I. MisunderstandingsAt the introduction of this next topic I would like to address some misunderstandings, or misgivings concerning the underground church. Firstly let us look at some comments that appeared in a earlier publication. (DSW_03, The Narrow Path, March 2010).
“What really needs to happen here is of a totally different nature. The ones who should be “fleeing” and hiding themselves, according to Revelations 6:16, are those who must fear the Lamb, not those who are to be Lights that shine.” Page 8
“And if He hides himself for a short moment, then it is with an unwavering Spirit that does not give the adversary room to act as he would like. It is neither fleeing nor nurturing a spirit of fear. Page 9
I never intended to suggest going completely into hiding. Of course the underground church cannot encapsulate itself, but neither should it wave flags nor wander about the streets calling out, “Yoo-hoo, here we are!”
Let us examine this apparent discrepancy. What does I mean by “underground church”. This is not new terminology. It is a common term used by those who suffered persecution in the past and by those who are presently enduring it.
A brother in Christ explained it to me this way:
“If we go our way (as we think we should) into secret, or even onto the mission field, we will suffer defeat. But if HE leads us to go underground or enter the mission we will do so while proclaiming the victory that He already has won for us.”
This is of utmost important, HIS LEADING. What HE leads, He will also give the wisdom to do accordingly. I ask a question here. Should we prepare ourselves or should we allow circumstances to lead us passively?
There has been much written on this topic. So let us address the important points.
II. UndergroundSome would say, “The church cannot go underground. This is not biblical.”
The term “underground” refers to something that is done or found to be undercover (not openly recognized).
Underground churches by reason of repression, whether from the religious or governing sectors, are those churches that are forced to hold worship services in secret, like in private homes. We have examples of this in the early period of Christianity when the Roman persecution forced them underground. During the period of the French Huguenots and the Bohemian brethren once persecution had started it was only possible to organize secretly. During the communist era after 1945 there were secret Christian fellowships in Eastern Europe who resisted the state-declared Atheism.
Furthermore concerning the underground church there were the secret gatherings for the purpose of baptism. Baptisms and other informal gatherings often took place in forests, caves, barns or cellars. The various families and members were notified by way of a secret network of messengers. It was difficult to keep these small churches together due to the fact that the different members were often scattered over greater distances and everything had to be kept strictly secret.
Though all ages, believers felt the need to gather for worship and the breaking of bread. In order to do this undisturbed it was often necessary to meet secretly. Undeniably there was always an element of fear present. But is this not to be expected? In larger Chinese cities worship services were held quietly. Singing and praising were done without a sound.
And of course there were often spies amongst the believers, who snuck into their meetings to gather information to betray them. God, himself allows these spies, even allowing “some to be imprisoned”, but not all of them. (Rev. 2:10) As it is there are many Christians who minister in outside of prison. This happened in all times past and will also happen in the future for us Christians here in Europe.
III. Spritual Growth and our inner AttitudeWhen a Muslim converts to Christianity, especially in the Arab world, their decision often brings very serious consequences along with it. There is no superficial, theatrical “conversion”. The decision to follow Christ has been thoroughly thought through with full knowledge of the resulting consequences. (See also Luke 14:27-30)
Seventeen year old Nurta Mohamed Farah from Somalia is an example. In her homeland in eastern Africa, leaving Islam is a crime guilty of death. Her parents attempted to beat her new faith out of Nurta. Nurta experienced a very difficult time of deep suffering and was finally shot to death by someone unknown.
Of course in Europe we also see genuine, sincere conversions, where the soul giving their life to Jesus is fully aware of a price that is to be paid. But the slight repressions and disadvantages we experience have very little in common with real suffering and persecution.
These brethren upon turning to Christ are already prepared for the fact that they will suffer and bare shame for His sake. Those of us here, who enjoy freedom, prosperity and security, must familiarize ourselves with these possibilities. But even here in Europe the time is coming that each Christian will have to make a clear decision as to which way they will choose.
Examining the following points, let us test the attitude of our hearts according to the Holy Scriptures.
1. I identify myself with the sufferings of the brethren worldwide and choose to suffer along with them.
As a born-again Christian I have been placed into a large family. I belong to the people of God, the bride of Christ and to His body.
