On the Underground Church

Yes we are now seeing the emergence of the underground church in the ‘free’ West:

Most folks seeing my title would immediately think of Christianity in places like Communist China, or North Korea, or the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, or Muslim-majority nations. But such is the current state of play that I am actually speaking of Christianity in the West.

For years now I have been documenting cases of persecution, attacks on churches, the steady war against religious freedom, the rise of the intolerant secular left, and the emergence of Big Brother Statism. All this keeps ramping up with no end in sight. That should worry all of us.

And as I have said so often, while it is true that persecution does tend to help the church weed out all the fakes, and refine it like gold, nonetheless we are never told in Scripture to seek it or pray for it. Religious freedom, in other words, is a very good thing, and we should never be glib or cavalier about it, especially as we see it being eroded on a daily basis.

So I am never too thrilled when I hear some believers say that it is no big deal that churches are being closed down, since we can worship anywhere. While this may be true, it misses the point. Religious liberty is a tremendous social good that should never be taken lightly, and it needs to be zealously defended and preserved.

This past year with the Rona crisis we have seen tremendous restrictions not just on religious freedom but on all sorts of basic liberties and human rights. This too I have discussed repeatedly over the past 13 months. As Jordan Schachtel put it in a brand-new piece:

COVID Mania has turned the world’s sovereign states into one tyranny after another. And the authoritarian forces of the world won this second “Cold War” against its citizens without firing a shot. Some appear to be under the impression that the ruling class, which just finished the fastest roll up of power in human history, will simply return these stolen liberties when the “national emergency” comes to an end. I’m not particularly convinced that this is the case. As John Adams once said, “But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.” https://www.lifesitenews.com/opinion/the-free-world-died-of-covid-19

And a major part of this clampdown on basic freedoms has been the closure of most churches in the West for extended periods of time. Sadly, very few pastors and church leaders have said a word about this. They have happily gone along with whatever the State demands of them, and seem to be all rather frivolous about just how much power governments now have over churches.

Thankfully there have been some notable exceptions to this. In my piece on resistance theory that I posted yesterday, I mentioned the case of one Canadian pastor:

A pastor is imprisoned for 35 days for keeping his church open for worship services during corona lockdowns. After he was released, the authorities came to the church and erected large steel fences around it to prevent people from getting in. The people then tore down the fences. Is Pastor Coates and the congregation of GraceLife Church in Alberta, Canada right to take this stand? https://billmuehlenberg.com/2021/04/12/on-resistance-theory/

That particular story continues to make headlines. Another courageous pastor, John MacArthur of Grace Community Church in California, has noted how Canada is well on the way to creating an underground church. One report on this expresses it as follows:

Pastor John MacArthur on Sunday commended GraceLife Church in Alberta, Canada, which is meeting in secret after the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) barricaded their building behind three layers of chain link fence. He also read a heartfelt letter that the church’s pastor sent to MacArthur’s congregation.


Rising to address the members of Grace Community Church in Los Angeles, which has been legally wrangling with county and state authorities since deciding to resume in-person services last July, MacArthur first noted how James Coates and his congregation are meeting in a location they refuse to publicize after RCMP raided them at dawn last Wednesday. “Amazing to have an underground church in Canada,” MacArthur said. “This because the government of Alberta triple-fenced the church in and locked it so people couldn’t go there.”


MacArthur observed how out of the province’s millions of residents, approximately 2,000 people have died from the virus in Alberta since the beginning of the pandemic, most of whom were in nursing homes. He claimed there was “no legitimate reason” for authorities to forcibly shut down GraceLife Church for continuing to hold services in defiance of Alberta’s Public Health Order, which capped church services at 15% capacity.


“But they did,” MacArthur said. “This is a first for the Western world, to have the government lock out believers from a church.” MacArthur then noted how the Alberta government has been met with intense backlash for how Coates and his church have been treated. “The scene is changing,” he said. “There is a massive outcry against the government for doing this.” https://www.dailywire.com/news/john-macarthur-commends-underground-church-in-canada-reads-heartfelt-letter-from-jailed-alberta-pastor

Pastor Coates wrote a letter to MacArthur and his church about the situation. It reads as follows:

To Grace Community Church, which is in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:


Grace to you and peace in Him. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has superabundantly glorified Himself through you.


For decades, you have been a strong and steadfast pillar and support of the truth, so much so, the Lord established many other beacons of truth throughout this world as a direct result of your ministry. You have exemplified a profound love for the brethren, warm service and hospitality, and an undeniable love for God and His Word.


In fact, His Word has sounded forth from you with such power and precision, that the fruit of your ministry is absolutely immeasurable this side of Heaven. Pastor John’s 52 years of faithful ministry is as much a testimony to you as it is to him. May God richly reward you for your faithfulness.


Thank you for the way you cared for me, my family, and congregation during my imprisonment. Your love and prayerful support were vital to our steadfastness in the face of suffering. The letter from the elders was an immense encouragement. The support from Dr. Nathan Busenitz and The Master’s Seminary was both humbling and strengthening. And the pastoral care provided by Pastor John was incredibly comforting. It was also a rich blessing to receive letters from a number of you while imprisoned. Those letters provided necessary fuel for my resolve.


My wife Erin also sends her greetings and thankfulness. She was and continues to be greatly strengthened by your letters. You poured into her early in her spiritual development and you are pouring into her now, as well.


You have suffered well for the gospel. It is an indescribable blessing to join you in that suffering. Our congregations have been counted worthy for this purpose. May we rejoice in this, as did the apostles in their sufferings. Jesus Christ is the sovereign Lord over all creation and the supreme head of the Church. We will bow to Him and Him alone. Only He is worthy.


