The Table Podcast
Hormoz ShariatHormoz ShariatDarrell L. BockDarrell L. Bock

Reaching Muslims in the Middle East through Media

In this episode, Darrell Bock and Hormoz Shariat discuss reaching Muslims in Iran through media, focusing on his work with Iran Alive Ministries.

Timecodes
00:15
Shariat’s work with Iran Alive Ministries
01:46
Hormoz’s spiritual journey from Islam to Christianity
09:20
Advice for engaging with Muslims curious about Christ
14:35
Muslim views of Jesus
18:37
How Shariat began Iran Alive Ministries
20:35
Discussing theology with Muslims
22:05
Strategic underground church planting through media
Transcript
Darrell Bock
Welcome to The Table, where we discuss issues of God and culture. And our topic today is the Middle East, in particular Iran. And I have a wonderful guest. We have done this the opposite way before. Hormoz Shariat is president of Iran Alive. It's a TV show that beams by satellite into the Middle East, particularly into Iran. And how long, Hormoz, have you been doing television?
Hormoz Shariat
Television – 18 years.
Darrell Bock
Eighteen years.
Hormoz Shariat
Yes, but I was pastor, a church planter among Muslims for over 25 years.
Darrell Bock
I see.
Hormoz Shariat
Yes.
Darrell Bock
And how long have you been in the States now?
Hormoz Shariat
I came at the time of revolution, '79.
Darrell Bock
Okay.
Hormoz Shariat
'79 revolution of Iran, I came here as a graduate student, and I found the Lord here, started ministries here, yeah.
Darrell Bock
Okay. And your show beams out of Carrollton, Texas, is that right?
Hormoz Shariat
That's right. It's from there, through fiber optics, we go to Europe, uplink to a satellite, and all real time, covering the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe. And it's the amazing thing. Every day I'm amazed. Every day I say, "Wow, God is using technology." Walking in that studio, in that room, sitting there, speaking to millions of Iranian Muslims, face-to-face, real time, in their homes. And the government of Iran cannot stop it.
Darrell Bock
Well, there's lots to talk about there. Let's walk through your story and let's talk about – you grew up, I take it, in a Muslim home in Iran?
Hormoz Shariat
Yes. I was a Muslim, pretty much devout Muslim until my teenage years. That's when I started thinking, "It doesn't make sense these – repeating these prayers in Arabic five times a day. It doesn't do anything for me." But yeah, I was in a Muslim family and pretty devout early years.
Darrell Bock
Mm-hmm. And let me ask you this question, 'cause this was actually the discussion I had with someone at lunch today, which is fascinating, and that is being a Muslim in Iran, during that time, how much direct exposure did you have to the Koran? Was it direct? Indirect?
Hormoz Shariat
Well, it wasn’t like now that you're forced Koran. It was a couple of courses on – at the high school you had to take about Arabic and Koran. But Islam was not forced at all during the Shah's time. It was an optional to follow or not to follow.
Darrell Bock
I see.
Hormoz Shariat
Yeah.
Darrell Bock
And so, part of the point for asking that question is literally there are Muslims who are, if I can say it, kind of all over the map in terms of their association with the Koran. Some are radicalized. We – well, at least we use that phrase in our language over here.

Others are – I don't know if this is a good description or not, a more culturally Muslim, that kind of thing. So, there's a range of people who associate with Islam. Is that correct?
Hormoz Shariat
That's exactly right. All Muslims are not the same. You talked about two groups. There are other groups, too. You talked about two groups. There are other groups, too. You talk about those devouts who are ready to die for that faith, and they do. And there are those who by name are Muslims, and they don't truly follow it. We call them "moderate Muslims."

And – but there is a growing number of Muslims who are questioning Islam in a very real, direct way. And, by the way, in Iran, there's growing, by millions, of born Muslims. You know, technically they're Muslims, but they have rejected Islam. And many of them – this is last five years – many of them are even militant against Islam. They're still – the name is Muslim, but they're saying, "If you want to have a future for Iran, we need to get rid of Islam."

