"The distinctive feature of the Underground Church," wrote Richard Wurmbrand, "is its earnestness in faith." Pastor Richard Wurmbrand chronicled his experience of persecution and torture as a Romanian pastor and Christ-follower under the Communist regime in his book Tortured for Christ. His stories reach beyond personal experience, providing glimpses of the Underground Church as an exceptional expression of Jesus' Bride.
"The members of the Underground Church don't call their organization by this name. They call themselves Christians, believers, children of God." The title, like the moniker Christian, was bestowed upon them by their opponents, Wurmbrand explained (cf. Acts 11:26 cf. 1 Pet. 4:16).
The contrast between those who follow Jesus underground in oppressive countries versus those who follow Jesus in multiplexes and strip malls is striking. Christians in America have labels, too: Fundamentalist, Evangelical, Methodist, Pentecostal, Brethren, Baptist, and Non-denominational. Our labels didn't emerge from the mouths of accusers, but grew from marketing teams, dead theologians, and ecclesiastical publicists. The choice in affiliation, style, and programming abound in Western churches.
Not only do we differ in the number of choices and level of freedom we have in our context, but there may be an inverse level of commitment and intensity. We squirm when a sermon reaches the thirty minute mark; those Underground sit in crammed rooms for hours. We give token offerings from our overstock; those Underground offer their first fruits. We read one-page devotionals like a spiritual vitamin; those Underground feast on the Word like starving children. We fight depression, gorge on media, showing signs of ADHD, anxiety, and over-taxed schedules; those Underground radiate simplicity and joy. (Wurmbrand wrote, "I have found truly joyful Christians only in the Bible, in the Underground Church, and in prison."
I'm a prisoner to this reality--Consumption and Progress, Skepticism and Self--but I want to break out. May Jesus set me free. I trust He will use our brothers in sisters Underground to help.