Report Of God’s Work In China, Iran And India
[Editor’s Note: One of the highlights of this year’s Heart-Cry for Revival Conference was the following interview that Sammy Tippit, an international revivalist/evangelist, held with ministry leaders from China, Iran and India.]
Sammy Tippit: I’m so excited about the panel we have today because God is doing some incredible things around the world and in some special places. We have guests that are going to be such a blessing to us. I want you to get into a learner’s mode because I believe God wants to speak through these gentlemen.
Let me introduce the men on this panel. We have Bob Fu who is the president of ChinaAid. He lived in China and was there during the Tiananmen Square protests and came to know Christ a little later. He was part of the underground church movement there. God has done a great work in his life and he’s a great man of God. We also have a brother, a dear friend, who is working inside Iran, Mike Ansari, the president of Heart4Iran. God has used him, and what is happening in Iran is incredible. And we have Jolly Sidhu, a pastor in India in the state of Punjab. “Jolly” is his nickname. He and I have known each other for a number of years. God is doing a great work in his church and among the people of Punjab in particular.
Bob, I’ll start with you. Tell us about what God is doing in China.
Bob Fu: Thank you for having me. It is such a joy to be on the same panel as my fellow brothers from Iran and India. I won’t get into an argument with them about where is the fastest growing church on earth, but I can report on what’s happening in China – about what God has been doing, amazingly and incredibly, in the past 70 plus years under the Chinese Communist Party’s brutal rule. When the Communist Party took power in 1949, the number of Chinese Christians was estimated as less than one million. Today, after 70 years of communist rule, the number of Chinese Christians in China, according to Purdue University estimates, has already reached to over 130 million. 130-fold growth! We all know the Communist Party in China has never stopped its ruthless persecution, including today. It’s a great thing to see how God works even despite of and in the middle of persecution. He has worked through miracles, through wonders, signs, through many things; the forgiveness of the Holy Spirit in the church has demonstrated His love to His church in China and made this great growth.
Sammy Tippit: That is fantastic. Thank you, Bob, so much for that. It’s overwhelming to hear those numbers and to know what God is doing. It’s something very similar, Mike, to what is happening in Iran. Tell us about that.
Mike Ansari: Thank you so much for your time and for your prayers for the nations around the globe. We are seeing Jesus moving and building His church in China, in India, and in Iran. Iran happens to be one of the countries where we have seen a huge surge in the growth of Christianity.
Remember this, Iran is an Islamic country. Iran, according to Open Doors International, is the 8th most dangerous place to be a follower of Jesus. In Iran it is illegal for Muslims, which is 99.9 percent of the population, to become Christian. It is illegal to have a Bible. It is illegal to gather and have a fellowship. There are systematic raids on house churches. There is systematic persecution going on in Iran. We have a satellite TV called Mohabat TV that goes into Iran (24/7). We partner with over 100 different ministries, indigenous ministries as well, to bring the Gospel to them, and yet the Iranian government tries to hack, block and jam our signals into the country.
All of these are indicative of the fact that God is moving beautifully in these areas. The church is growing despite persecution.
On average in 2019, prior to COVID, we would have 300 to 400 Iranians [monthly] who would pick up the phone and call us and give their heart to Christ from inside Iran. In 2020 when the pandemic started we were fortunately on air. We had launched what we called a virtual church in October 2019. So we were kind of ready when the pandemic hit and everybody in Iran started going to their homes and started turning to social media and internet. We managed to be able to engage them, so much so that last year we had roughly about 50,000 Iranian Muslims that prayed with our ministry and gave their hearts to Christ – that’s 50,000 Iranians through just one ministry receiving Jesus. That’s a call for celebration, brothers and sisters!
The biblical truth is that when there is persecution there is growth of the church. That is exactly what we see in Iran. We are dealing with a very historic moment in the history of Iran where we are seeing masses of Iranian Muslims who are disillusioned with Islam, who are hopeless, who have given up on their institutional religion. They are turning to the God of love, to Jesus of Nazareth who talks about love and forgiveness. Mind you, the Iranian government is very much actively promoting the fact that these house churches are Zionist instruments, and they are dealing with them in a very harsh way. And yet we have seen the growth of the church, so much so, that our ministry is registering 600 to 700 daily contacts from inside Iran, Muslims who are saying, “Tell me more about Jesus.” So indeed this is a very historic time across the Middle East, in particular with Iran.
