Andy Stanley was the keynote speaker this afternoon. A short time ago he returned from a meeting in China with a number of "unregistered church" leaders. In particular, these were network leaders. In China a network leader may oversee hundreds of house churches that are ministering to tens of thousands of people. The spiritual landscape in China is beginning to see a significant cultural change, and there is an increasing number of places where the unregistered churches can gather with less oppression.
The leaders posed an interesting question to their foreign advisers -- "How do we move away from our 'Security Model,' to a model that is reproducible and portable and will facilitate the continued advance of Christ's Church through the gospel?"
Andy's first response was, "You're asking me? You guys have written the book on spreading the gospel! And by the way, what is the Security Model?"
The security model was in reference to the way Chinese Believers had to "do church" -- meaning that most of the churches had to maintain a tight security and secrecy in order to survive! Now the Chinese leaders are looking for a reproducible, portable model to prepare the underground church to continue to reach their world -- even though secrecy is not the necessity it once was, and faith communities can have a more visible presence. The top priority of these leaders is to guard against this new found freedom opening the door to apathy and a lessening urgency to deliver the gospel.
One more story about the house church networks . . .
One pastor relayed an astounding, and somewhat comical, story to Andy. In one city a network leader asked for and received permission -- from the Chinese Minister of Religion (Government agency) to hold a public Easter service. He told the official he estimated there would be around one-thousand people present. With almost no resistance the pastor was given permission to do so.
Late on the Eve of Easter, the government authority called to inform the pastor that he had had a change of mind, and they could not have the public service. He meant business, and on Easter morning a dozen or more soldiers were dispatched to turn away the mass of worshipers that were supposed to gather. Imagine the soldier's surprise when only 7 people showed up for the service!
Here is the amazing part . . .
The house churches are so highly organized for instant communication (the security model) that they were able to text message the entire network immediately, alert them to the situation, and divert to a prearranged "plan B" location!
Easter morning over one-thousand worshipers gathered without a government presence in sight . . . He is Risen! He is Risen indeed!