So – and still they're Muslim. So, you're right, there's so many kinds. Don't think all Muslims are the same and all Muslims are radicals or terrorists or even all Muslims are moderate. That's not true.
Darrell Bock
M-kay. Well, we'll come back to that. That's an important part of something that I want to cover. But let's talk about your story. So, you grew up as a Muslim, and you were in Iran. And then you said you came here for graduate studies after the revolution in 1979.
Hormoz Shariat
That's right. Well, in '79 I was in Tehran – '78-'79 – during the revolution, a student involved with the movement against Shah. I was on the streets of Tehran in those days shouting, I'm sorry to say that, "Death to America, death to America." I was one of those. But I want to assure you, I've changed my mind; I've repented. And now I sing –
Darrell Bock
Okay. We believe in repentance in Christianity, so, that's good.
Hormoz Shariat
I sing "God Bless America" today, and I mean it. So –
Darrell Bock
Yeah.
Hormoz Shariat
But I was there, "Death to America, but not yet. I want to go there, too, for graduate studies."
Darrell Bock
Interesting.
Hormoz Shariat
So, I went to Southern California for science – scientific studies.
Darrell Bock
What's the school?
Hormoz Shariat
University of Southern California.
Darrell Bock
Okay, USC.
Hormoz Shariat
USC Trojans, yeah.
Darrell Bock
All right, okay, very good. And you were studying science and doing graduate work. And dropped into the United States and?
Hormoz Shariat
And that's – the questions started, which is important now, because millions of Muslims are following the same path. At that – those days, there were not many like me. Today, there are many like me, which is, "Is Islam true or not?"

I said to myself, "There's a conflict there." I truly followed Islam sincerely, but it didn't do anything for me. I couldn't feel the presence of God. It didn't change my attitude, my character, nothing. It had no effect on my actual day. I was just pleasing the fearful Allah.

So, is Muslim true or not? But externally – internally it wasn’t true, but externally, "Wow, look. Islam is defeating super power USA. It kicked out the Shah. So, God must be with it. That question caused me to go and study.

I said, "Okay, I'm going to study and see if God is there. And if He's there, how does He relate to me? And Islam is the last and most complete religion. Why should I study other religions? Just study that again, but with an objective, open mind, open heart."

And I got a Koran. And I read it through, even though I knew a lot about it, this time as a scientist, as a researcher, not a bigot. So, I read through Koran, and I realized, okay, I knew most of it, a little bit more. But where is God? I still don't – I don't have Him. I don't have a relationship.

I decided, "Okay, either God is not there or He is there. It doesn't relate to our daily life. I'm done." But my scientific pride kicked in. A voice, which I believe was the Holy Spirit, telling me, "How do you call yourself a scientist if you just read one book and come to a conclusion? You have to study different lines of thinking and then you come to a conclusion."

So, for my own pride, I got a Bible. I said, "I don't think I'm gonna find anything new in it. I'm just gonna read through it in three days. Just proudly I can tell others, 'Yeah, I read the Bible. I read the Koran.'"

So, I got a Bible. I read Genesis, and then jumped to New Testament Matthew.
Darrell Bock
Now, that was a smart move, since you gave yourself three days. [Laughs]
Hormoz Shariat
Yeah. So, okay. Because in Genesis there are similar stories of Genesis in Koran.
Darrell Bock
Mm-hmm, that's right.
Hormoz Shariat
But I jumped to Jesus, and I realized, "Oh my gosh, this Jesus is not what they taught me. He is not a prophet. He doesn't fit a prophet's profile." So, I was struggling. And the teachings – beautiful. It's nothing Koran. The Sermon on the Mount is so beautiful. I thought everything in Koran, everything in the Bible is in Koran. But, so, His teachings grabbed me.

I planned to read the whole Bible in three months – in three days, but in three months later – I wanted to read the whole thing in three days. Three months later, I was in Matthew 5. Okay? Struggling, "Who is this Jesus? It doesn't fit."

Before, I believed that all religions are the same. That's kind of like intellectual kind of thing, "All religions are the same. And if you really study them, they all converge." But when I compared Koran and the Bible, I could not truly, sincerely say they are the same. They are not.

So, a conflict, questioning few months until God led me to a church where I heard a very simple message of salvation, and that changed my life.
Darrell Bock
Oh, wow. And so, this was when?
Hormoz Shariat
That's 1979.
Darrell Bock
1979 as well.
Hormoz Shariat
No, actually, no. This was 1980. The search started in 1979, but in 1980 I came to Christ.
Darrell Bock
Now, I've got a ton of questions. I'm not sure which way to go. Let me do this. What – for a Muslim who is questioning – you know, I think most Christians go, "I have no idea how to have this conversation, how to start this conversation" – what advice would you give to someone who encounters a Muslim who they sense is perhaps open or curious or maybe just curious, but there are hurdles, in some cases, to get through in terms of communicating who Jesus is. What advice would you give them as to how to do that?
Hormoz Shariat
There are several dos and don'ts.
Darrell Bock
Okay.
Hormoz Shariat
Of course, there are courses on that. I'm just speaking on some of the major ones.
Darrell Bock
Okay.
Hormoz Shariat
The dos part is the love. The greatest power we have is love. That's nonexistent in Allah. Allah is not a god of love. So, our love for people, our love for one another, and our love for God in a sincere – that's very attractive, and that shakes them up.

