Last night at Bible study my pastor showed a YouTube clip about the underground church in China. We saw lots of believers cramped into small spaces worshiping in in less than desirable conditions. The narrator spoke of one congregation asking a visiting minister to preach for 12 hours a day, 3 days in a row, and when asked what they’d like him to preach about they responded “everything from Genesis to Revelation.” The preacher then realized that they didn’t have Bibles.
The purpose of the video was to show us how hungry the Chinese Christians are and that such a hunger is something that we should seek. The American church, it’s said, is spoiled. We were compared to Sodom, who was full of bread and didn’t do anything to help the oppressed (Ezek. 16:49-50). The underground church in China is an ideal that the American church should attain to. But as I thought about it last night and as I continue to think about this morning, I can’t agree, at least not completely. Here’s a few reasons why:
To start, my pastor spoke about how the Chinese Christians were starving, which I agree with. They are starving because of the culture they live in. As the narrator said, they didn’t have Bibles. So when they have the opportunity they have to get in as much word as they can. They also have to get in as much worship as they can because they don’t know if and when they’ll be able to meet again. It’s a culture in which belief in Christ can get you imprisoned or even killed.
We, on the other hand, are saturated with the word of God. We have dozens of Bible translations in our language alone!. We have audio Bibles, Bible apps for our phones and tablets, Bible Gateway for our computers along with powerful Bible software like BibleWorks, Logos, and Accordance for those who like to do more than just read the Bible. We have Christian radio stations, television networks, YouTube channels, Sermon Audio, and more than I can even think to mention.
We’re able to worship in the open and our right to do so is protected by the US constitution (for now!). Most of us gather at least twice a week for worship services and Bible study; some of us even more (some churches do 3 services on Sundays!). The point is that we don’t lack for spiritual nourishment over here so we’re able to consistently eat without having to binge when the opportunity presents itself. It’s a wonderful thing to hunger and thirst for God; but it’s wonderful to be satisfied in God as well.
This isn’t to say that we can’t (and don’t) get lax over here, but it is to say that the situation is vastly different. I’d imagine that if we found ourselves in a similar situation we’d behave much like the underground church in China. But it’s a blessing that we should be thankful for to have such an embarrassment of riches. Our problem isn’t that we’re not starving; it’s that we’re not grateful (and I even hate to paint with such a broads brush on this point).
The grass is always greener on the other side anyway. While we’re idealizing the hunger of the underground church in China I’m sure there are Chinese preachers idealizing the freedom of the church in America. I have to imagine they view what we have and see it as something to attain to. But at the end of the day, we all have to work with what we got, and thank God whether we have a little or a lot.