I’ve had the privilege of traveling to Japan, Nepal, Myanmar, and China. The purpose of the trips is always the same—to talk about making disciples and rapidly multiplying churches.
Often, there is little need for actual teaching as the people I’m privileged to address are already doing masterful work. In many of these places they simply need the emotional and spiritual support of an outsider.
In both Nepal and Myanmar, pastors have been imprisoned for preaching without the benefit of a seminary education. The sad thing is that this is usually a product of more established churches reporting them to the Hindu or Buddhist authorities. If the authorities don’t understand churches, they are willing to arrest someone because a respected pastor speaks ill of them.
Sad as that is, there are some upsides to operating under difficult circumstances.
The chief benefit, which I perceive, is that underground churches cannot do programs which forces their energies toward disciple-making.
This is true in many countries but, perhaps, most true in China. Even though the government is fully aware of most “underground” churches, they must still keep a low profile. The low profile prevents large gatherings, most property ownership and costly education of pastors. Almost all they do revolves around simple disciple-making.
In many ways, this gives them more freedom than we have in the west. A friend recently handed off a fairly sizeable church in Beijing. His successor didn’t work out…worse yet, the number two man in the new situation is naturally more forceful than his boss. The sad news is that the successor resigned after six months. The good news is that the first church is doing well and the resigned man is ready to launch another house-church. Meanwhile, the guy who started all of this moved to another province where he teaches at a university and has planted a group of 20 people in just two months.
The nimbleness of the underground church amazes me. I found myself, sitting in China, envying the pastors for the freedom which they enjoy and we don’t!