If you want to just discuss religion, you don't get nowhere. "Okay, I have Koran."

"No, I believe Bible, and Koran is –"

They say, "Well, Bible has been changed."

On that level, you don't get too far. So, even if they'd talked to me in that level of argument, of discussing and comparing, I don't go that route. So, the love is very important.

Let me share this. I've talked to Muslims in America who have come to Christ. One thing is common. Most of 'em – there are exceptions, but most of 'em, "What caused you to come to Christ?"

"A Christian loved me, showed me love. That was the starting point."

So, loving a Muslim sincerely – and that's rare, because of all that's happening, all the news, September 11 – most Americans, even American Christians, they kind of – either afraid of Muslims or they don't like 'em, which both of them are not from God. Love. You know, God loved the whole world.

And by the way, the opposite of love is fear. It says, "Perfect love casts out fear. So, if you're fearing Muslims, there's a block. Even if you try to evangelize, the spirit is not right. The heart is not right. Fear is not love. So, yeah, you have to not stop fearing or get rid of fear and loving them. Number one. That's the biggest do.

Another do, I would say, is to ask and listen. Ask them questions of – so they can think about. A Muslim, by the way – and the reason is this – a Muslim is not allowed to think or question Islam. In some places, if a Muslim questions the Koran, there're going to be – there are going to be lashes, there're going to be consequences.

So, making a Muslim think is a breakthrough. I'm not trying to be insulting, but that's the – that's a spiritual thing. I've had Ph.D.s, my friends, witnessing logical, a nice discussion – logical – but the moment we got into spiritual things, there was a blindness. There was no logic anymore. It was fear and defend – defend the faith.

So, prayer is very important. I've witnessed to Muslims who love Jesus, but they couldn't make a decision. And I realized it was the spirit of fear. There is a spirit of fear. And the thumbprint of spirit of Islam is fear. Fear and hatred. Violence. You see all that. That's not badmouthing Islam; that's being truthful. Maybe it's not politically correct, but that's truthful. You see that in Koran.

So, the prayer – I was talking about prayer. So, many times I witnessed to Muslim, and they're interested, but they can't make a decision. And it is because of the spirit of fear. Many of 'em are attracted to Christianity. They can't make a final decision – spirit of fear.

So, here, the spiritual warfare side of it, pray against the spirit of fear. I've led Muslims to Christ, holding their hands, praying the prayer of salvation. And open – I open my eyes and look, and their knees are shaking out of fear at the moment of even praying to receive Christ. So, that spirit is strong.

So, those are all the dos. Now let me share a couple of don'ts. One is the deity of Christ or Trinity. Don't go there up front. It's a spiritual thing. Jesus being the Son of God is a spiritual thing. Jesus said, "Peter, flesh and blood did not reveal that to you."

So, I give short, simple answers there and assure them – that's another do – assure them that God is one. God – you would repeat, "God is one," but talking about Jesus' deity or Trinity and all that, I don't go there at first. Later sure.
Darrell Bock
Mm-hmm. So, let's talk a little bit about how Muslims generally view Jesus. Because you've alluded to this, that you had heard that Jesus was kind of a prophetic figure, and then you read the Scripture, and then you went, "Nope, not – that doesn't do it for what I'm reading."

So, what – a Muslim who's heard about Jesus, has heard certain things – I'm aware of another testimony from a Muslim who became a Christian who said that Islam's understanding of the crucifixion is very, very different than the understanding that Christians have.

So, let's talk about the person of Jesus and the crucifixion in particular. What is a Muslim who's heard about that likely to have heard about Jesus?
Hormoz Shariat
All Muslims have heard about Jesus, but the information is not correct. The Koran talks about Jesus. In many places it's correct, but some places it's not, like his crucifixion is not. That He decide for the sins of the world is not there.

Jesus, in the Koran, is a prophet lower than Muhammad, but is a prophet. Expired maybe, but still respectable.
Darrell Bock
Not raised. Not raised from the dead?
Hormoz Shariat
He didn't die to be raised, even though there are verses talking about His rising from the dead. I mean – so – but in Islamic theology, no, he didn't die – it was – it was Judas that died instead of Christ.
Darrell Bock
So, there was a substitution before Jesus even got to the cross?
Hormoz Shariat
That's right.
Darrell Bock
That actually is like some of the gnostic – gnostic texts, of the second and third – the third and fourth centuries, that circulated among some fringe groups in Christianity. That's very, very similar. That's interesting. We won't go there.

