Christianity Today has a fascinating report about the awakening that is going on among Iranians. Amazingly enough this awakening is going on both in Iran and in other parts of the world, here in eastern Germany. As we should expect, God is going about this awakening in unusual, unexpected ways.
From the article, a quote from one of the pastors involved: “Imagine! Of all places, God chooses eastern Germany, one of the world’s most godless regions, as the stage for a spiritual awakening among Persians,” Martens exclaims. According to a recent University of Chicago study, only 13 percent of all residents of the formerly Communist part of Germany attest belief in God.
One of the things that struck me about the article was the way in which many of these Iranians are led to follow Christ.
The Berlin baptism is a small piece in a mosaic of faith covering all of Germany, crossing denominational barriers and extending into Iran itself. Some German clerics speak of a divinely scripted drama that includes countless reports of Muslims having visions of Jesus. According to Martens and others interviewed for this article, most of these appearances follow a pattern reported by converts throughout the Islamic world: Muslims see a figure of light, sometimes bearing the features of Christ, sometimes not. But they instantly know who he is. He always makes it clear that he is Jesus of the Bible, not Isa of the Qur’an, and he directs them to specific pastors, priests, congregations, or house churches, where they later hear the gospel.
Thomas Schirrmacher, chair of the Theological Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance, comments on this pattern: “God sticks to the Reformation doctrine that faith comes by receiving the Word through Scripture and preaching. In these dreams, Jesus never engages in hocus-pocus, but sends these people to where the Word is faithfully proclaimed.” This is why Martens says he cannot dismiss such narratives: “As a confessional Lutheran, I am not given to Schwärmerei,” he says, using Luther’s derogatory term for religious enthusiasm. “But these reports of visions sound very convincing.” [emphasis added]
In a day in which Dakota can visit a church in Phoenix to experience a sermon on “The Gospel at the Movies: The Hunger Games” and hear a sermon on “The Hunger Games,” it’s pretty clear that the Word through Scripture and preaching is not highly appreciated in some of our churches. May we be faithful to proclaim the Scriptures and may we faithfully call the churches to do the same.