ-followers” from a Muslim background bring freshness to local churches in recovery after a period of decline. Some ministers say the influx is “just what the Church needs” and “it’s an opportunity for renewal; particularly as we utilise the ministry gifts which these people bring from other parts of the world church”.
Another minister said: “My church was like a stagnant pond. The diaspora believers helped create more of a river.” The natural hospitality of non-western believers, fits well; especially in the north of England.
So regardless of whether your church is near a Persian community, here are four things you can do:
- Pray: Our praying reflects our priorities. Why not pray for Christians in Iran, as well as in diaspora around you. Join the global networks of prayer for Muslims e.g. 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World during Ramadan (15 May to 14 June 2018). One British mother wrote: “Every night, as I nurse my little boy before bedtime, I pray for the mums nursing their babies in refugee camps and on rafts, who are desperate for a safe place to call home.”
- Sponsorship: In 2016 the Home Secretary and the Archbishop of Canterbury launched a scheme, enabling community groups and churches to sponsor refugee families. We now have the chance to provide sanctuary to those fleeing war-torn places.
- Host: If you have a spare room at home, charities such as Refugees at Home are connecting asylum seekers and refugees with accommodation in the home of local families – Also Home for Good allows you to register your interest in fostering an unaccompanied asylum child.
- Give Scripture: Elam Ministries has Persian language (Farsi) pocket-sized New Testaments available free; you just pay p&p. Contact Scripture Distribution Manager, Margretha.
Also, these resources are available from Kitab Resources :
- Joining the Family– welcoming Christ’s followers of Muslim background into his community
- Come Follow Me – an early nurture guide for people of a Muslim background
- Gospel for Muslims– reading the Bible through eastern eyes