So, it's a very different Jesus. It's a prophet. It's someone who didn't die on a cross. It's someone who's not raised. So, the kind of give, if I can say this, a sort of respect to Jesus, but it isn't anywhere close to the picture of Jesus in the New Testament.
Hormoz Shariat
Respect, yes. Respect as a prophet, inferior to Muhammad, as the one who comes back, who – one thing is, a prophet that does miracles. That's why – their faith for miracles is greater than most Christian, because it's in the Koran –
Darrell Bock
Huh, interesting.
Hormoz Shariat
– that Jesus does miracles.
Darrell Bock
Huh.
Hormoz Shariat
So, that's probably one reason you see miracles and visions and dreams, because they expect that, and they believe that. But Jesus did not die on the cross. It was – at the last moment, God changed the face of Judas to look like Jesus. So, they – by mistake, they crucified Judas.
Darrell Bock
Oh, wow.
Hormoz Shariat
And God took Jesus up. And let me share a funny story. I was talking to this mullah. We were at a funeral. He was supposed to preach. He sat beside me. An Islamic funeral, and I was invited. He sat beside me, and I'm talking to him. And I asked – I said – he said, "Jesus never – was not crucified and didn't die."

And I said, "So, you say He didn't die?"

"No, He didn't die. So, God took Him."

So, I said, "If He didn't go on the cross, if He –" in both ways, in both sides, either He died, He rose again, or – "you say He didn't die; He rose. In either way, He's alive. And I'd rather follow a live Savior than a dead prophet."

He got so mad. He badmouthed me. I mean he was supposed to go and preach. So, it is Jesus didn't die, but He was taken up to Heaven alive. He's alive. Yeah.
Darrell Bock
I see, interesting.
Hormoz Shariat
He didn't die.
Darrell Bock
So, let's come back to your story. So, you came to the Lord, and when did you start the ministry of Iran Alive?
Hormoz Shariat
I started witnessing right after I came to Christ. I was a student, and then I worked as a research scientist for many years. So, ministry started for me right away, and the reason was this. I said, "This simple message works, changes my life."

You know, as an engineer background, we're looking for something that works. Okay?
Darrell Bock
Uh-huh.
Hormoz Shariat
And something as simple – sometimes I think that engineers and scientists, we're called to make simple things complicated. What I realized, this simple message of the Gospel is powerful. It's changing me and my family and my relationship. So, I started witnessing right away, started try to form house churches in Southern California. Failed and failed and failed for many years.

A few came to Christ, form a church, even for a while. But when I moved to Northern California, after I graduated, that's where I realized, first of all, from failure, that I need other people to do things. I'm not gifted in every area.

And there, God blessed. We started a church in our home with my wife and another lady, and it exploded. Hundreds and hundreds of Muslims came to Christ in Northern California. The mother church, I became the pastor for many years – out of that came the television ministry and planted churches in Northern California – 6 churches over 25 years.
Darrell Bock
Okay. I'm waiting to talk about your ministry till we get the other side of the break. So, let's – I'm gonna shift gears back to talking to Muslims about Christ. You said love is important, prayer is important, knowing when to introduce the complexities of the Trinity is important.

Anything else on the list that Christians should be aware of as they interact? Because I think for a Christian to say, "Well, if I can't talk too much theology, then what do I do?" You just love and serve and be a friend and –
Hormoz Shariat
And talk theology, but theology that relates to the heart, not to the mind. For example, talk about – this is the line of presenting I use both personally and on television evangelism is that if you're looking for a prophet – see – see, let me state, I don't compare Muhammad and Jesus – I never go there – don't compare Koran and the Bible. I never go there.

What I say is, "If you're looking for a religion, what you have is good, but it doesn't do you any good. And if you want prophets, there are so many out there." Because that's what Muslims believe. "But when you want a Savior, Jesus is alive and ready to save you."
Darrell Bock
Oh, wow. So, you really do appeal to the transformation that comes as a result of coming to Christ and what He can do for you in life.
Hormoz Shariat
Totally. I emphasize that, because I don't – because Jesus promises who believes in Him will be born again. I counter that if you believe in Jesus today, now, you're going to be transformed now. God will indwell in you now. It's not for the future.
Darrell Bock
That's right. I mean the gift of the – obviously the indwelling power of the Spirit through the new covenant is a key part of the Gospel. Let's talk about the start of the ministry and then we'll turn into what's going on in the Middle East today.

So, talk about the start of your television ministry. You were planting churches and finally having success in Northern California. And then did one day you just decide, "Oh, I'll go on television"? How did that work.
Hormoz Shariat
Well, God opened that. The heart for Iran was always there, even from my early years of coming to Christ, and even my calling to be a pastor. I was a research scientist, good job, and I started a church. It was going well. One day God said, "I want you there full time."

