Thursday, February 20, 2014

Beating the State: Third Century Christianity in the Third World Today

Most Christians in places hostile to the gospel aren't confined to buildings, and they don't rely on First World support. The churches in those areas are growing because they are mobile and hard to find, much to the chagrin of government officials.

Gary North discusses these "guerrilla" tactics:
This has received little attention in the West, because this strategy relies on invisibility. The West's intellectuals suffer from a myth of modernism: "If bureaucrats cannot count something, it cannot be important. It it cannot be computerized, it cannot be socially relevant." Call it the NSA's blind spot. Call it the IRS's nightmare.

The strategy is simple to describe: no permanent real estate. There are no permanent church buildings.

If you can't find it, you cannot tax it. If you cannot find it, you cannot regulate it. If you cannot find it, you cannot subsidize it. If you cannot tax it or regulate it or subsidize it, the state cannot suppress it. It's simple. And it is working, just as it worked from Nero to Diocletian. ...

... Consider the challenge of India. There are about 1.2 billion people in India. There is no way to generate capital sufficient to build enough churches to evangelize India in a generation. The same holds true for China. It has to be done with a house church system. There is no other way.

The tremendous advantage that the Communists gave to Protestants in China is that there was either persecution of the church under Mao or the Three-Self movement, which is a government-approved church, whose members meet in buildings that can be monitored by the Communist hierarchy.

This led to the creation of house churches. All over China, Protestants create house churches. Sometimes the government arrests the pastor, but he is replaced immediately from inside the congregation. We don't know how many Protestants there are in China today, but a common estimate is 120 million. In 1973, there were probably fewer than 3 million. We know now what happened. All of this came as a result of the fact that the Communists either tried to stamp out Protestantism, or else they tried to control it by confining it in buildings, where the government could monitor what was going on. This has led to the largest, fastest evangelism explosion in the history of the church.

In terms of percentages, 120 million is 10% of the Chinese population. But Protestant evangelists were in China from the 1860s, and there was not much growth until the serious persecutions began in the aftermath of the cultural revolution of the mid-1960s.

Mao drove all the Western missionaries and pastors out of China in the early 1950s. That was the making of the Protestant church in China. That exodus freed the Chinese church from the legacy of seminary-trained pastors, church buildings, and large congregations.

We're seeing the greatest evangelism movement in the history of the world, yet we're not seeing it. We're not seeing it, because it has no buildings, no seminary-trained pastors, and no hierarchical organizations...yet. There are only local organizations, and they multiply under persecution. They don't have any money, but they don't need any money, so they multiply.
A very interesting read. Check out the full article here.

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