First, both my voice and heart are a little rough this morning after my Cleveland Indians came up one run short in their 8-7 loss in extra innings to the Chicago Cubs last night in Game 7 of the World Series. As we Cleveland fans are so often heard saying, "There's always next year!"
I’m often asked how our organic simple church movement is doing and if I feel we are accomplishing all that I had hoped. I had that conversation yesterday at a Starbucks with a fellow brother in Christ. The answer is no. We are not the movement that I hoped for… yet. But that is partly because I have always felt that part of what we were doing was preparing the church for what is coming: persecution. I see our work as sowing seeds for a future harvest, and I believe that future is getting closer every day. Am I some fringe conspiracy theorist or “prepper”? No. But I’m not impartial on the question. In all of history, the freedom we have experienced in America in our lifetime is actually an anomaly. The Bible makes clear that those who follow Christ will be hated and will endure persecution. I suspect there is good reason for my thinking, but if I am wrong and persecution doesn’t come, I have not lost anything. But if it does and we are unprepared then we have lost much. We have this generation to make a difference in and will give account of what we did with the time given to us. I feel called to prepare God’s people for a future that is less open and free, but far more fruitful.
One of the heroes of my faith is Watchman Nee. God used him (and others like him) to prepare the church in China before the Communist revolution took over. He launched the “Little Flock” movement, which was a radical departure from the Western church model that had been planted in China prior. It was smaller, simpler in structure, in houses, inexpensive and reproducible. The churches met in smaller gatherings in homes led by ordinary people with real jobs. He brought the same sort of preparation that I have been devoted to enacting.
When the communists took power they arrested the church leaders (like Nee), seized all church property, kicked out all missionaries and burned all Christian literature. The organic expressions of simple churches meeting in homes not only survived…they thrived. The Cultural Revolution of Mao Zedong sought to eliminate all religion from society in China, but instead mobilized the church and it grew from about 2 million Christians in 1949 to over 60 million. It is estimated today that there may be upwards of 80 million Christians in China.
Contrast this with the church of Russia. The Russian Church was dependent upon three things: holy buildings, holy men in robes, and holy services performed by those men in those robes and in those buildings. When the communists took over Russia, they seized all the buildings and arrested and persecuted all the leaders of the church. The church was devastated. It did not thrive. Granted, there was a remnant that struggled to survive underground, but the Christ followers were not able to see the exponential growth the Chinese church did.
I carry deep inside a feeling that part of everything I am doing now is just preparing the bride of Christ for what is to come. Like Nee, I have been striving to bring health and simplicity back to the church, and with that an ability to ride out any storm that may come.
If tomorrow the church you attend and all those around you were seized and all the buildings, worship centers, and materials burned to the ground, pastors and priests arrested and/or killed, what would surface out of it? What would reproduce? What would you do? Are you being prepared to share the Gospel, your testimony, make disciples and lead a simple church? Are you prepared to “Go and make disciples”? (Matt.28:19)
Read John 15:20-21; 1 Timothy 3:12; 1 Corinthians 4:8-13; Matthew 5:10-12; and Luke 2:10-12. Then spend time in prayer reading again the last paragraph above and reflect on how persecution proof and reproducible is your faith.
Please post your reflections, questions, and prayers below in the comment box.