I said, "God, it's going well. They don't need me there. The church is growing, and we hired a pastor, and we – I'm an elder." But that's when it came that over two months of – two years of struggling, "God, is this you? Do you want me to focus?"

And what I got during those two years was this. Over prayer – you know, this is – what I got strong in my heart, God saying, "I'm not calling you to be a pastor forever, just for a period of time. But I'm calling – I'm doing something great in Iran, and I'm giving you the honor to be a part of it."

So, that heart for Iran was years before television ministry. That, "This is temporary. I'm doing church planting, but Iran, God is going to do something great." So, when the opportunity came, right after September 11 – before that, we were doing some things on media, but September 11 came. I said, "Time is now. Things are happening."

So, we bought one hour of air time from a secular channel, broadcast into Iran. And from day one, my – what I believed in my heart, I saw it with my eyes. Which is Iran is ready for Jesus. From day one, we got so many calls, so many salvations. We got a few calls who were cussing at us, but most – for the most part, there's sincere questions, prayer of salvation.

Over the last – since September 11, we have the names of over 32,000 people who called us and prayed to receive Christ. We've had hundreds of thousands who contacted us, but 32,000 prayed with us. And there to call – our phones are blocked, and those who call us are in trouble. Some of 'em have been arrested just because they called us.

So, it confirmed that this nation has gone through a spiritual journey of, in the '80s, dying for Islam to, in 2001 – September 11 and on – to a point of saying, "Islam is not the answer; Islam is our problem. We need to get rid of it." The rejection of Islam in Iran is so wide and deep.

So, going on television one hour a week confirmed, "Oh my gosh, the country's ready. But if the Gospel goes, it's just they're ready. It's like a harvest is ready." So, we need to do it. So, that's when the television ministry started, and we saw many come to Christ.

It grew, and five years ago, a comfortable pastor – rather comfortable, I had trained leaders, so they were helping me lead the church in San Jose, California – I felt strongly, "The time is now. Time is passing. The country is ready. The nation has rejected Islam, ready for the Gospel, and you need to focus."

"How do I do that, God?" You can't transform a nation with two-three hours a week of television. That's eight months of prayer so strongly.

God said, "Go to Dallas." Even the city. We prayed different cities but – we prayed for several cities. But when – the moment we prayed for Dallas, something was special in our prayer meetings. "Go to Dallas. Start a 24/7 Christian channel beaming into the Gospel, into the Middle East and Europe."

And it was a big step of faith from being a pastor, coming and signing up a big air-time contract. It was all scary. We didn't have it, but God – we didn't have the resources, but God provided as we needed. So, coming to Dallas. Let me clarify something.
Darrell Bock
Okay.
Hormoz Shariat
This is not a television ministry. We are not televangelists. We are a church-planting ministry using television. My passion is not television. My passion is to see people saved and churches established. So, our focus is underground church planting through media.
Darrell Bock
Mm-hmm, huh. That's interesting. So, you've had thousands of people respond and hundreds of thousands make requests. Let's talk about what's going on in Iran today, 'cause I suspect that many people think, "Well, Iran, it is a established Muslim country." But there's a lot of discontent. And so, there are a lot of people there who don't want to be there and, if they had their options, might not remain there. Is that fair to say?
Hormoz Shariat
A very special case in Iran. The government is Islamic. people are not. More and more they're walking away from Islam. Islam is experiencing its great defeat in its 14 centuries of existence. It's historical what's happening in Iran. The greatest defeat of Islam in the whole history is happening now, today in Iran.

Sod, the people have deeply rejected. Recently, when people call us to pray to receive Christ, they have no mention of Islam. Earlier days, they would say, "Oh, Pastor Hormoz, I want to come to Christ, but what do I do with Islam? Who is Muhammad? What – how about Koran?" No more of that. I don't hear that. Rarely I hear that.

Most of it, they say, "I was watching your programs, and something in me said, 'I want that salvation; I want what you're saying.' How can I receive that?" No struggle with the spirit of Islam.

