Outlaw Faith: Could Your Church Go Underground? Part 1

Outlaw Church: Underground

I hate AND love to think that the church in America might have to go underground one day.  It is a scary and at the same time, an exhilarating thought.  Some Christians might think I’ve lost my mind, but let me explain.

But first, is it too hard to think that the church MIGHT have to go underground at some point?  I mean the true church, not the one that is approved, ok’d or will do ANYTHING and EVERYTHING to keep their 503(c) status by the government.  I’m talking about the church that will follow the Bible and choose to live for Jesus regardless of what the culture, government or anyone says.  I mean the church that will be the church, even in the face of threats and persecution!  Is it too hard to think that we could be there at some point in the near future?

It will (is) easy to blame us.  I mean, come on!  We are people who are unbending when it comes to just accepting what everyone (the world) is doing.  We say no to abortion, homosexuality, etc.., etc.., etc..  We are just not tolerant.  So why would the world want to put up with us?  “Let’s remove these troublemakers and things will be easier,” you can almost hear them say!  It’s happened before in other places in this world, at other times.  And more importantly, Jesus warned about it.

18 “If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you. 20 Remember the word I spoke to you: ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will also keep yours. 21 But they will do all these things to you on account of My name, because they don’t know the One who sent Me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin.  Now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 The one who hates Me also hates My Father. 24 If I had not done the works among them that no one else has done, they would not have sin. Now they have seen and hated both Me and My Father. 25 But this happened so that the statement written in their scripture might be fulfilled: They hated Me for no reason.

 

26 “When the Counselor comes, the One I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father—He will testify about Me. 27 You also will testify, because you have been with Me from the beginning.

 

John 15:18-27 (HCSB)

So back to my statement, I hate and love to think that Christians, we, might find ourselves one day having to go underground to meet, fellowship and share God’s Word.

I hate the idea because I know that many Christians won’t be able to make the transition.  Church is done in a “church.”  We drive there every Sunday morning.  It has rows of chairs and children’s church and maybe a cafeteria and a gym.

It would come as a shock that many wouldn’t be able to handle.  As a result, many will lose faith and think that God is dead.  Some will argue that these people were never really Christians to begin with.  Maybe, Maybe not!  I just know that sometimes we have such thoughts and ideas that normalcy bias sets in and we can’t imagine anything else…or meeting together in any other way.

I love the idea that churches might have to go underground one day because it will shake the very core of American Christianity!  We have built our faith around a building, great preachers, great music and great amenities (Children’s church, Youth Group, Singles, etc…).  There is nothing wrong with all of this, but it has become more of “this is church” than we come together to worship and serve God!

We have come to expect that we “go to church” to get fed or to grow spiritually.  We have come to expect that the pastor needs to be a great speaker, who is energetic, positive and entertaining.  We go to church to “feel” it.  And if we don’t, we go find another one.

Don’t get me wrong.  This isn’t the case for ALL churches in America.  However, I bet I would get more that agree with me than not!

Going underground means that we will have to be more relational.  The church would more than likely meet in homes.  It would be more participatory.  There would probably be more prayer and seeking God.

Relational

Let’s face it, you can walk into many churches today and absent the “Good morning” from the greeters at the door, if your church does that, you don’t have to actually speak to anyone.  A smile and a nob will suffice most of the time.  This is good and bad.  Sometimes you just want to walk in and focus on God.  You might not want social club time!  But most of the time we like to talk to people.  We like to know that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, we want to belong.  Yes, you can always get involved in some aspect of  church, they always need volunteers, but some just don’t naturally gravitate to that.

In an underground or small home church setting, you can’t just get away with showing up and leaving without interacting with others.  And if you don’t show up for some reason, people will know it.  There is usually food and sharing and times of fellowship that you just don’t experience in a large church setting.  You become part of the family, you belong.

Participatory

You’ve probably heard the term “sit and get.”  This is usually the case in churches where the preacher gets up to preach.  There isn’t really alot of participation, outside of signing some songs.  Yes, you can join a small group and get involved in ministry.  But the main thrust of any church is the Sunday morning service.

Home churches or small groups are just by nature more participatory. Coming together, maybe sitting in a circle, just lends itself to times where people can ask questions and discuss spiritual matters.  As this happens, it becomes easier and easier to share faith with others.  It also allows others to see that they are not in it alone.  The person sitting across the room is going through the same concerns, fears, situations…

Prayer

Prayer in a church setting usually means the pastor or someone is called to the front, given a microphone and says a prayer.  This is usually already setup before the service, again nothing wrong with that.  Some churches allow for prayer at the end of the service.  They will call prayer partners up and you can come up for special prayer.

In a smaller setting, prayer can be spontaneous.  It can take as long as needed.  Those that feel that they should pray, can.

Seeking God

In a larger church setting, most of the “spiritual food” is provided by the pastor.  I hate to say it, but many times it is programmed, sermon series based on a given passage are easy and don’t take too much hearing from God. I know, I’ve been there and done that!  There might be more available for members in small groups, but it depends on how the groups are laid out and the focus that the leader wants to share.

In a home church/small group setting, there is still usually someone in charge of providing a message or sermon or the sharing of Scripture.  However, it doesn’t always have to be the same person and the discussion and sharing can always lead it where the Holy Spirit would like it to go.  Again, there is freedom to discuss Scriptures more or pray more or take however long it takes.

