Would you go to church in a boat?

Would you go to church in a boat? I read a headline that made me ask this question of myself.  Now, I wonder how others might answer.  It’s happening right now. 

No – I’m not talking about a cruise ship church retreat. I used to know people who did that. Too rich for me. Instead, I’m talking about a little fishing boat. A very little fishing boat. How about a very little and old fishing boat? What if I add that it’s in freezing cold temperatures? How about if you go out in the boat below?

Would you go to church in a boat?

The headline I read was:

Two secret churches in {country name to follow} show how powerful the Bible really is.  

What do you think now? It’s freezing cold. You’re in a really old fishing boat. It’s small. Probably dirty and smelly. And the “church” you go to is secret.

It’s a far cry from the rich folks’ cruise ship retreat. Are you up for it? Maybe? Let’s see what else is happening.

The article continues:

In the early morning light, a small group of {country name to follow} believers meets on the riverbank, lugging their fishing gear with them.

Quietly, they load into a small boat and push off from land. It’s not until they’re far into the middle of the river that they to dig through their gear and pull out their Bibles.

What do you think now? You’re taking fishing gear to church? Sort of. But it’s not to fish. It’s to — um — maybe to store the Bible under the gear?

Are they taking the Bible too literally?

I left out some information on purpose.  The article does say where this church in a boat phenomena is taking place.  I’ll tell you soon.  But I did include the part that says these are secret churches.  So – are they being so secretive because they’re afraid someone will think they’re weird for taking the Bible too literally?  

In case you’re not sure what I’m talking about, remember this scene:

The Calling of the First Disciples

4:18-22 pp — Mk 1:16-20; Lk 5:2-11; Jn 1:35-42

Mt 4:18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.

Mt 4:21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Maybe these folks had some strange idea that it might be good to more closely follow what Jesus did?  Like fishing should be done in a boat – so even though they’re fishing for men, they should do it in a boat?  And they don’t want to be ridiculed – so they keep their church a secret?  

Or maybe it’s some kind of cult?  They only do church in a boat.  Or is there more to this?

Do church in a boat – out of necessity?

No – it’s none of those things.  

These people are doing church in a boat for their safety.  Yes, they are Christians.  Their church is secret, because Christianity is illegal in their country.  Christians end up lost in prison or dead.  Small fishing boats – with visibility of what’s happening 360 degrees around them – are the only place they feel safe.

This is the only place where they feel safe enough to worship together and study God’s Word. And even then, they are constantly on alert.

Even then, inviting someone new into their secret church is full of danger.  They could very possibly end up inviting a government agent into their church.

f they are caught reading the Bible, they could immediately be sentenced to 15 years in a labor camp – or worse. They’ve heard the stories of what happens to people who are heard speaking the name of Jesus. Many of them have family members and friends who are living in the camps now … or have been buried there.

And yet – they do it.  They go to church in a boat.  They invite new people.  And they go through all of this to know God better.  In spite of the risk. 

Would you go to church in a boat – in North Korea?

For us in the U.S., going to a Christian church isn’t illegal.  Not yet anyway.  The same is true in most other countries.  However, there are a whole lot of places in the world where it is illegal.  Where the penalty could be death. And if not outright illegal, very dangerous. Including the possibility of death.

So now I ask you the question – would you do church in a boat? In a place like North Korea?

Seriously. What if you were in a place where Christianity was illegal. And the only real Christian churches met in boats.  (By “real” Christian churches, I mean one that follows the Bible, not one like China’s Three Self Patriotic Movement Church, which is supposedly Christian – but is really a mouthpiece of the communist party in China.) 

Would you be a part of that church in a boat?

Another similarity to the early church

We looked at Jesus getting the first disciples, literally. from fishing boats.

But here’s a relevant similarity with the dangers in North Korea, and other places, with the early church.

The later letters from the New Testament era show a growing awareness of dangers facing the young church. In 2 Timothy, the last letter Paul wrote before his death, we find grim warnings about false teachers and a growing pollution of the church. Now, in two other late letters, one written by Peter and one by Jude, we discover the same strong note of warning.

Because 2 Peter and Jude are so closely linked, not only in theme but also in specific content, it is helpful to teach and study them together.

Most believe 2 Peter was written just before the apostle’s death, in A.D. 67 or 68. Jude may have been written as many as 10 or 15 years later.

While 1 Peter deals with dangers from outsiders hostile to the Christian community, 2 Peter and Jude examine dangers that emerge from within. Each book warns us about the same two problems: the emergence of false teachers, and of false teaching.

For anyone concerned today with heresy, or with recognizing false teachers and cults, these two books are extremely valuable. They are also helpful to the average Christian, for they call us back to the simplicity of a godly life, and teach us to commit ourselves to loving God and doing good.  1Richards, L. O. (1987). The teacher’s commentary (p. 1037). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

Yes, the early church people faced dangers all the time. From those who tries to subvert their beliefs – like China tries to do today. From the Roman government, just like the governments in some countries today.

And yet, not only did they survive, they thrived. Their beliefs were, as far as we can tell, far stronger than the average American or Christian from most civilized countries today.

Conclusion – Would you go to church in a boat?

So let’s so beyond just going to church in a boat. Would you go to church anyplace where you might end up dead because of your attendance? What if you only went to a reeducation camp until you renounced your faith? How about if you “only” had to go to jail?

We complain today because of the least little inconveniences. But our brothers and sisters in some parts of the world live in constant danger because of their belief in Christianity.

Do they complain? Apparently not. They faithfully go to church in a boat.

Do they try to avoid getting caught? Obviously. They go to church in a boat!

Do they live in fear? I doubt it. They probably know something we don’t.

Maybe they realize that the worst thing that can happen is their their faith in Jesus will lead to their death. And that will, in turn, be the beginning of eternity for them with Jesus!

Maybe, just maybe, if we knew that, believe that, we wouldn’t complain so much about how “tough” we have it here in the U.S.

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