The spirit of Islam, which in Iran, as you see, in the Bible, called Prince of Persia – that's the spirit – has been defeated through prayers of saints all over the world. It's losing its grip on the captives in Iran. And by thousands they're running away from him and coming to Christ. Iran is – such a unique situation in that country for the Gospel.
Darrell Bock
So, you – you're telling – you say you've got 24/7 broadcasting into Iran. What does your day look like? I take it it's a mixture of talking about Scripture and giving testimonies and singing music. What goes into the day that you have – that you broadcast into Iran?
Hormoz Shariat
A very good question. That's why I say we are not typical Christian television you see in the West. That's a problem I have. When I say, "We have Christian television," they think of what's in here, and that's not very positive.
Darrell Bock
Right, right.
Hormoz Shariat
Okay, there are questionable teachings, practices. I'm not a televangelist. Even when I'm in town – for example, even when I'm in town, not traveling, I'm only on the air two times a week. We are not a television channel in a traditional way. We are a church. We officially are a church. We function as a church, but a church that delivers its services to the homes of people.

We have church services that, for millions of Iranians, that's the only church they have during the week. Two to four million Iranian Muslims have come to Christ with no church. All the building churches have been closed. House churches, for the most part, have been destroyed the last three-four years.

So, most of these believers, new believers, are home alone, lock the door – they're afraid to gather – lock the door, turn on television, and they participate with us as a church. They even put, sometimes, their chairs in rows. I have the pictures and clips – they put the chairs in their living room just like a church, and they participate.

A church has a Sunday school. We teach 'em. We have Sunday school. A church has prayer meetings. We have live prayer meetings. So, women's ministry, men's ministry. So, it is a form like a church – what church does but in the homes.
Darrell Bock
So, these prayer meetings – this is fascinating – the prayer meeting – how do they communicate their prayer requests? By Internet or –
Hormoz Shariat
Yeah, the Internet, social media, all kinds of connections we have. And the good news is the technology is advancing; so, secure connection is improving. There are new apps, new ways that they can securely contact us and we can communicate. So, they – yeah, they give us their prayer requests, and we pray.

You know, when we started the live prayer meeting, I had concern. I was saying, "You know, in American church –" like I was a pastor, and I'm not putting that down, I was – so, the prayer meeting is not attended well. You know?
Darrell Bock
Yeah, right, right.
Hormoz Shariat
So, here, having it on television, all they can do – all they need to do is just flip the channel if they don't like it. Is it gonna be a successful program that just one hour of prayer with them? So, what – when we started, we finished an hour of prayer, live prayer. The moment we finished the phone calls came in. "Why did you stop it? We love it; we love it." They stay and they pray. And I realized it is – this prayer meeting's an evangelistic tool. I never realized that.

You know what? Here's a Muslim. Just think, a Muslim watching us, this is a prayer meeting, and they're talking to their heavenly Father so freely. And me, as a Muslim, I have to memorize these Arabic verses and five times – I don't have that relationship. So, that's prayer and worship time, one hour.
Darrell Bock
The contrast stands out.
Hormoz Shariat
Yeah. We don't intend to evangelize, but it brings many people to Christ.
Darrell Bock
Interesting, huh. So, you have worship services; you have Sunday school classes; you have prayer meetings; you have – do you take some of the better stuff that does circulate in media form and translate it? Is that –
Hormoz Shariat
Definitely. See, it's 24/7. We do – this is some of it, and we – you need – I'm glad you mentioned that – we're doing our part, but we need help in every way. We need good teachers; we need – and we broadcast some good pastors. They, you know, partner with us. We translate their sermons, and we broadcast some good teachers. But that's not enough.

We have 24/7. What we do is a few hours of –
Darrell Bock
A lot of time.
Hormoz Shariat
It's a lot of time.
Darrell Bock
A lot of time, and a lot of hunger on the other side.
Hormoz Shariat
Number one request we are getting, from believers in Iran, which is two-three million and growing, "Teach us the Bible. Teach us verse by verse. We're hungry; teach us." I can't do that. I do my part, but – and I have to travel, present the ministry, gather funds to put in the ministry.
Darrell Bock
Right.
Hormoz Shariat
So, I can't do all of that. And here I ask you, this is a Macedonian call. The people are asking. The nation is ready. And by the way, Iran is not the endpoint. I believe Iran is the starting point. God is gonna transform Iran, and through Iran, the whole Middle East will be impacted by the Gospel.

So, I'm calling my brothers and sisters, pray, but get involved. These people are hungry. You don't believe how they receive the teaching and they live it. May a share a story if you have the time.
Darrell Bock
Yeah, sure, sure.
Hormoz Shariat
Because again, in the West, you think of, "Oh, that's the TV believers. Oh, they're so weak Christians; they don't go to church. They don't do anything. They just sit and watch television." For Iran? Wrong, wrong, wrong. These people are so hungry, they receive the Word, and they apply it.

