Hi there! Do you feel like doing a little detective work today? Of course you do! Take a look at this picture. What can you discern about what's going on? Can you figure out what's happening?
Well, I'm not the smartest guy who has ever written a blog but for starters, my first guess is that the guy in the white shirt is on some kind of trouble. And, judging by the number of other individuals in uniform, I'd say he's in trouble with either the police or the army . . . or both! And it's somewhere in a Far East. China maybe? Hmm. Are there any more clues?
Well, the guy in the foreground is reading something. It could be a letter of commendation but I kind of doubt it. No one is smiling. He could be reading everyone one of my blogs. That would explain the sad faces. But more likely, I think he's reading the man in the white shirt the charges that are being leveled against him. "These are the charges against you. How do you plead? Guilty or NOT guilty?"
Really though, nothing is all that unusual in this picture. One could walk into any police station around the world and see similar things going on. So, what is so different about this picture that I would be writing about it in my blog? What makes this guy so special? Well, what if I was to tell you that the guy in the white shirt is a Christian and an elder of . . . an underground church.
There are two types of churches in China from what I read on the Internet. There is the state-run church, called The Three Self Church and then there is the underground or house church.
The Three Self Church is run by the Chinese government. The three "Self's" in the Three Self Church are self-governance, self-support and self-propagation.
There are over 57,000 of these churches in China. The following are some of the criteria for the Three Self Church, taken from billionbibles.org
• The Communist Party is the head of the church in China (Three Self churches report to the Three
Self Patriotic Movement, which reports to the State Administration for Religious Affairs, which is
controlled by the Chinese Communist Party).
• The Communist Party decides how many people can be baptized per year.
• The Communist Party has the final decision on who can preach and what can be preached.
• Preaching should focus on the social rules and the social benefits of Christianity.
• Preaching about resurrection and the second coming of Jesus is forbidden.
• Preaching against religions that deny the deity of Jesus is forbidden.
• Preaching that atheist communist heroes went to hell is forbidden; good communists go to heaven
• Preaching against abortion is forbidden.
• Gathering to worship outside Three Self churches and official "meeting points" is forbidden.
• Preachers cannot preach at a Three Self church other than the one to which they were assigned.
• Evangelizing or giving out tracts is forbidden.
• Importing Bibles is forbidden, even if they are given away for free.
• Printing Bibles is forbidden, even if they are given away for free.
• Government officials cannot be Christian.
• Teachers cannot be Christian.
• Soldiers cannot be Christian.
• Police officers cannot be Christian.
• Children and teenagers cannot be Christian.
The man in the white shirt in the picture is a Christian, standing firm in the face of a government that is persecuting Christians, REAL Christians, not government controlled, government worshippers.
"Well," you might say, "that's way over in China. I mean, that's too bad that they have to go through all that but at least we don't have to worry about that happening here. How about Australia?
"In December 2004 two pastors were convicted under a hate crimes law in Victoria, Australia. The case stems from a seminar that Daniel Nalliah and Daniel Scott of Catch the Fire Ministries conducted in March 2002. The two pastors lectured on the differences between Christianity and Islam and quoted information about Islam directly from the Quran. They were accused by the Islamic Council of inciting hatred, and the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal sided against them, even though the judge admitted that they quoted the Quran accurately. The cost of defending themselves against the accusations surpassed $150,000." - source, (wayoflife.org)
How about Canada? It's getting a little closer now. Did you know that in Canada a pastor cannot speak out against Islam, homosexuals or any "group" in Canada because it has been deemed hate speech? How would you like to be a pastor in THAT country? Read this and find out.
This WILL happen in America. It's only a matter of time. And when it does . . . welcome . . . to the underground church. People are already moving in that direction, my friends. They are fed up with church politics and "the way we've always done things." They are tired of the mega-seeker-emergent, all-inclusive, everyone is welcome, "smorgasbord Christianity." They long to get back to the basics. They long to get closer to God, and quite frankly, so do I.
Please read this article by a former Presbyterian pastor. If you are tired of the church of today and would like to get some insight into the church of tomorrow (and the Acts 2 church) that article may be just the information you have been looking for.
So if you see me out in the back yard late at night with a shovel and a flashlight, I will most likely be preparing for what I see as the way of the future for us believers - going underground. Christians, in the years ahead, in these last days, we are going to to find it getting more and more difficult to worship our God. We are becoming handcuffed with rules and regulations, we are being told what we can and cannot say, we (especially our brothers and sisters in China and Korea) are even being to tortured and killed for worshipping the God we believe in.
Perhaps it is time . . . to dig!
A final word from Paul who, wrapped in chains, wrote this to the church in Philippi . .
27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have." - Philippians 1:27-30