And now may He continually strengthen you unto all faithfulness and may He constantly radiate His honor and glory through you. To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Of course in addition to these two, there are various other churches and church leaders that could be mentioned here as well who are now part of the resistance. Thankfully not all have bowed the knee to Big Government. But sadly, most have. That is a recipe for disaster. It certainly is the recipe for the creation of an underground church.

Years ago revivalist Leonard Ravenhill said this: “I believe the choice in America (will come down to this): either we concentrate in prayer or (we’ll end up) praying in concentration camps. You say it can’t happen. It will!” Yes he certainly got that right.

When the State realises just how easy it is to control and coerce the churches to do its every bidding, and when it also notes how most Christians are simply spineless sheeple who will not bat an eyelash about this, it will simply be further emboldened to do more of the same. The future is looking very grim indeed if that is the case.

May God wake up his people before it is too late.

[1415 words]

10 Replies to “On the Underground Church”

  1. Amen! Thank you Bill.

    Very good news from the Christian Democratic Party yesterday: Lyle Shelton, former ACL Managing Director, will be taking over from the faithful and tireless Rev. Nile later this year.

    A HUGE difference could be made if the very many slumbering Christians would get behind the CDP in order that it may continue to make a difference for good in NSW – and hopefully also across Australia. Sadly very many slumbering churches will not permit a CDP representative or candidate to speak about how much is at stake for the future of our societies. Unfortunately also, different from Labor and the Greens, Christian/conservative votes are too often rendered ineffective through dilution, by being spread across several parties with similar values.

    Christians awake! Please pray for Lyle Shelton in his new and vital role.

    Stand up and make a difference for our King!

  2. One problem, Bill, is when Christians believe that God’s mercy will invariably get them to Heaven then they don’t have to worry about going to church. After all it’s a lot easier to stay home and watch on telly or internet, so shutting down churches is no big deal for many so-called ‘Christians’, in fact it may be an ‘improvement’. I wonder whether the same rationale may apply even more to hard-working pastors. Life is that much easier with the church closed. Let’ hope not.

  3. Dear Bill,
    Please keep these great articles coming…we’re beginning to see some small flashes of, perhaps an awaking body of Christians, willing to take a risk. A small body of resolute, purpose driven, and passionate believers could come out of this and begin to assemble the greater masses of believers.
    God bless,
    Ron Adams

  4. Thank you for sharing the truth of the word and for highlighting those who will not compromise. This brings courage to those, like my husband and I, who have held a “Home Fellowship” gathering in our basement rec room since November. This is because we couldn’t find an evangelical church nearby that was standing freely in Gods truth and not under the authority of our Democratic Liberal governor’s mandates.
    Our fellowship is small but rich. We wonder if it will grow in the coming season – it certainly looks like it may, given the “climate” here near Minneapolis.
    We are encouraged.

  5. On the topic of underground Church: It would be helpful to start assembling to ‘how-to’ articles. I have seen many in general, but few that get into some of the more difficult problems. I think we could learn from our persecuted brethren in other countries, but I haven’t found much on particulars.
    1) secure communications: how to tell the congregants where the meeting place will be without alerting the enemies;
    2) false sheep: how to monitor the assembly, lovingly, to spot possible spies and false sheep;
    3) deaconal care: how to start assembling food and resources to help congregants suffering under persecution (ie. the father that is rendered unemployable because of his anti-sodomy views;
    4) cover your tracks: how to erase and clean up your unnecessary messes on social media and elsewhere where your views can be weaponized against you. NB: not to erase your witness, but your political views are not your testimony no matter how heartfelt.
    5) OpSec: how to create secure email, vpn, etc,. to at least slow down the tech tyrants.

  6. Yes the Islamic leaders kicked up a stink when religious places of worship were closed down, so the government allowed them to be opened again while the christian communities just sat by and said NOTHING!

  7. Covid is just a shot across our bows. There is much worse to come. But sadly you are right Bill most of our Christian leaders including pastors have just been missing in action. Very few Bonhoeffer types. Why? Surely history has the answers but “those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Winston Churchill I think.
    I have refused to wear a mask anywhere. So I had to stay away from church these past weeks here in Qld. Not such a big deal I suppose. I can’t imagine I would carry a vaccine passport to show so I can go shopping.

  8. Misquoted slightly by Churchill in a speech in the House if Commons in 1948 as he reflected on the past. But Churchill also said in that famous speech at a school event: “never, never, never give up” . But Santayana also said “only the dead have seen the end of war”. Maybe. It’s over 50 years since I served in Vietnam as a young Lieutenant. I have been in 3 war zones for various reasons since, But I am still fighting metaphorically at least.

  9. What so many attention sheeple fail to grasp is if they can stop you from praying in church they can stop you from praying anywhere…… even your own home!

    Even Hitler eventually turned on the compliant church so going along to get along will only take the church so far. Eventually you MUST acknowledge no god but Caesar or you too shall face the wrath of the state unleashed. Everyone is expendable so you will be used as long as they feel they need you once your usefulness is over you too will be rounded up. You spoke for no-one before you and no-one will speak for you if anyone who objects is left.

    Being friends with the world has only ever ended in persecution and death. It has never increased the kingdom only receded it. The serpent still speaks his lies and we keep believing them. You would think at SOME point it would sink in. How slaps upside the head do we need. We are as stiff necked as Ancient Israel maybe more so.

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