The Meaning of “Underground Church”, Part 2

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:25 NIV)

Christians, who take their faith seriously, tend to love the fellowship of believers. In nations like China, where following Christ is not without risk, meeting together has for decades been an art-form. In the early days of the Communist Peoples Republic of China, a great purge was launched to eradicate religion in general, but “The White Devil’s Religion” Christianity, in particular. Churches were boarded up, leveled or converted for the use of the local Communist party. Bibles were confiscated. Executions of Chinese Christian leaders was common. Imprisonments were ordered. Persecutions were an everyday occurrence. By the late 50’s, it was estimated that the Christian population had decreased eighty percent. The church had declined from 25 million in Pre-Mao 1949 to around one-half million ten years after the Revolution.

Shut off by their atheistic leaders from the outside world, there was little to encourage the suffering, scattered and solitary Christian in China. Their sanctuaries were, for all practical purposes, non-existent. Then a radical change began to take place. Christians who were hungry for fellowship began meeting in secret, out-of-the-way places. The underground church was born in China out of necessity. Government raids and jailed leaders could not stop what the Lord had begun.

In an effort to stop the growth of the underground church movement, the government of China offered a carrot to its leaders. The Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), which had been banned, was re-opened and sanctioned for public worship services–with certain restrictions, of course. Having services in a Protestant worship setting was an attractive alternative to the rigors of operating underground. But the “certain restrictions” proved a stumbling block to most underground pastors.

Who can argue with the methods used by the Underground Church? The unsanctioned Chinese Church has all the characteristics of the Church of the first century. Again, accurate figures are difficult to come by, but some mission experts estimate the present Christian population in China to be 100 million plus. It is believed the underground church is exploding throughout China at the rate of 20-30,000 converts a day!

China, the world’s most populous country, is on track to soon dominate the globe economically, militarily, industrially, and politically. Western believers would do well to imitate their underground church’s Book of Acts methodology as well, instead of the TSPM. We would be well-served to develop a lean, mobile and fervent fellowship; a Church that operates under the radar with an undying hope and willingness to suffer, such as we see among millions of Chinese Christians.

Much more could be written. I encourage blog readers to purchase The Heavenly Man: The Remarkable True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun (Kregel Publications). As far as understanding where God is going, reading about Brother Yun might be the wisest thing we could do.

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