I am not sure who will win the upcoming election. Let me say that up front. I do not have any special knowledge or insight about what the results will be—or when they will be known.
I do know that many people—many of my friends and neighbors—will be upset about the result. I know people on both sides who think a victory for the other side’s candidates will irreparably harm our nation and churches.
When I hear these woe to the church warnings, I am encouraged that God is greater than any opposition as I reflect on places around the world where my Christian brothers and sisters have no religious freedom and where their government is actively opposed to every form of Christian activity. Yet, it is often in those places where God is moving most powerfully.
In 1979, there was a massive shift in political power in Iran. The Islamic Revolution put the mullahs—Islamic religious leaders—in charge of the entire nation. They promised a nation run strictly along Islamic principles, treating the Quran as if it was the constitution and placing an Imam as “Supreme Leader.”
For Iranian Christians—and those praying for them and supporting them from around the world—it seemed like the worst news possible. What place would there be for Christians—especially “apostate” converts from Islam—in the Islamic Republic of Iran? Many believed that the end of the church in Iran was at hand.
Forty years later, those pronouncements seem laughable. The fastest-growing church in the world is in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and more Muslims have come to Christ in Iran since the Islamic revolution than in all of the other roughly 1,400 years since the advent of Islam.
It has not been an easy road for my Christian brothers and sisters there. Pastors like Haik Hovsepian and Mehdi Dibaj were murdered. Pastor Hosein Soodmand was executed. Every legal, “above-ground” church that held services in Farsi—the national language of Iran—has been closed. House church meetings are raided by authorities. Christians are interrogated, arrested, tortured and sexually assaulted. I will never forget a conversation with an Iranian Christian who told me that he and his wife had talked about how she would respond if she were to be arrested and raped because of her witness for Christ.
It has not been easy. There has been much suffering. And yet hundreds of thousands of Iranian Muslims have come to Christ. As the government became more strictly Islamist, the people became less so. Iranian evangelists that VOM works with estimate that nearly three-quarters of Iranians have rejected Islam. As the government became more openly hostile to Christianity, the people became curious about how the gospel could be such a “threat.” I have Iranian friends who point out that Ayatollah Khomeini—the face of the Islamic Revolution—drove so many people away from Islam that he was the greatest force for propagating Christianity in the history of Iran!
God is perfectly capable of advancing His Kingdom and His purposes, no matter how many votes are cast or how the results turn out. I pray for God’s will to be done in this election, and for the elevation of leaders who honor God and protect our freedom of worship. But when I hear friends and neighbors say that the wrong result Tuesday will be the end of the church in America, I can only smile and think of the place with the fastest-growing church in the world—the Islamic Republic of Iran.