God is always in control. We experienced this again recently in a country where the Gospel is not welcomed by the government. Strict new laws have sought to control the official church and ban unregistered churches. Christians are being severely persecuted. Church buildings are being torn down and house churches are being closed down.
Despite this, believers continue to serve the Lord. At a training session recently a pastoral couple (*Sue and *Wang) begged us to come to their church and help them transition. They had grown to 150 members during a short period when it seemed that the pressure on the church was being eased. They had begun to worship openly and had hired a venue for their services. Suddenly anew crackdown meant everything had to change. They had to split the church up into several smaller churches to survive the crackdown. They had already planned to break up the church into five churches of 30 members each, but this is still too big for the churches to meet safely.
Turning setbacks into victories
On a Saturday afternoon, as I stood before the church at their final service as a unified church, I saw the tears flowing freely as the sadness of their situation became a reality. These people love one another, they want to be together, but knew that it would be impossible for now.
I used the opportunity to share how this could be a great chance to expand the Kingdom. Now there would be five churches and Harvesters would help train pastors for each of them. I could see interest developing on their faces as we mapped out how this would eventually bring glory to God. One area that has been lacking in many of the churches has been to openly witness to strangers. Evangelism normally takes place only with those they trust. However, people need the Lord. The Gospel must be preached.
We taught a session on evangelism and challenged the church to share Jesus with others; giving them practical tools and ideas of how to lead more people to Christ. We left the meeting knowing that God had spoken to many of those present. The next morning the five new churches would meet apart for the first time.
Obedience brings about amazing results
We needed to move on to a new training session on the Monday morning. Anew set of pastors arrived and I was surprised to see Sue and Wang in the meeting as their training had been completed. They had turned up again wanting to meet with us. “We need help!” they exclaimed. “We need to split even further. Even the children who were at the training on Saturday are sharing their faith. People are coming to Jesus.” At dinner we sat down and strategised, splitting the church into ten new churches! They had gone from one to ten churches and had immediately started adding new believers.
Overcomers in Christ
The church was desperate for the Harvesters discipleship material and we arranged for someone to come from the Capital to do the training a month later. This is what our trainer shared: “I am here now and will have three days training with 40 disciples (the maximum number of leaders from the new churches that could gather safely).” Three days later he wrote: “Trained 40 students(church leaders and members) this week. They shared (went out witnessing) and over 400 people came to Christ.”
Things happen when we do what God tells us to do – especially when our circumstances would normally be an excuse not to. People are going out in the most dangerous of circumstances, being faithful witnesses and not fearing death. They are overcomers.
The government thought they were shutting down a church, now there are fifty. God is in control. Each will grow and they in turn will start new churches. Harvesters will help train pastors and leaders for each of them and the churches that will follow. God is unstoppable. Whatever your circumstances recognise that God authorises everything. Seek His plan in your suffering. Be faithful. Don’t fear.
Persecution brings out the best in believers and these churches will grow. At the end of our training session with pastors, this was the challenge: “You realise that if you apply these principles of evangelism and multiplication church planting, if you witness and lead people to Christ, you will be persecuted. You might even be put to death.” Their response was astounding. They all stood up and applauded and cheered!
*Sue and *Wang – not their real names.