There was this lady called me after the program. So, I had time to talk to her. She impressed me. She – what topic we talked, she had such a biblical worldview, so perfect. For every topic, she recited memorized verses. So many. We talked about Christian marriage, we talked about – she gave me the best review of why persecution is good for a Christian. And here is an Iran – persecuted Christian in Iran. And many verses from memory.

Twenty minutes, twenty-five minutes later, I'm thinking, "Oh, some of my elders are not as mature as this lady. And every aspect, having a world view – Christian world view." And I'm jealous of her, because I don't know as many verses as she does from memory.

So, I asked her 20-25 minutes later, "I'm sorry, lady, I have to go. I have a meeting. But tell me, why did you call?"

She said, "I called because I need a Bible. I don't have a Bible."

"What are you talking about? You're a walking Bible. And how did that happen? And how long have you been a Christian?"

She said, "About a year."

"What? You sound so mature. What happened?"

She said, "I watch the programs intensely. I took – take notes. And when you use a verse, I write it down, and I memorize it, and I do it." No church, no teachers – I mean no pastor, but the hunger is there. The Word and the commitment to the Word has caused this lady to be a major – experience a major transformation. But the worldview, the – how she looked at the world has changed.

So, it's a discipleship. Some people say, "How can you disciple people from –on television?" If they're hungry, they follow the Lord, and the Lord disciples them. Of course we do a face-to-face. We do discipleship online. We gather people in online chat rooms, and we pick the best of the best. That's a luxury we have. Okay?
Darrell Bock
Mm-hmm.
Hormoz Shariat
When I was a pastor, I had 200 to 300 people; that's all you have. But here, three million. You pick the best of the best of three million, and you train 'em for leadership. That's the luxury.
Darrell Bock
So, you've talked about thousands coming to Christ, but you're actually reaching a very large amount of people through this ministry in terms of who's watching.
Hormoz Shariat
That's right. We have been on the air many years. So, most – there's 65 million Iranians with satellite dishes, and it's very popular. We have viewers in Afghanistan and Tajikistan, which are Farsi speakers, and many have come to Christ.

So, any – so, most of 'em or almost all of 'em have seen us over the 12 years, at one time or another. They know about us. But we believe about 20 million watch us weekly, and every day, every moment we have three to six million watching.
Darrell Bock
That's amazing.
Hormoz Shariat
Yeah.
Darrell Bock
That's an amazing number. So, let's talk a little bit about the situation in the Middle East as you see it. You say things are changing; people are walking away from Islam. There's a group of people that I want to talk about that come out of the Middle East that I think the chances are good or perhaps even better that people, at least who live over here, will run into, and that's the refugee situation. Now, that's not so much Iran, but that's significant portions of the Middle East.

How should people think about the refugee problem from your perspective in terms of Muslims who are basically looking for a place to land?
Hormoz Shariat
That's right. Well, there are many aspects to that problem. I may talk just the spiritual convention of it.
Darrell Bock
Okay. Okay, sure.
Hormoz Shariat
And as Christians – and many Christians are opposing it. Sometimes for the wrong reason.
Darrell Bock
Mm-hmm.
Hormoz Shariat
To me, it shows the weakness of most Christians in the West. First of all, they're fearful. Where in the Bible do you talk about fearing? You know?
Darrell Bock
Mm-hmm.
Hormoz Shariat
And the fear is right because of our weakness. The fear is this, that if they come, they impact us in a negative way. And what not think that they come here and we impact them in a positive way. We share – this is an opportunity to share the Gospel with Muslims.

And because the Church doesn't have that muscle to cause transformation in their lives, they know they're gonna come here and not be transformed but transform our country to them. So, I think it's a sign of weakness.

As a Christian, I would say love the people who are suffering. Some of them are truly suffering, and I would do something for them. I don't say, "All of 'em come here," but I wouldn't go to the other place and, "No, nobody come here. I have a comfortable life here. I don't care if people around the world are dying; I don't care." That's not Christian. The Christian has a heart for the suffering and has a heart for evangelism. And both of 'em tell me that some of these – those coming here are opportunities for Christians to be Christians.
Darrell Bock
Now, some people leave because they're forced out. Other people leave because they have chosen to leave everything. But I like to say it this way: imagine you making a decision to leave everything behind, except what you can carry with you, and go to another country where you don't even know the language, and say, :I'm going to start a new life." You've got to be pretty desperate to be willing to do that.
Hormoz Shariat
Knowing that you will be mistreated –
Darrell Bock
Exactly right.
Hormoz Shariat
– and you may go hungry.
Darrell Bock
Misunderstood.
Hormoz Shariat
Yeah.
Darrell Bock
Yeah, exactly, yeah. So, I think – I think – you know, I think sometimes we underestimate what it took for a person to become a refugee, and we don't think through, as you're suggesting, the opportunity that exists as a result of that. Because they're looking for a new home and a new way of life.
Hormoz Shariat
That's true. And one more thing, I want to encourage about the ministry to the refugees. These refugees, some of 'em are Christians. Many of them are Muslims. What ISIS did mostly, ISIS persecuted Muslims, hurt Muslims. So, these refugees coming out, they're being hurt by Islam, by ISIS. So, they're not just suffering physically, but they're spiritually open. They are looking for something.