Remember, Iran is an epicenter of coronavirus. We have had so many people with the hopelessness of COVID turn themselves to Jesus. Some have been healed. Some have encountered Jesus through their trials and tribulations. So the message is this: Do not let your knowledge about the Middle East and the world be dictated to you by the media. Take off the media spectacles and put on God’s spectacles. Once you do that you realize that He is very much alive and moving and building His church.
Sammy Tippit: Amen. Amen. It is exciting. Mike, you and I both have a mutual friend who was one of the early members of a church there in Tehran. He told me, “Sammy, we used to think if two people came to Christ in a year that we had revival in the church. Now, it has just exploded all over and so many people are coming to Christ.” It’s been really exciting to see what the Lord has done.
Let me ask you next, Pastor Jolly, about India. I remember when you started a church. There were only about 30 people, but tell us about what God is doing.
Jolly Sidhu: Thank you, Sammy. I am so grateful to God for giving me this opportunity to listen to my dear brothers from China and Iran. I want to tell you that God is also moving in India, especially in northern India. It was a very unreached region of India just a decade ago. I accepted Christ around 20 years ago and was one of the very first converts from my background. But today when I look at northern India, at Punjab, I see so many people coming to Christ. Hundreds and hundreds of people have accepted Christ. Even in the middle of COVID we saw many people accepting Jesus Christ.
We are seeing a time when God is moving in India and in our own church. In 2014 when I took over as senior pastor, there were hardly 30 people in our church. Then we started discipling our people. We started teaching them how to pray, how to share their testimony with others, how to pray for the sick. We started teaching them these principles and teaching them about discipleship. We have really seen God doing some amazing things. Our church has exploded in growth since then. Now we are already 1,000 members in our church. I was talking to one of my friends a few days ago. He was telling me Punjab is going to become like South Korea. We are going to have quite a big percentage of people becoming followers of Christ very soon. I think northern India is very, very open for the Gospel.
At the same time, as my brothers have shared, we are also facing persecution. Our government in India is very much against Christianity. They are passing laws against conversion. We are seeing them creating all kinds of hindrances, but in spite of all these things, God is at work. Most of the people who are coming to the church are new people from non-Christian backgrounds so their family doesn’t accept that. Society doesn’t accept that. Even when I became a Christian I was kicked out of my home because my father thought I brought shame to the family.
I think persecution actually is the seed for revival. What I have seen over the years is that when we are persecuted, the church explodes in growth. A few years ago, our church was basically an organized kind of church where we mostly used to worship in the church buildings. But in the last few years I am seeing a new phenomenon coming into our ministry, and that is a house church model. We are seeing small groups forming and people accepting Christ. I think that is the way forward. We are really seeing God doing some amazing things. I am very excited about the future. I think this is the time. It’s time for the Middle East. It’s time for China. It’s time for India and it’s time for my own state, Punjab. So thank God for that.
Sammy Tippit: Amen. With just these three countries, we are talking about close to 40 percent of the world’s population!
Each one of you mentioned something about persecution. I want to ask this question. “What relationship is there to persecution and revival?” Three of the fastest growing churches in the world are in very deeply persecuted areas. Is there some kind of relationship? Mike, let’s start with you. In Iran, could you summarize what you think the relationship of persecution and revival is among God’s people?
Mike Ansari: Absolutely. We are realizing that whenever there is persecution, whenever there are killings, raids and arrests of people who we call “MBBs” (Muslim Background Believers who have converted to Christianity), all of a sudden the church grows, the underground church grows dramatically. The theology of persecution is a biblical theology that’s very much alive and understood in the three areas you are highlighting. People totally understand that and they are okay with it. There are churches, maybe in the West, that may not fully understand the concept of persecution, but I assure you that the level of persecution that we are seeing in these three regions, particularly with my region in Iran which I am more familiar with, has been the leading cause for the growth of the church.
