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Comparing Official Churches and Underground Churches

Official/Government-Approved Churches in Countries that Limit Christian Activities
Unregistered/Unofficial Churches
What are they? If the government leaders in some countries do not like a church, the members are not allowed to have worship services. Approved churches are allowed to register with the government. They may participate in activities permitted by the government. In countries where the government tries to control the church, usually fewer than 10% of the Christians attend official churches. Most would rather worship secretly in homes, woods, caves, or other secret places. They want to follow God’s rules instead of the government’s rules.
Where are they? Government-approved churches exist in communist countries and in some Muslim countries. Turkmenistan and Eritrea are examples of other countries that try to limit Christianity. Underground (secret) churches exist in every country where Christian activity is limited by the government.
Who are their leaders? Leaders must be approved by the government. The government tells them what they are allowed to preach and do. Leaders are Christians who believe, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29, NIV).
What are the consequences? The church must follow the government’s rules. The rules might say, “You must not teach children about Jesus.” Or, “You must not preach from certain parts of the Bible.” Governments often do not allow church members to share the gospel outside the church building, or with certain groups of people. Underground church members are often bothered by the police. They risk losing friends and jobs. Their children may be mistreated at school. They may be arrested, put in prison, or even killed. The Book of Revelation describes the eternal rewards of standing firm in Christ.