Let me start by saying Too Many to Jail by Mark Bradley is available until April 5 for just $.99 on Kindle – and you need to order it now by clicking here. The book tells the story of the Christian church in Iran – a country where you’d expect the church to be dieing – but to the contrary, Iran is the country with the fastest growing church in the world, growing at a rate of nearly 20% every year!
In the book Bradley provides several chapters that give a brief overview of the history of Iran since the Islamic Revolution, with an eye towards explaining both Christian persecution during that time and the growth of the church. He goes into detail regarding five house churches, and the book really is a study of the growth of the house church movement in Iran.
Rather that provide you with any further details about the book, though, I’d like to share what the book has forced me to think about – and reminded me of. Overall, it has led me to reflect on my own witness for Jesus (0r lack thereof) – I’ve had to ask myself, “Why is it there are so many people in Iran who are willing to go to jail, be tortured, or even die for sharing the Gospel and I’m afraid to talk to people here in America?” The boldness of these believers is both inspiring and convicting.
The book also addresses why people are so open to Christianity (and, honestly, why do I assume they aren’t open to it here?) The biggest reason? It’s really simple: the primacy of Jesus Christ. Bradley writes, “Ask an Iranian why they are attracted to Christianity and the answer is often very simple: Jesus Christ” (p. 104). It makes me wonder, why don’t people in America say that? Is it because we’ve done a lousy job of showing them Jesus? Several times in the book Bradley wrote about how in the house churches Christians told others (evangelized them) simply what God had done in their own lives – it is the story of testimony. Yet here in the American church we struggle to get people to even see the movement of God in their lives, yet alone tell others about it! There’s also an emphasis in the book on the practice of church discipline in the Iranian church: “[The church] is particularly string in two areas: sexual relations and gossip” (p. 131). The process? People who fall in these areas are first warned and asked to live pure lives, but if they continue they are asked to leave the church. It’s that simple. And do you notice the two that have been picked? Wow!
The other reason the church is growing? Christians aren’t afraid to share Jesus with people! Even in the presence of persecution, Christians share the good news:
“The policy for Christians who do not actively threaten the status quo of the Shia state is discrimination, which often leads to the ordeal of emigration…It is true that many hard-line Muslims in Iran interpret the Sharia law as demanding death for male apostates and life imprisonment for females. Hence, in more colorful publication,s the impression can be given that a Muslim in Iran who becomes a Christian spends every waking moment in fear of being murdered or dragged of to a kangaroo court to be sentenced to death. However, even Iranian officials can be uncomfortable with this image and there is no record of any Christian facing that sort of treatment in Iran – as long as they are quietist and not active at all…The issue is that many Christians are not quietist” (p. 165-6, emphasis mine).
Read that again – if Christians in Iran would be willing to put up with some discrimination (political, economic, etc), they could live their lives without fear of torture or murder. But even know that they do not remain quiet but insist on sharing the good news of Jesus with non-believers! Bradley also writes, “One man closely involved with house churches made this striking comment, ‘The people are so open that you can get away with anything in evangelism if you go about it the right way.’ In other words people want to hear about Jesus, and if approached in the appropriate way they will make a commitment” (p. 147, emphasis mine). Why aren’t the Christians afraid to suffer persecution for the sake of Jesus? Apparently they actually believe what he said, and they believe it enough to risk it all – but they’ve also found that when they share Jesus with others people actually respond by also taking on the risk of following Jesus.
When was the last time you heard anyone in America talk like that?
Overall I’m giving this book 5/5 stars – if you’re willing to confront your own fears about sharing Jesus with others. If you’d like to check out an excerpt before spending the $.99 for the book (see link at top of page) you can find one if you click here.
For the record, I did receive a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily favorable, review.