Under the cover of darkness our team hurriedly entered the facility in China in preparation for the two-day pastors and leadership conference hosted by World Compassion.
This specific city of nearly 30 million people, has a network of believers standing 150,000 strong in the underground church. Their top 50 leaders were coming together for one of our conferences for the very first time.
Feelings of confinement set in as our team wondered if this is what prison would feel like – concrete floors, walls and ceiling, just a couple of small rooms, bars on the windows, and a sheet of plywood for a bed with a blanket but no pillow.
But the leaders were warm and inviting. Our team stood strong through the event. They spoke from early morning into the evening while leaders sat on stools listening and taking notes intently. We worshipped with them, ministered to them, and bonded over two days. On the third night, our team was handed motorcycle helmets to conceal our identities as we were hustled out a back stairway to a waiting van to take us to the airport.
These conferences represent the only way many leaders can access teaching from the outside world. So much content is blocked on the Internet. It’s a life without instant podcasts and sermon notes available. There are no in-depth conferences providing teaching and insight into the Word along with strategies for church growth, outreach, management, leadership and oversight.
World Compassion’s conferences provide doctrinal and administrative teachings to help strengthen, equip and refresh high-ranking leaders from the underground church. The risk for us and for them is worth the reward of wisdom they receive to strengthen their churches.
But the risks have escalated this year, and the leaders take it seriously. There have been mass closings and destruction of discovered church properties. Last month a pastor husband and wife stood in front of their building to stop a bulldozer from destroying their church. The bulldozer mowed them down in an attempt to bury them alive. The husband survived, but unfortunately his wife did not. These are the real-life threats that Christians face in China in the 21st century.
We flew from one city to another to prepare for our for our third conference in just a week – the most we have ever done in one trip.
We have experienced significant growth due to the trust we have established with leaders throughout China and the desire they have to learn.
This conference was to be the crown jewel of the week, and it did not disappoint. A Christian man who owned a hotel allowed the use of a large conference center. It was well-hidden within floors of the hotel, closed off to the public as they were under renovation – a perfect cover.
The team entered through the parking garage service elevator and navigated the construction area. You could hear the worship as we approached through a dimly lit, partially-constructed hallway, which opened into a beautiful conference hall holding 225 pastors, nearly twice the size of our largest conference ever.
But what made this conference even more special was having top leaders from three of the five biggest house church networks in China. These leaders were highly professional and engaged, representing over 2 million believers throughout the nation.
The amount of influence that World Compassion has within the underground church is unprecedented. We have a high demand for our church-based ABC discipleship program and materials in new networks all throughout China. The success of these recent conferences added to the demand for our ABC program.
ABC, our systematic and comprehensive discipleship and leadership training course that we provide through the local churches, gives pastors a way to disciple new believers and raise up leaders for the ever-growing Chinese church without sending students away for 2-4 years to learn. It’s extremely efficient and effective. In essence our ABC program is like having one hundred Bible schools spread out in cities all over China.
ABC may not be the most dramatic project of World Compassion, but it may very well carry the greatest impact.
We sincerely need you to see ABC through spiritual eyes. These pastors are so hungry for training that they are risking their lives to attend conferences and engage with us to run these ABC study groups. Because our funds are limited, the waiting list is long, and their applications can wait in line for over a year to receive materials. This year we desperately need to ramp up the ABC program to meet the demand these new networks are placing on us to help disciple and train new leaders.
We are doubling our original goal of 1,000 students and are planning to enroll 2,000 new students into the ABC two-year discipleship training program. They are committed, and we need to equip them. It costs $114 (£85) to provide the materials and oversight for a student to study ABC in a weekly small group. That means instead of raising $114,000 (£85,000) this year for the ABC discipleship program, we must raise $228,000 (£170,000). $50,000 (£36,958) of these funds is needed immediately to prepare materials for these students and get them started right away.
Take a moment to pray and give as God leads you to help continue the amazing growth of the Chinese Church despite ongoing persecution.