Get Free of the State –

From this article by Gary North, Austrian economist and Christian:

“A spectre is haunting Communism. It is the spectre of churches without buildings.”

If there were a Christian Karl Marx today, his Manifesto of Third World Christianity could begin with these words.

In 1973, in his last years, Mao’s persecution had reduced the number of Protestants in China to something in the range of 3 million people. The estimate today is 120 million. No one knows. This is a good thing. If the state cannot count them, it cannot persecute them.

Chinese Protestants have adopted a strategy used in the late Roman Empire. They are worshiping in homes and secret buildings. They stay on the move. In short: the churches do not have 9-digit zip codes.

The same strategy was used under the Soviet Empire before it collapsed in late 1991.

The same strategy has worked in the tribal states of the post-European empire world in sub-Sahara Africa.

The same system is working in Latin America, to the dismay of the bureaucrats.

This has received little attention in the West, because this strategy relies on invisibility. The West’s intellectuals suffer from a myth of modernism: “If bureaucrats cannot count something, it cannot be important. It it cannot be computerized, it cannot be socially relevant.” Call it the NSA’s blind spot. Call it the IRS’s nightmare.

The strategy is simple to describe: no permanent real estate. There are no permanent church buildings.

It is a vindication to see this.

There is another factor in the growth of the number of professing Christians both “under the radar” and the ones that are visible also, and that’s the missionary movement(s) that grew in the midst of the Jesus People Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, starting mostly in the West. But it was completely different from Western culture. This movement began and grew exponentially outside of the established churches that Gary North goes on to say are now stagnating in their growth.

The “mainstream” denominations are shrinking. The article is right on target in its explanation of what’s wrong. The hardening of institutionalization manifests in a structure evolving into centralization of control, in which the institutions begin to enforce doctrine and church structure instead of spreading the Gospel.

Gary North did not mention this movement but it has had a lot to do with injecting new life and growth into the Christian message.

Credit where credit is due. Gary North is an Austrian economist, meaning he understands that making doctrinal obedience a matter for the monopoly of force of government is something that will never work in the real world.

More credit where credit is due. From a debate recorded and on a web site, it seems Gary North is a Calvinist. But he does not credit Calvinism for the spectacular 20th and 21st century growth in Christendom around the world. He calls it the “Pentecostal model” and home churches.

He is right of course. Most Pentecostal churches around the world, like my wife’s native Honduras, are very small and by most measures very poor. Some are not. The ones that are not are the ones most visible in media.

But home churches it is true go mostly unnoticed by both the secular and religious elites. North does not mention this, but sometimes the worst enemies of Christendom in the earth are religious elites, religious establishments, leaders with power in religious organizations.

I have experienced some of that hostility personally, when I was a missionary in one of those Jesus People missionary movements that formed part of the “Jesus People” of the 1960s. A cleric from a very powerful religious institution in a nation “south of the border” was very upset that we were sharing the Bible with his “chosen” group of twelve.

But Gary has pointed the finger at the future of the growth of the Gospel in the world of today. Again, credit where credit is due. He calls the current church growth in areas like Latin America as the “Pentecostal model”. He does not mention his doctrinal differences from them. He is satisfied that the name of Jesus Christ is preached, and this is the most important thing. This is what will change the world in fact.

The words of Jesus Christ are the most revolutionary words in the world, because they spread their own Gospel. Salvation begets a new kind of life, and one that never stops living and growing, even though some young converts grow more slowly than others.



One Response to “Get Free of the State –”

  1. trutherator Says:

    I wrote once about George Barna’s book, “Revolution”, which studied the phenomenon of Christians abandoning the church model in the United States but that continued to worship with Christian ministries and who were doing other activities to share fellowship and the word with fellow believers.

    Don’t ask permission of the state, don’t seek benefits from it. Just “go into all the world!”.

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