Let me give you a quick example. We had a gentleman who was a 19-year-old Kurdish man that called us. His name was Hadar. He called us from the Kurdish mountains of Iran wanting to find out about Christ. We told him about Jesus. He was illiterate, so every day we would call him, for six months we would read the Bible for him, and he would record it on his phone. He would go in the town center and tell people about Jesus. We warned him, “Please do not go there. This could be risky for you. We don’t want you to put your life at risk.” But he would say, “Look, what Jesus is saying matters. It is so different. It is so dramatically different that everybody in my town has to hear it.” So one day we’re on the phone with him, and we are recording all these phone calls, and his house got raided as he is on the call with us. They broke into his house and they started beating him up. Meanwhile, the audio recording is rolling, and they have no idea that he was on a call with us. After about twenty minutes of beating him up, they became wise that the line was open. They got on the phone and said, “It is your fault that someone like Hadar is being beaten. He is going to be killed because of you and because of your Jesus.”
Fast forward about six or seven months later. We got a phone call to our call center from Hadar’s cell phone (we have caller ID). It was a gentleman, his cousin, who said, “We wanted to let you know that this morning we got a call that Hadar was executed, so we went ahead and picked up his body. Right now there are about 30 to 40 village elders and men sitting in his house. We want to see how can we give our hearts to Christ.” Our call center person prayed a prayer of salvation with them. Thirty to forty leaders of that village gave their hearts to Christ. That proves that when there is persecution, there is growth, there is the spread of the Gospel. That is just the supernatural fact, the biblical fact.
Sammy Tippit: Amen. Amen. Bob, what about China? How do you see this as persecution relates to revival, a great move of God’s Spirit?
Bob Fu: Yes, Brother Mike said it very well and very clearly, there is a deep link between persecution and church revival and growth. I used to teach a course about Christian apologetics in the middle of persecution by doing historical surveys of how Christians responded to persecution throughout history, from the ancient church to different periods of time in church history. As Paul said, anyone who wants to lead a godly life shall be persecuted (2 Tim. 3:12). Persecution is expected, it is a norm. It is how we respond to the persecution that causes growth or not. We should remember that not all persecution has caused church growth. From the former Soviet Union countries like Albania, even Russia were not experiencing growth as much as we are experiencing in China, Iran and India today. So it is how the church responds to the persecution.
I find from the lessons the Chinese church learned, the number one issue in the response to persecution is if the church acknowledges the lordship of Christ. Wherever the church is and however her members are persecuted, that issue will determine church growth or not. When you lift up Christ as the only Head of the church, not the Communist Party, not the government, not any governor of any state or institution – when you acknowledge the lordship of Christ, then even the prison becomes a place of worship. In China, we call it prison theology.
I was in prison for just two months. By the end of the two months, my prison cell and many other cells around my prison had become a place of worship. Everybody followed me every morning. We started singing and giving thanks to the Lord.
In the beginning of this year 2021, one brother from Hunan Province felt it good to celebrate the new year in a public square by sharing the Gospel of Jesus. So he went there and in the marketplace. He started sharing the Gospel and was soon arrested and put to 10 days of administrative detention. But guess what? He was not full of hatred or resentment or complaint, but from his face you could see the shining smile. In the police station, he was immediately sharing the Gospel with the public security officials, the government of religious affairs bureau officials. He took that 10 days at the beginning of January as part of his platform for his prison theology. We know there will be more prisoners and government officials hear the Gospel and come to know Christ. That’s how revival starts!
Sammy Tippit: Amen. What a great point! It’s not just the persecution, but it’s how you respond to the persecution. I think that is something that here in the West we need to grasp. Jolly, I want to take a little bit different direction with you on the same issue. You’re really involved in discipleship. I’ve found discipleship is so much more dynamic in India than here in the U.S. One of the reasons I think is because of the call of discipleship. As Jesus said, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me” (Matt. 16:24). There is a cost for people to follow Jesus. There was a cost for you, Jolly, in your own personal life. How do you see the issue of people initially counting the cost to follow Jesus factor into revival?
