Healthy Growth Multiplies: Iran and the Fruit of Faith: ChurchLeaders

by Lana Silk

Healthy things grow. Likewise, unhealthy things do not. In fact, the things that receive inadequate care, rather than staying the same, weaken and deteriorate, eventually dying.

I often think back to my early years in motherhood. When assessing my children’s health, the doctor would ask me, “Are they eating? Are they playing?” A healthy child has an appetite for food and nourishment. A healthy child is active. These simple checks acted as initial litmus tests to ascertain whether my children were healthy. 

It is the same with us in our faith. If we are healthy, we have an appetite for the things of God—and we are active! There are certain requirements in our spiritual nourishment that allow us to grow; without which we are stunted in our faith, leading us to spiritual deterioration.

This deterioration cannot happen. 

In places where the gospel is polarized and persecuted, such as the Middle East, spiritual health—and growth—is critically important. The people of Iran need good soil, a hunger for Christ, healthy growth and an unrelenting desire to spread the good news. Therefore, it is crucial that the gospel remains strong and is multiplied, a firm growing foundation to those desperate for hope.

How is this foundational active faith established? And what can we learn from the rapidly growing persecuted Church in Iran?

Spiritual Appetite: Do We Hunger?

If we are healthy in our faith, we have an appetite for God; we are eating and growing spiritually by dwelling in his presence. If we do not have a hunger for our Savior—a deep desire to know his Word, heart and Spirit—we are failing to even begin to know the real Jesus.

…like newborn babies [you should] long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may be nurtured and grow in respect to salvation [its ultimate fulfillment]. (1 Peter 2:2)

In Iran, access to the Word of God is illegal. Preaching the gospel is illegal. Worship and discipleship are illegal. And hunger for these things is greater than ever before!

Opening our hearts to this cultural perspective should be quite sobering to us here in the West; when something is freely available, it oftentimes loses value. But when it is a rare scarcity that has to be sought and bought at a high price, it becomes like water in a desert. The Psalmist talks about how he longs for God just as a deer “pants for water.”

Therefore, our challenge here in the West is to remember just how precious the Word of God is and how precious our relationship with our Savior is—and to actively cultivate a hunger for him and his Word just as we would imagine ourselves panting and longing for water in the desert.

Fruitfulness: Do We Mature in Obedience?

When we truly know the Father upon building a real and consistent relationship with him, we inevitably experience conviction; this matures us in faith and obedience. I often think of Paul addressing the Corinthians as “infants” in their lack of spiritual maturity, explaining that they were unfit for spiritual “solid food,” still requiring “milk,” disobedient and therefore stagnant in faith.  

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us not do this—merely reading the Word of God on occasion and remaining as we once were, without the powerful Scriptures permeating our hearts and transforming our lives. Sanctification is ongoing—our fruit steadily growing with intention and reception, made richer, ever-increasing and purified day by day. Beginning on the inside, humble maturity radiates outwardly, bringing glory to our Savior.

Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. (James 1:23-25)

Multiplication: Do we Disciple?

When I was younger, I often pondered the parable of the talents, considering the master’s reaction to be rather harsh toward the servant who failed to invest and multiply the money he’d been entrusted. After all, the servant thought he was doing the right thing by simply protecting the funds. But as we grow in our faith, we realize just how much the Lord’s heart desires multiplied fruitfulness. If seeds are planted, there is an expectation that fruit is grown, harvested and populated.

His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.

”…For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. (Matthew 25: 21, 29)

In our work in the mission field in Iran, we hold to 2 Timothy 2:2 as the bedrock of all that we do. 

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others (2 Timothy 2:2)

The call is clear: We hear the life-giving Word; we bear fruit by sharing it with others and ‘entrusting’ it with them; we invest in them, building them up in qualification, (character, quality, training, resourcing and preparation); and in turn, they are fruitful and teach others. This is a life of discipleship, growth, fruitfulness and multiplication. This is what we are actively cultivating in our mission to Iran.

