An Underground Movement

In tyrant-controlled countries the true church has become an underground church. The “token” church in these lands is little more than a facade church for the purpose of impressing tourists. The true church is there, but either in prison, concentration camp, Siberian exile or underground. However, this is not the movement we now have in mind. We rather refer to one which has ministered for nine years to the underground church. It calls itself “Underground Evangelism,” and maintains a magazine publication of that name. 

Everyone is familiar with the hammer and sickle. The symbol of this church organization is that of a cross and trumpet, an emblem in itself of which the Christian may be proud. It exemplifies the chief purpose of this movement, which is to carry out “the Great Commission.” It proposes to do this by bringing the Word of God to the peoples of the communist world, and that means to one out of every three people on earth, and to accomplish this the only way it is possible, under underground. It therefore works with the “catacomb” church in communist lands, such as Russia, Poland, Yugoslavia, Red Germany, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Rumania, Hungary, Cuba, North Korea, Mongolia and Red China. 

It proceeds on the basis of a typical Fundamentalist statement of faith, which contains the usual five points of fundamentalism, the infallibility of Scripture, the deity and virgin birth of Christ, His substitutionary death on Calvary, the bodily resurrection of the Lord and His return to earth from Glory. That is about as much creed or formal theological confession of faith one can get out of Fundamentalism. No different is it in this instance. A bare, almost barren doctrinal statement provides hardly a sound or adequate indicator of what it is that must be proclaimed in all the world to every creature in fulfillment of that Great Commission. Of course, a magazine or a brochure cannot carry a complete layout of a comprehensive statement of faith, like, let us say, the. Three Forms of Unity, of the Reformed Confessions, unless it would do so on the order of a microfilm imprint. But it could, at least, make reference to a broad statement of faith, and to where it may be found. 

For assurance of some kind ought to be given that the Gospel of God is being proclaimed, and the messengers thereof held accountable to it and so not riding pet hobby-horses. Compromise of that Gospel in the interest of securing the support of as many denominations as possible results in the hiding of many strange and weird organizations behind a meager statement of faith. Therefore names on the board of reference such as Rev. Theodore Elsner, a Philadelphia undenominational preacher, and Dr. E. Schuyler English, chairman of the editorial committee of the New Scofield Reference Bible, are interesting, but not exciting. 

The Great Commission deserves, and demands, the best and highest type of ministry; it demands, not a band of prophets who believe the least, but men of God who believe the most and who will preach “in the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ.” True, some of God’s servants with but little knowledge of the truth have far more zeal for it than others three times their number. Such zeal, not altogether without knowledge, and though, it may be, supported by little knowledge, nevertheless deserves some recognition and commendation. Why did not the Lord send a priest or a prophet to Moab to carry the testimony of His truth there? Why did He convey that testimony there for the sake of one of His elect merely by Elimelech and Naomi, and soon thereafter by Naomi alone? Wonderful it would have been if Ruth had been brought to a knowledge of the Lord through the instrumentality of, say, a Moses, one trained in all the wisdom of Egypt as well as in all the knowledge of the Lord. But women in Israel were not trained to be theologians and this mother-to-be in Israel needed not to be converted by a theologian. It was not Joshua so much as Joshua’s two spies who spied out one of God’s elect in a heathen city, and who smuggled in the promise of God to Rahab. 

Underground Evangelism works along such lines. The Word of God is put into the hands of the persecuted underground church of enslaved countries through an organization similar to that of the Gideons which strategically distributes Bibles, “stockpiles” them and puts them into the hands of individual believers, but operates pretty much like a smuggling ring to do it. The doors of these countries are closed to both missionary and gospel. In all there is communism’s hardened, unmellowed deathly opposition toward the truth of Scripture. Korean martyrs have long resisted unto blood for the sake of the Gospel. This organization is convinced that the Word of God must be taken to believers in every communist country; that this must be done even though communists will never permit the spreading of the Word to be freely done; that this must be done without waiting for communist permission to do it; that the task must not hesitate, stop or “write itself off” because of any man-made barriers, like the iron heel of the tyrant; that the work is not to be held in abeyance until better conditions arise, or ceased when conditions become worse; that we must not be “fair weather” brethren to enslaved Christians. Historically, it was not Underground Evangelism which began any kind of underground extension of the Gospel. The oppressed Christians robbed of religious liberties and forced underground by the atheistic Red machine began, as soon as the spiritual blackout was enforced, their underground contact with one another in undercover worship, clandestine Bible distribution and secret reading of Scripture. God’s people in the free world give aid and comfort to the underground church by supplying it with thousands of Bibles. They are of small, pocket-sized editions which may the more easily be hidden and smuggled to their destination. With the brutal and bloody crackdown of Russia on Czechoslovakia, so destroying the little freedom enjoyed, pastors and people have returned to underground working, worshiping secretly where they can. The oppressed peoples are very anxious to have Bibles to teach their children the truth and to influence in any way they can the children of the atheistic youth movement forced-fed on atheism but still left with much empty-heartedness. 

It must be understood that in the communist state, the ubiquitous police frequently busy themselves stopping people, examining their shopping bags, handbags, boxes, as they perform their ordinary checking routines. Any citizen may be subjected to search at any time. Over a distance of little more than a mile, one may pass a hundred police. Consequently these Christian workers have developed into what some of the people call “gospel phantoms.” But the art of Bible smuggling goes on past the police, communists and government planted “pastors.” These Bible smugglers know by experience the truth of these words, “But that it spread no further among the people, let us straightly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this Name” (Acts 4:17); and the truth of these words, “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, ‘We ought to obey God rather than men'” (Acts 5:29). An interesting fact about these phantom peddlers of the Word is that neither the Iron Curtain nor “the Wall” can keep them out. They are already there. The Gospel does not stop at the Iron Curtain. It pierces through as easily as the arrow of sunlight through a pane of glass. 

“The weapons of our warfare are not carnal.” “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in the heavenlies” (II Cor. 10:4Eph. 6:12). Underground Evangelism informs us that the enslaving powers are terrified of freedom and especially fear the spiritual weapon of the Sword of the Spirit. This has always been true of world dictators. The French Revolution was meant to do away with “bad faith and tyranny,” to punish tyrants and traitors, to relieve the unfortunate . . . to defend the oppressed.” But it led to the tyranny and terror of an oligarchy which did away with all religion and forced on the people a religion of patriotism. About seventy years after those days it was said, “Note this fact: there is no land beneath the sun where there is an open Bible and a preached gospel, where a tyrant long can hold his place. It matters not who he be, whether pope or king; let the pulpit be used properly for the preaching of Christ crucified, let the Bible be opened to be read by all men, and no tyrant can long rule in peace. England owes her freedom to the Bible; and France will never possess liberty, lasting and well-established, till she comes to reverence the gospel, which too long she has rejected . . . . The religion of Jesus makes men think, and to make men think is always dangerous to a despot’s power. The religion of Jesus sets a man free from superstition . . . The man no longer cringes and bows down; he is no more willing, like a beast, to be led by the nose; but, learning to think for himself, and becoming a man, he disdains the . . . fears which once held him in slavery.” (C.H. Spurgeon, Treas., N.T., I, 636). 

Truth will yet win the day!