Jolly Sidhu: When I accepted Christ, I knew on the very first day that I would have to pay the cost because Christianity is treated as a third class religion in India. The people think that only the poor, in order to get money, become Christians. We are accused of many things. When a person makes a decision of following Jesus from a different background, a Sikh family background or Hindu background or a Muslim background, they know that they have to pay the cost. Our discipleship is based on that. We actually prepare our churches to respond to the persecution, to prepare a church member that he will have to go through all of this. He may be kicked out of his or her house. Their relatives and family members may abandon them. But it’s the crazy love of Jesus, it’s the power of a relationship that comes out of becoming a disciple of Jesus and going through the process of discipleship.
In the West, discipleship is treated more like a textbook program where they go through 7-10 lessons of discipleship. But in the East, in our country and in Iran and in China, we take discipleship as a life lived. So when Bob was put in prison, the people he was discipling, they saw what cost he paid. In the same way in my church, because they know that I was kicked out of my home and couldn’t attend my mom’s funeral, that I was never allowed to attend any of my family’s weddings or other gatherings – the church sees that. It’s a life lived. Discipleship is life lived – a person is living the life in front of their church members. That is what is happening in our part of the world. The pastor, the elders, the deacons – the people leading the churches – are the ones who have already sacrificed a lot, and the church is following in their footsteps. It’s like Paul said, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). Discipleship is more like imitating someone who has lived the life. One of the reasons we love you, Brother Sammy, is because we have heard your stories and you have shared testimonies about people who are persecuted for the faith. This is the cloud of witnesses, that helps us to keep moving forward and running the race.
Sammy Tippit: Amen. Amen. As we wrap this up we need to learn from what God is doing in other countries. What is one thing we here in the West can learn from your region in the world?
Bob Fu: Persecution, or at least discrimination, based on our faith in Jesus Christ, has already come to our doorstep in many places. So what I would encourage from the experience of the persecuted church in China is “Stand firm!” The lordship of Christ should always take prominence over political correctness. We are going to experience this new cultural revolution in the name of political liberalism. Honor Christ and you will never regret it. You will not only experience more abundance in your life journey in Jesus, but actually unspeakable joy when you stand up for the truth, even though you will experience persecution or discrimination.
Mike Ansari: There is a huge appetite for the Scriptures (Bibles) in the country of Iran. Unfortunately, Bibles are illegal. Despite the fact that we’re talking about the wonderful news that the church is growing extensively, the depth of theological knowledge is very shallow. Therefore we have seen an organic desire and appetite among Iranian Muslim Background Believers that are converting to Christianity for the Word of God. The Word of God is not available in Iran. The ones that get it, they write it down. They copy it. They call each other, and through texts and social media they send verses, and they just devour the Word of God. There’s such a dependence on the Bread of Life, the Word of God, that it is absolutely refreshing and encouraging for us. The level of depth of devotion is absolutely marvelous. I just want us to be encouraged that the Word of God remains the Truth, the final authority and the Bread of Life.
Pray for the country of Iran to get access to the Scripture. But also pray for all of us in the West to maintain a fervent passion for diving into the Word of God and just being saturated with His goodness and His promises.
Jolly Sidhu: Maybe what the Western church can learn from the church in India, China and Iran is the passion and the power of prayer, the dependency on prayer. I think it’s going deeper with God and just not following Christianity as a religion, but getting deeper with the Vine and abiding in Him, being more passionate and spending more time in prayer. And not only praying for the sick or for ritual, but praying for the sake of seeing a revival, for the sake of seeing transformation in our community. I think God is going to do great things in the future. Please keep praying for us. I think God is going to bring a great revival in our land also.
Sammy Tippit: Amen. Thank you so much, brothers. Let’s pray in closing, and ask God to take this revival and allow it to spread around the world.
Father, we thank You for the testimony of these dear men and for the way You have used each one of them. Thank You for what you are doing in China, in Iran and in India. And, Lord, we ask You in Jesus’ name for a revival that would spread around the world, for it’s Your Kingdom, and Your power, and Your glory that we seek. O God, we need You, we want You.
Teach us how to live in the midst of times where we are hated, disliked and dishonored. Teach us how to respond like Jesus, make us more like Jesus. We want to know You in the power of Your resurrection, in the fellowship of Your sufferings. We want to be made conformable to Your death.
We are praying for Your Kingdom to come and for Your will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. In Jesus’ name. Amen.