Good Soil: Discipling and Multiplication

Just as the parable of the pearl and the field (Matthew 13), we must give up everything for the single greatest treasure that is Christ Jesus. And just as the parable of the woman with the lost coin (Luke 15), we cannot keep something worth celebrating to ourselves, that which is the good news.

When we share the gospel, we bring something that is precious and priceless to people without hope. 

Jesus’ concern for fruitfulness and multiplication should be our concern too. We cannot keep our faith to ourselves, harboring it away as a hidden secret like the failed servant.

Instead, like the good and faithful servant, we must invest—invest in people, taking time to build relationships and disciple them in faith, teaching them to do the same with others, that the gospel will multiply throughout the earth.

This is especially important in countries like Iran, where the environment is harrowingly hostile for Christians, their very lives and families at stake every day, simply for believing and spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.  

In ministry work in Iran, I’ve seen this concept ring true; the spiritual healthcare of believing Iranians is rooted in a growing fruitfulness that bleeds into the lives of others—boldly and discerningly. The gospel message multiplies. For example, say one person reaches twelve; those twelve aggregately reach 144; those 144 reach 1,728; and those 1,728 reach 20,736. Two groups further nearly reach 3 million people!

That’s multiplication. 

People of quality character in the faith are those who do this. When we think about the parable of the soil, it allows us to examine character quality, ensuring that those we train up in faith are qualified to then produce healthy fruit and pass on wisdom to others as well. When one person is truly reached, changed and trained well, the gospel message will multiply.

People Transformed: Iranians Pollenating the Gospel

We have seen the evidence of multiplication during our work through Transform Iran. One example is Meesha, a Muslim-born Iranian woman. Jesus first pursued her heart unfailingly, and the soil he planted her in was that of our ministry; we invested in her, loved her and mentored her. When I was interviewing Meesha the last time I spoke to her, I inquired about the loss she’d endured in terms of her own children. She said to me, “I lost three children, but I’ve gained 195 because right now I’m discipling 195 people.” From Iran to Turkey to Iran again, Meesha has moved where the Lord has called her in her ministry, walking the streets, listening for the Iranian languages she knows, approaching people and sharing the Gospel with them. She has personally taken in countless orphans, witnessed 140 conversions in Iran and seen the profound ongoing ripple-effects stemming outwardly from these converts, including an Iranian school teacher sharing the “Jesus film” to her students at school.

Another example is Vahik, a formerly drug-addicted Iranian written off by his family to death, who had moved to Holland in search of an easier way to feed his addiction. It was there that he was taken in by a Christian (formerly Muslim) family, leading him to give his life to Jesus. Freed from drug addiction and in love with Christ, Vahik went to Bible college, building upon good soil, graduated and became connected with our ministry. Compelled to go back to Iran to minister to other drug addicts, Vahik ultimately moved back and planted churches in seven Iranian cities. Despite persecution, arrests and brutal prison torture, his ministry has continued, seeing the ongoing ripple effects of disciples making more disciples in these regions, additional church plants, divine unexpected connections and more than 300 baptisms thus far.

These are just two examples of a healthy faith and the gospel is being multiplied each day—each hour—in Iran. We have this same responsibility here in the U.S. We must be good stewards of the people God gives us. When it comes to the context of a ministry, soil matters, fruitfulness matters, multiplication matters. We must not waste away our lives and purpose, deteriorating spiritually, ignoring the most important investment Jesus has given us: people.

Originally posted on: ChurchLeaders.

Published on
4 December 2023
Un an après la mort de Mahsa Amini: ce qui a changé: Christianisme Aujourd’hui Can you help raise leaders that will transform Iran?: Mission Network News

Donate Today

Funds go directly to ensuring the gospel is preached, converts are rooted in the Word, and leaders are raised that will bring the transforming love of Christ to Iran – and beyond.