The fastest growing church in the world is in a country where we would least expect it. According to the recently released movie, Sheep Among Wolves II, the church is growing faster in Iran than anywhere else on the planet. This film is well worth watching if you are interested in, or actively pursuing Disciple Making Movements. If you haven’t yet taken a look, set aside a few hours, grab a coffee or some popcorn, and be ready to be encouraged.
Where the Film Inspires
The high level of commitment in the Iranian believers lives is deeply challenging. As the producers clearly say, Western churches and Christians have much to learn from the church in Iran. To be a disciple there means to be ready to die. For a woman it means being ready to be raped for sharing your faith. This was quite shocking to comprehend.
Another message that comes through loud and clear is that God can use anyone to advance His Kingdom. The leaders of the house churches in Iran are people with sorted backgrounds. They were suicidal, drug addicted, prostitutes, and many came from very troubled backgrounds. They encountered Jesus and were radically transformed. This film inspired me to believe God still dramatically changes lives. No person is too broken, or messed up, for Him to get ahold of and transform for His glory.
The documentary gives a clear message of hope. God is victorious. What Satan intended to use for evil, God is turning around for good. In the most unexpected of places, He is building His Kingdom of love, faith and transformation.
What to Take Away
1. What is a disciple?
A major challenge from this film is the clear message that in the Iranian movement every disciple is a disciple maker. What it means to be a disciple there is quite different than what it means in Western nations. When people come to Christ, they are doing so with a radical commitment to obedience. This is a far, far cry from a seeker friendly gospel that makes it as easy as possible to follow Jesus with little life change.
As in the New Testament, to follow Christ there means to take up your cross and be ready to die for Him.
The Western church needs to be shaken by this message. Our weak definitions of what it means to be a Christ-follower must change if we want to see revival.
2. A theology of suffering
Similar to the point above, in the film we see that a willingness to embrace suffering is “normal” in the Iranian movement. What this film documents stands clearly in opposition to a prosperity gospel. To follow Christ in Iran doesn’t mean your life will be easy. Yet thousands are streaming into the Kingdom of God.
How does a more biblical theology regarding suffering impact how we share the gospel?
3. Women in leadership
The film highlights how God is using women to lead disciple making groups and house churches. Many of the leaders in the movement are women, in spite of the culture being one that supresses women severely. God is releasing women, from Muslim backgrounds, in the context of a regime like the Republic of Iran. Why are so many other churches around the world slow to allow women to use their leadership gifts?
The Iranian women seem to embrace their leading roles so naturally. They don’t fight for it, they simply lead out of love for God, and obedience to His Word.
4. Decentralized and Organic structures
Sheep Among Wolves II emphasizes that the movement happening is not based on structures. There are no church buildings. It is decentralized. The movement appears to be growing naturally and organically. It’s not controlled by any particular group of leaders. This is characteristic of Disciple Making Movements (DMM).
Where the Film is a Bit Weak
The first half of the film is the most helpful part. At the end, it seems a bit repetitive and to drag on. If you have limited time, watch the first hour.
It is unclear to me what the producers were trying to say about Israel. They made the point that the disciples in Iran have a love for that nation. This is in obvious contrast to the Iranian government’s stance.
From a DMM standpoint, I didn’t find this highly relevant. It was a bit confusing and seemed to introduce another message into the film, or have a bit of a political slant. This detracted a bit from the overall theme.
There are also a lot of shots of scenery and music interludes that lengthen the film without adding a great deal. I thought they could have left those out.
What Not to Use This Film For
This film is great as far as inspiration and to wake us up. It creates a desire to consider changing our approach to making disciples.
It is not, however, a clear description of how a DMM works or even what a DMM is. You will not find an explanation of what a disciple making meeting or discovery group looks like. Nor do you hear much about their evangelism approach. They do mention asking the Holy Spirit to guide them about what part of their testimony to share. How they go about doing that is not clear.
We must be a bit careful not to try to import what is happening in Iran directly into other contexts. Their situation is quite different from most others, particularly from Western scenarios. When the church is above ground and there are many well-established building churches, the context is radically different. Starting DMMs in countries with much persecution is in some ways easier, and in others far more difficult. While there are great lessons to learn, trying to transplant the strategy from Iran without adaptation is likely to fail.
Sheep Among Wolves II is a very impactful film, and well worth watching. If you are wanting to promote the idea of DMMs in your context, showing someone the first half of this film will definitely shake people’s thinking.
I will be showing it to many for years to come. Each time I watch it, I know I will be inspired and motivated. It will challenge me to continue to be a radical disciple maker, ready to lay down my life to obey the commands of my Savior and Lord.
Here is the link to watch the film. It is available for free on You Tube.
What did you think of Sheep Among Wolves II? What lessons did you learn? How were you impacted? Let me know in the comments below or on the Disciple Making Movements Facebook group or page. The group is only for those who are involved in starting a DMM. The page is for anyone who is learning about or interested in DMMs.
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