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Three Thousand Souls

We dedicate this issue to our Iranian refugee brothers and sisters, whom the LORD drew to our UK ecclesias.
By DAVE JENNINGS 
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The mighty hand of god and our Iranian brothers and sisters

Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:41).


Today over 3,000 Iranian brothers and sisters are new members of ecclesias in the UK (Yes, that number matches Acts 2:41!). For those of us living in other parts of the Western world, this is quite staggering to consider. Imagine if many of our ecclesias doubled or tripled in size within a couple of years. How different our weekly schedule would look if our biggest challenge was how to effectively lead classes for so many seeking baptism? 

Don’t Limit God!

The Apostle Paul learned never to limit what God can do. God delivered Paul from his raging mind to a peace in Jesus Christ he had never before experienced. He learned the beauty of grace rather than condemnation of legalism. He witnessed how God delivered him from stoning, shipwreck, persecutions, hunger, cold, and nakedness (2 Corinthians 11:24-27). Truly, there was nothing God could not do. But even then, what He could do was far beyond what Paul thought possible.

Never to limit what God can do.

Now unto him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask and think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Jesus Christ throughout all ages, world without end. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21).

Our natural default is to use fleshly reasoning to estimate what is possible. We survey a problem and analyze the alternatives. But God is never limited by what confines the flesh. He is the Almighty. We must not reduce Him to our limitations. 

God’s Mighty Hand

We have joyfully watched from afar the exponential growth of our community in foreign lands. It is a great source of encouragement and hope in these Last Days. But it is easy to conclude that interest in spiritual things in Western countries is only declining.

Some have said that the number of members we have today in North America is about the same as fifty or more years ago. Are we just treading water? Should we conclude that God is working elsewhere and that we are to “strengthen the things that remain”? Is it possible God could bring tens, hundreds, or thousands of new believers to our ecclesias?

Over the past decade, UK ecclesias have provided a valuable case study. The UK was experiencing declining numbers in many of its ecclesias. It is estimated the UK Christadelphian community peaked in the 1950s, numbering around 18,000. By 2020, that number had dropped to around 8,000. Some longstanding ecclesial halls closed due to diminished numbers. Many of our UK brothers and sisters recognized that to reverse this trend, they would need a special blessing from God. 

We dedicate this issue to our Iranian refugee brothers and sisters, whom the LORD drew to our UK ecclesias. It was not a surprise that the LORD would answer prayers. But it was a surprise how He answered them. Answers to our prayers often work that way.

But this story is not really about numbers. The thirst and passion for truth that these new brothers and sisters have has literally transformed ecclesias. This issue will feature eight stories of brothers and sisters who fled their homeland, leaving everything behind to find God. Each story shares a unique pathway to connecting with Christadelphians and valued members of UK ecclesias. Please invest the time to read each story.

These eight are just a few of the thousands of similar stories of our brothers and sisters. We’ll begin with an updated story from Bro. Steven Cox who recounts the history of the Iranian emigres in the UK and the baptisms in UK ecclesias. We’ll hear a lovely exhortation from Bro. Majid Esmaeli (Leicester Westleigh Ecclesia, UK) as he discusses Scriptural wisdom about our speech. Make sure to read Bro. Peter Simpson’s article on “When God Opens a Window of Opportunity.” He shares some beneficial lessons about preaching that he learned from his ecclesias’s experience with Iranian refugees. 

No Human Strategy

As we’ll see, it was not a human strategy that brought about this new expansion. As in the first century, early disciples did not specifically hear how things would unfold or who would go where. The Lord Jesus Christ orchestrated it all under his leadership. As the Spirit led them, men and women acted in faith to conditions and situations, often under duress and persecution.

This development calls for us to rethink our own neighborhoods in North America. There are over a half million Farsi speakers and over fifty million who speak Spanish as their primary language. As many as 21% of all Americans (71 million!) speak a language other than English at home.

There must be a “great door and effectual” opportunity for us to provide the gospel message in the native tongue of those living right at our doorstep. It sends an important message of love and inclusion when we attempt to communicate in their primary language. Additionally, we must ask if there are other underserved groups we should minister to.

Our goal in this issue is to demonstrate that the Lord Jesus Christ is still extremely active, even in communities we perceive as being uninterested and resistant. There is much to learn from the experience of the UK ecclesias. This story provides insights into the need for focused communal prayer, asking for the powerful hand of the LORD to intervene. It is a call to have open minds and hearts to respond to the work of Jesus Christ in our vicinity. Are there opportunities before us right now where we, too, are being asked to respond? Will we have the faith not to limit the Almighty God and to recognize He is still calling men and women in all communities? 

Dave Jennings 

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