In conclusion, the focus of this article is about a time when churches might have to go underground.  In no way am I saying that churches need to do this now or that it is the only way!  I have pastored a home church for many years and I currently attend a larger church, so I’m not against larger churches.

I do think that churches should really think about this topic.  Certain issues are causing more an more pastors to think about what their churches would look like in a tyrannical government scenario.  Pastors, elders and church officials should be thinking about contingencies so that their members are “looked after” and can continue meeting together in the faith.

In part 2, I will share some specifics, from my years of pastoring a home church, that Christians should think about when considering meeting in small congregational settings.

 

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7 thoughts on “Outlaw Faith: Could Your Church Go Underground? Part 1

  1. Mic Roland

    Hi Todd,
    Per the 501(c)3 topic, a question to ask is whether a particular church really has a 501c3 exemption to lose.

    I helped a local sports booster club file for a state tax-exemption and a 501c3, so got familiar with the process. My church here in New Hampshire does not have a 501c3. It never filed for one, so there isn’t one for an angry government official to revoke.

    Perhaps it’s unique to NH law, but the law on NH books exempts churches from (corporate) taxes, as a class. It’s not granted individually. I would have to wonder if there is something similar in the convoluted IRS tax code. If so, an oppressive government would have to change the law for all, rather than seek to target individual pastors for not toeing the political-correctness line. That would be a very tough sell, as it would hurt “churches” the government likes too.

    Even then, what are they really threatening to do? Saying they will tax an un-PC church. So? That’s just money. A church/pastor unwilling to speak the biblical truth because it might cost them a few bucks, is a rather tepid church. Of course, nowadays, we have quite a few of those too.

  2. Dennis

    Todd,

    I find nothing in this article with which I can disagree. I have been saying for several years that the Church in America will eventually go underground, and it will be bitter/sweet.

  3. Snake Plisken

    About 3 years back my neighbor invited me to an informal bible study at a hall just down the street. I really didn’t know what to expect because the last few years I’d gotten away from the Christian churches because I didn’t think the preacher ( priests what have you ) were very sincere in Christs word. Maybe it was just misconception on my part.

    However I kept an open mind. I was pleasantly surprised to find these humble layman/women loved to read and debate scripture in a friendly way. It was very hands on and a very outgoing energetic group which totally 180 degrees different from the organized church’s. And, once the meeting was over we ” break bread ” with casseroles and homebaked goodies while we fellowshipped. I enjoyed it.

    So I can see your point about churches going underground.

    The way the liberals are pursuing their hateful misunderstood persecution of Christians in this country is breath taking. Kinda reminds of Christians retreating to the Catacombs to save themselves. What we will be doing next? Chalking a fish symbol on the side of a building so we can recognize each other? I don’t that will be possible without being observed by CC or a watchful anti Christian liberal zealot?

    Ah,well, as usual Todd you’ve given me a lot to think about and I have this unusual urge to Psalms.

    Best!

    Snake Plisken

  4. Joe Barbaro

    The church I attended as a child occasionally and later attended after accepting Christ then I heard the pastor who I had respect for say in a men’s prayer time that taking a microchip in the hand was okay. I believed he was serious, but felt he maybe was joking. I stopped going regularly after he said the same in church. I got married, had kid’s. We got married there, by the youth pastor who was about my age. Attending occasionally, a few weeks ago took one of the kids and now he’s talking about global warming. The youth pastor resigned and had already moved out of state before I knew about it. I can’t believe people can sit and listen to this and not say anything. The Clergy Response Team is real and every Christian should know about it. It saddens me to see strange fire in a church my great grandfather helped to build. If this can happen in Vermont, it can happen anywhere.

    1. Todd Sepulveda Post author

      Joe,

      I do believe you need to be somewhere that preaches the Word! I hope you continue to look for a church that is Bible based. It is important to be in fellowship with other Christians.

      Peace,
      Todd

  5. InspiredbyYahweh

    a good church has already begun to think and act in a way that it can become the underground church. The church has always historically grown the most under persecution. I was speaking with a pastor from China while on a trip there and one in our group asked if he wished they could get rid of the communist government, his response, “why would we want to get rid of the thing that has caused the church in China to grow the most?” I believe in the coming months we will begin to see the falling away in a big way, very quickly you will see the true church and the apostate church and those who will not stand for sound doctrine will quickly be leaving….love God with all your heart, soul, mind, strength….

  6. John Joseph Flanagan

    I for one see the very real probability of the true believers of the Christian faith eventually forming underground home churches in America, as it is done in countries like China and Vietnam, and now beginning in Europe as well. The professing Christians in liberal bodies which make accommodations with society, and cooperate with governmental sanctions on free speech will be unaffected, having already determined to please the world and survive persecution of any kind.
    As the Western countries have become more immoral, pluralized and have legitimized homosexuality and degeneracy as virtues, and as more churches have abandoned their true calling to be a light on a hill, it is a historical precedent that remnants of Christians throughout the ages find solace and strength in small groups.
    In time, the Bible will be hate speech, and only watered down Christianity will be tolerated. Thus, small groups will be considered cults and as in China, any Bible studies in private homes will need to be “registered” and watched by government. Of course, true believers will resist and some pastors will be imprisoned. Did our Lord not say we should anticipate persecution, and that we will not float with ease through a hostile world? I think we need to pray about this, and prepare mentally for the uncertainties ahead. The days are evil, and change is coming as God purges His church. The fearful and unbelievers have no stomach for it, but those who love the Lord and count themselves as His followers must put on their armor now.

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