Praying With the Hidden Church

by Gerry Lynch last modified 25 Sep, 2014 03:26 PM

New worship resources help churchgoers identify with Christians forced to meet in secret due to persecution.

Around the world millions of Christians worship in secret. From hot and dusty north Africa, to the snow-filled valleys of Tibet, whether in densely crowded cities or in remote mountain villages, they gather together quietly, covertly, to worship their Saviour in the face of danger and hostility.

Now one Christian NGO is asking churchpeople to consider holding a special ‘secret church’ service in solidarity with their brother and sister Christians who are forced to meet behind closed doors.

Open Doors is a ministry serves persecuted Christians worldwide. As well as advocating for persecuted Christians, it supplies Bibles, provides training, literacy programmes, livelihood support in countries where Christians face employment discrimination.

It has launched the Secret Church campaign, and provided a series of resources to help Christians in this country appreciate the challenge their fellow Christians face in other parts of the world.

A spokesperson for Open Doors said, “Our desire through Secret Church is that every church in the UK and Ireland has an opportunity to connect with their persecuted brothers and sisters. Secret Church is a prayer and worship event unlike any other

“It’s our prayer that those who attend a Secret Church event will do four things. Firstly, to identify with their persecuted brothers and sisters and understand that we are all one family. Secondly, to be e more committed to ‘keep on praying for all the Lord’s people’ (Ephesians 6:18) and supporting them. Thirdly, to become more aware of how blessed we are to live in a country with religious freedom and, finally, to be inspired by the courage and faithfulness of persecuted Christians and have a greater understanding of the dangers they face.

“People considering running Secret Church can get a flavour of what it's like from the videos on our website.”

In some countries, if Christians are discovered, they risk of being thrown out of their home, being beaten or arrested. Even where there is tolerance of well-established Christian communities, there can be great hostility to converts. In some countries, the persecution is because of specific religious or ideological hostility to Christianity, while in others, local authorities believe that Christians bring trouble to the community. 

China is a country that falls into the latter camp. Zigsa leads a small network of underground Christians in Tibet, shepherding a few dozen believers who meet in secret in small groups of only a few people. “There is persecution from the Tibetan community,” he says, “and from the government. That’s why we teach our new believers to be careful.”

Believers in these countries have little access to the Bible - being caught in possession of one can lead to anything from social ostracism, right through to execution or imprisonment in a labour camp in the worst cases.

Hye is a North Korean Christian whose family home was used for secret church services. Because of the many sudden and random house searches, the Bibles in the family’s possession were hidden. There were three Bibles in the house; one Chinese Bible, one Bible in Korean (translated from Chinese and written by hand by her grandmother) and one Korean Bible they had received from a Chinese friend. All Bibles had a paper cover with images of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il.

One day, though, Hye came home from school to find something terrible had happened.

“When I came back”, she said, “I opened the door and expected to see my father. He always came to the door to meet me. Not this time. Instead I saw the house was ransacked. I had never seen such chaos. I went to my father’s office, because I wanted to see him and hear from him what had happened. He wasn’t there anymore. I knew there had been a secret worship meeting earlier that day. I ran back to the living room and asked the other family members where dad was. My mother spoke with me in a calm voice, but her eyes were red and swollen: ‘Four agents from the National Security Agency raided our house. They confiscated one of the Bibles and arrested father.’”

Jan V, an Open Doors worker, visited a secret believer in the Middle East “I take out my English Bible and read the text where Jesus inaugurates the Lord's Supper", she reported, "Then we together break the bread and drink the wine. I realise that in this crowded restaurant, there are people who do not know that there is a woman in their midst who is leading a secret life as a Christian. And they do not know that we are celebrating the Lord's Supper here on the spot, in communion with Him and in communion with one another. The free and the persecuted church meet one another here.

“We leave the restaurant. ‘We still have to pray,’ I say. The three of us turn into an alleyway to get out of the way of people. My colleague and I pray in English, Aaina in Arabic."

Learn more, download resources and watch videos at www.opendoorsuk.org/secretchurch/.

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