Iranians Are Converting To Evangelical Christianity In Turkey
In a hotel conference room in Denizli, Turkey, about 60 Iranians sing along to songs praising Jesus mixed with Iranian pop music. When the music stops, American pastor Karl Vickery preaches with the help of a Persian translator.
"I'm not famous or rich. But I know Jesus. I have Jesus," he says, with a Southern drawl. The Farsi-speaking Christian converts shout "Hallelujah!" and clap.
Vickery, who's part of a visiting delegation from Beaumont, Texas, then offers to pray for each person in the room.
Women with hair dyed blond and short skirts and clean-shaven men in slacks stand up to pray in unison. Vickery puts his hand on one woman's head and speaks in tongues. One man closes his eyes as tears fall. Another woman raises her hand and shouts "Isa," Jesus' name in Arabic and Persian. The room smells of sweat....
Reading the account carefully, I am absolutely sure that many of these Iranians are sincere.
However, there are some very worrying problems with this account. Put aside the rock music, and the very sloppy dress standards at the meeting. This alone would cause some concern as to the type of Pentecostal Christianity these Iranians are receiving. Also put aside the US American pastor, with his southern drawl speaking through a translator.
Put aside also that this is all happening in another Muslim country that is no friend of Christianity, and though Sunni Muslim as opposed to Shia Muslim, is actually a kind of ally with the country, Iran, that these people have fled from.
All is not as it seems. The United Pentecostal Church is not the same as the Assemblies of God, the Foursquare and other established Trinitarian Pentecostal denominations. The UPC is modalist or Sabellian, that is, it believes that God is one Person with three different modes, not the official Trinitarian view of one God, three Persons held by the mainstream Pentecostals. They baptise in the name of Jesus only, and that is why they are called â€śOneness Pentecostalsâ€ť.
This almost sounds like good news...Iranians coming to Christ. But it seems like some are either coming to escape from a suppressive culture so they can be sleazy or they already are that way and are seeking to deal with who they have become. I sure hope it's the latter. Certainly don't want anyone to think that coming to Christ means they get to live like American or European TV.
Concerned about the theology being expressed as well.