In I Cor 12:26 it says:
And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.
This means I cannot act as if the sufferings of my brethren are no concern of mine.
In 2009 the death of two students in Northern Yemen went through the media. They were from a bible school in Brake. They were working for a mission providing humanitarian aid. These two were criticized by the church for bringing themselves into danger by evangelizing where they were just suppose to be providing humanitarian help. From the world church one cannot expect anything else. But as a member of the body of Christ, I have no right to criticize those who have been killed because they were obeying Christ’s command.
What do I do when I read about persecution and oppression? Do I regularly pray for my brethren with all of my heart? Does it affect me in any way? Or, do I even criticize them? Do I have the attitude that as a Christian, I am a child of the King; therefore if I walk properly I need not fear persecution?
Richard Wurmbrand, who was persecuted and imprisoned for many years in Eastern Europe because of his faith, was criticized by Christians in the West. They put into question the validity and reliability of his reports.
In Rieneckers Bible Encyclopedia we read under the heading that means "to suffer vicariously with somebody":
In the New Testament we see that suffering with Christ is a very real experience that deepens fellowship with Him, who in His life endured much suffering. It was the path of His life that went from suffering unto glory into which we have been called to follow.
Those who suffer with Christ have the promise of reigning with Christ. Those who partake in the fellowship of His sufferings here on earth can fully reckon with the great comfort of fellowship with the Risen and Exalted One. In this manner the co-sufferer with Christ experiences a foretaste of the fullness that will be theirs at the appearance of Christ in His glory.
This “suffering” is not solely a matter of the individual but rather a very integrate part of co-suffering with the body of Christ (II Cor. 12:26) as a whole as it occurs for the sake of the gospel (II Tim. 1:8; 2:3). A Christian also suffers when the church is persecuted (Hebr. 10:32-34) . On the other hand the church suffers with the one member suffers (I Cor. 12:26). This suffering perfects the fellowship of disciples. And in this manner the law of Christ is being fulfilled (Gal. 6:2).
And it is toward this end that we should direct our hearts:
Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God
II Tim. 1:8
2. It would be for the wrong motive to form an underground church as a way to avoid suffering and persecution.
There are two possibilities:
Both of these possibilities are a problem as the following passages demonstrate:
But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.
Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.
Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.
But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
Underground does not necessarily mean undercover as a means to continue living in comfort in our western fullness and idleness. Nor should we look for ways to avoid harm at all costs. It is important that we allow the Holy Spirit to circumcise our hearts in order to gain the proper attitude and steadfastness.
This change of heart may be difficult for those who have an affinity toward people like Joyce Meyer (an American preacher who leans toward the prosperity gospel and other false teachings ) and the motto “let’s enjoy life”.
3. I will go the path that the Lord has prescribed for me, even if this means I will suffer.
When I hear about the brutal sufferings that brethren endure, I often have to catch my breath. Then I ask myself whether I could endure something like that.
Nurta Mohamed Farah was not only beat up by her parents, but she was chained to a tree during the day. At night she was locked up in small dark room.
Christian girls are continuously being raped in Islamic brothels.
Think about the Christian martyr in Iraq whose body was filled with salt.
A piece of Michael Sattler’s tongue was cut out. Altogether seven pieces of flesh were pulled out of his body with blistering hot pincers.
I can only cry out to God that I will have the strength to endure such things without denying my Lord.
Let us continue:
4. The Lord Himself imposes upon us suffering and persecution.
The Lord Himself said in the gospel of John, chapter 15, verse 20:
Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.
And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.
And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake.
We will be persecuted because we belong to Jesus Christ. The world and the apostate church want a Jesus Christ to their own liking. The true church, also known as the body of Christ or the Bride, will preach the truth to them, a truth that they do not want to hear.
We can neither deny, nor ignore the fact that the world does not rejoice over Christians. For they remind them of Him who says: “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me!” (John 14:6)
If I proclaim to be a Jehovah’s Witness I will be laughed at. But if I confess to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, and proclaim that He alone is the only way to salvation, I will experience resistance and possibly serious consequences.
Following are bible passages for comfort and assurance:
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.
But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.
a. Prepare your heart