“Why not? There are all kinds of benefits to the group if we do.”
“Like what? I know you are thinking about social security and pension …”
“… and being able to purchase land, or a building, in the church’s name rather than in mine.”
Tomás and I had tossed this argument back and forth like a football for a long time. The uncertainty of the situation prevented either of us from coming to a conclusion.
The house church was doing well, so well that we were outgrowing the living room. In the early days, there were so few of us that even rearranging the chairs wasn’t necessary.
Then, as the Lord blessed, more and more people joined us, and it became necessary to remove the bulkier furniture and replace it with plastic and aluminum. After I had sat on those chairs a few times, I realized that the study time needed to be shortened, or at least interrupted so that people could stand up and restore some circulation to their posteriors. Despite the uncomfortable seating they still came. The Word was that fresh and satisfying that any discomfort was forgotten in the joy of discovery.
Decision-making time came. The house was full, and we needed to think about renting, or buying, a more public place. Tomás wanted to register the group with the government, making it an official entity, giving it credibility in the community, and allowing the burgeoning church to cash in on the proposed plan to include evangelical pastors in government programs. It was recognition that most of them couldn’t afford to pass up since they were notoriously poorly paid.
“I understand what you are risking here, Tomás. But what happens if all the other proposals become law as well? What happens if your medical benefits depend on spouting the party line from the pulpit?”
Registering the house church would put in on the government’s radar screen. There would be a paper trail leading right to our front door. At the moment, that didn’t matter much, but we both knew that this government was moving faster and faster toward communism. History told us what the cost would be to the church in a society where there could be only one authority—and that certainly wasn’t going to be God.
“It’s possible that the worst won’t happen. Perhaps the reforms won’t go through. Surely everyone can see the dangers.”
“Love is blind, deaf and sometimes dumb, Tomás, and this government’s followers are in love. Yes, maybe the reforms won’t be passed. But I really think we should wait and make sure before we take a step that might have, not only serious implications, but dangerous complications.”
He agreed that there was no rush. The group could continue to function in our house for a while longer. The smaller groups, meeting during the week for Bible Study, were also doing well. We could wait, and pray that somehow God would intervene.
“Besides,” I said, only half seriously, “if the worst does happen, and we don’t have a name or an address somewhere on the piece of official letterhead, the group can stay hidden from the authorities for a lot longer. Small groups meeting in homes—who’s to know what they might be doing. You’ll be able to teach the Word without interference.”
“Not to mention there won’t be any property or buildings for the government to confiscate …”
“… or meetings and messages to supervise.”
“Are we demonstrating a lack of faith by thinking this way? We should believe that God will turn things around, shouldn’t we? Why would He allow something that would prevent this group from growing into an established, vibrant, visible light to the community?”
The question was legitimate. The first thing that came to my mind wasn’t a pleasant thought.
“Tertullian once said that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. You know better than I do how hard it has been to get this far, how resistant these people have been, how attached to every way to glory except the right one. Maybe a little persecution is the only way to bring this country to God.”
“So we hope for the best, and prepare for the worst?”
I remembered that the Cuban church had stagnated for 30 years after Castro had taken over. Unprepared, it had taken them that long to recovery from the shock. Then the growth started.
“Yes, we have to prepare—and pray.”
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