I have friends, no more than friends. . . they are brothers and sisters in Christ, who meet together regularly as a church knowing that their lives are at risk if certain groups in authority were to discover where they were meeting. These believers are not in our nation, but in a nation where God has "officially" been banned unless controlled by government sanctioned "churches."
These believers work hard every day in their job. Yet, they understand that what they do does not define who they are. They are not wealthy. They are farmers mostly, but in a nation where what they grow does not belong to them. Therefore, they are not paid "a decent days wages."
I met with them a little over a year ago in a cave. We gathered together, sat on little wooden chairs and then they began to sing. They were singing hymns and worshiping God. They were speaking their native language. Though I couldn't understand the language, I could understand their hearts. Tears were flowing down their cheeks as they praised the Lord. This wasn't even on a Sunday. They had gathered together during the week because they heard I was coming. People traveled great distances to be at this church meeting. I shared a brief testimony, but must tell you, felt very unqualified to speak on faith to this group.
They were speaking to me.
They risked everything for the privilege of gathering as a church, to read the Word, to sing worship songs together.
I thought about how we view church here in the States. The emphasis is on creating programs and events that will entice people to come "check out the church." Even Christians aren't often at a point of seeing that the coming together for worship and study is a priority. Oh how easy we have it.
As I continue through the book of James, it is so revealing that often what we call Christianity is a facade. It's too easy. It's sometimes about the building, the pastor, the event. . .and not about the Savior. Seriously, how many of you have had friends tell you about their church and all God is doing, but the closer you listen, all they're saying is how cool their new building is or how incredible their new staff member is? We brag on stuff really well, don't we?
I was meeting with our pastoral staff today and we discussed how easily Christians drift toward lax theology and feel-good religion. It becomes evident in what we say and do and as James says "how we live our lives."
Next spring we have scheduled a gathering on Friday, April 1beginning at 6pm. We plan to end at midnight. Yeah, that's extreme. Most of the time, we begin squirming in our seats after about 30 minutes. So, why go six hours? I have been inspired by The Church at Brook Hills "Secret Church" meetings which are scheduled this way. There is something about seriously seeking God through quality teaching, sound theology and practical application through missional expressions. This meeting will remind us of what our brothers and sisters experience throughout the world. The evening will not be about high tech videos, music or graphic images. It will be simple - prayer, teaching, prayer, exposition, prayer, solid theological instruction and . . . prayer.
I'm a little anxious about the schedule. This seriously moves us from any semblance of "entertaining the masses" for the sake of religion. It could be that I'm the only one here. That is a reality. Some folks just can't stay the full six hours. I understand that as well. Still, I hearken back to the group I sat with in a cave on the other side of the world. Oh, how they would love to have the opportunity to fellowship freely and experience solid teaching from the Word of God.
Maybe we just have it too easy? I think we do.
If nothing else, our Underground Church meeting will remind us what God is doing globally, and I suspect He will change us in the process.