Standing Strong Through the Storm - Friday, December 6, 2013

FULFILLING THE FIVE FUNCTIONS OF THE CHURCH

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25

In the summer of 2010, I led an excellent team of Open Doors staff and supporters on a visit to North Korea. We were allowed to pray publically in the areas we visited and of course were presented with a formal church service on Sunday morning at one of the three churches functioning in Pyongyang. It was a well-executed performance–especially the choir. On its website, the Korean Christian Federation claims that there are ten thousand Protestant Christians in North Korea meeting at five hundred designated centers. In reality, Christians in the country experience tremendous challenges in worshipping publically.

Brother Simon, the leader of the Open Doors work in North Korea, says that the true church must operate underground in the country. “They can’t simply go to church to sing and to listen to the sermon. It is clear that being a Christian in North Korea is a lonely business.”

Simon’s thoughts turn to Sundays in North Korea. “It happens only sporadically that Christians consider themselves safe enough to meet together in small groups. Usually gatherings consist of only two people. For example, a Christian goes and sits on a bench in the park. Another Christian comes and sits next to him. Sometimes it’s dangerous even to speak to one another, but they know they are both Christians, and at such a time, this is enough. If there is no one around, they may be able to share a Bible verse which they have learned off by heart and briefly say something about it. They also share prayer topics with each other. Then they leave one another and go and look for a Christian in some other part of their town or village. This continues throughout the Sunday. A cell group usually consists of fewer than twenty Christians, who encourage and strengthen one another, plus one-to-one meetings in people’s homes.

“Only if the whole family has turned to Christ is it possible to have something like a real fellowship gathering, as long as you keep your faith hidden from the neighbours. Besides this, it is sometimes possible to hold a meeting in remote areas with a group of ten to twenty people. Very occasionally, it is possible for Christians to go unobtrusively into the mountains and to hold a ‘service’ at a secret location like a cave. Then it may be the case that there are as many as sixty or seventy North Korean Christians gathered together.”

In spite of severe limitations, believers can fulfill all five biblical functions of the church.

RESPONSE: I will thankfully take my place in the assembly of believers to fulfill the church’s functions.

PRAYER: Thank you Lord for the faithfulness of Your church in North Korea against all obstacles.

Standing Strong Through The Storm (SSTS), a daily devotional message by SSTS author Paul Estabrooks. © 2011 Open Doors International. Used by permission.

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