So, people ask me, "Where can I serve? I want to do a short-term mission."

I said, "The most productive short-term mission is go to refugee camps in Europe and serve the refugees. You will see many, many results. Love 'em, serve them, and they're spiritually open."
Darrell Bock
Yeah, I have a missionary friend who ministers in an Eastern European country, and they do some very interesting things with the refugees who come over. They great them. They – food and clothe them and take care of them. They offer them a phone, and they tell them, "On this phone is a Bible." And they tell them ahead of time, "Are you interested?"

"Yes."

And they take the phone, and they find them reading the Bible when they get access to it and know that it's there. And so – and that opens up conversation. So, it's a fascinating opportunity that exists in many ways.
Hormoz Shariat
That's right. In one way, ISIS is helping the cause of Christ because it's causing Muslims to question their faith. Because ISIS, they claim that they're following Islam. And they have a challenge. One of the leaders last year gave a challenge – a worldwide challenge. He said, "Tell us what are we doing that's outside Islam?" Nobody could answer them, because what they are doing is what is in the Koran and what Prophet Muhammad did.

So, Muslims are awakening. "Is this true Islam?" And they look into the Koran, and they come to the conclusion, "Oh my gosh, yes. ISIS, they're following this book. So, the problem is not with ISIS; it's with Islam itself." That's what causes refugees to be so open, because they have gone through that questioning.
Darrell Bock
Mm-hmm. And so, they've said, "There must be something else and some other way to live, and I want out of here."
Hormoz Shariat
Yes.
Darrell Bock
Yeah, interesting. So, what are your – well, first tell us how people can find out about your ministry; we haven't done that yet.
Hormoz Shariat
Yeah. Our ministry is called Iran Alive, Iran – I-R-A-N Alive. You can google that, or google my name Hormoz H-O-R-M-O-Z Shariat. But to get updates from our ministry, the easiest is to text the word Iran I-R-A-N. Text that word to a number 77948. 77948. That gives you an option to get our ministry updates. I have a blog in my name, hormozshariat.org that I talk about – I talk about daily issues. But texting Iran to the number 77948 would be easiest and fastest way.
Darrell Bock
And so, you're televising 24/7. Do you have any plans for anything in particular, or do you feel like what you are doing now is working?
Hormoz Shariat
We need help in every way. We need prayer help. We need, of course, financial, but also I invite my friends who can teach, not just pastors. I'm looking for people in business come and teach about business. Those who are in education, government, military. We have people in military who have come to Christ. The government have – the people in – high in the government have come to Christ.

So, I'm inviting my brothers and sisters. Here is a field. People are hungry. Come and I will translate for you.
Darrell Bock
Now, if they want to contact you, how would they contact you with – to answer that request?
Hormoz Shariat
You can send me an e-mail. Go to our website, and there is contact information there, iranaliveministries.org.
Darrell Bock
Okay.
Hormoz Shariat
Iranaliveministries.org.
Darrell Bock
Well, Hormoz, as always, it's always a joy to talk with you. We hadn't connected in a while, so, this has been great to catch up and hear what's going on. It's a wonderful ministry and a wonderful opportunity. I've done the show before and really found the whole thing fascinating. The setup was top flight and professionally done, and the variety of things that you offer are exciting to see.

And I really appreciate you taking the time and giving us not just an overview of your ministry, but great advice on how to think about issues related to Islam and the Middle East. And how to minster to people in the context of a mission. We thank you for your heart and your willingness to visit with us.
Hormoz Shariat
Thank you so much for inviting me. Darrell, you're a good friend.
Darrell Bock
And we thank you for joining us in The Table. We look forward to having you back with us again.
Darrell L. Bock
Darrell L. Bock Dr. Bock is senior research professor of New Testament and executive director for cultural engagement at Dallas Theological Seminary. He has authored or edited more than 30 books, including Jesus according to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels, Jesus in Context: Background Readings for Gospel Study, Studying the Historical Jesus: A Guide to Sources and Methods, Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King, Who Is Jesus?: Linking the Historical Jesus with the Christ of Faith, and Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus: A Collaborative Exploration of Context and Coherence.
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