Persecution in countries such as North Korea has helped grow the Church and has allowed it to utilize tools that the western Church no longer realizes its possesses, according to Evangelical pastor Eric Foley, who plans to use these tools to help the free world church.
Foley, the pastor of .W Evangelical Church of Colorado Springs and Seoul, Korea and author of Church is for Amateurs, believes that harsh dictators such as North Korea’s Kim Jong Il, a persecutor of Christians, may help the church more than they think.
While ministering in North Korea Foley noticed the “absolute persecution” of Christians and he feels it provides a great catalyst for Church growth.
“[In North Korea] It is not only illegal to possess a bible or to go to church, it’s illegal to bow your head, close your eyes and worship. So as a result of that it presents the most extreme case for the church to take reap today,” said Foley.
He stated that common tools used for discipleship in the west today such as full time paid pastors and church buildings are not only rare in North Korea but impossible to attain with their current laws.
But this is not an uncommon state for the church.
“Throughout church history churches have had to do discipleship with far more restrictions and this has caused them to be much more focused on growing individual believers into the fullness of Christ,” said Foley.
He authored “Church is for Amateurs: A Guide for Fourth Order Christians such as You on How to Plant and Lead a Lay Church,” in which he lays out 12 principles for church growth he learned from observing the persecuted Christians.
Some of the principles he writes about include how the persecuted Church grows deep and not big like the western church, along with how they do not center Church around Sunday at 11am but rather around families and homes. He also notes that they train their members to be generalists not traditionalists like in the west.
“In the west there’s a distribution of functions, each person does what they feel they’re called to do. But in the New Testament Church and North Korean Church every member is called and trained hard to do every ministry task,” said Foley in explaining the difference between generalists and western traditionalists.
According to Foley the differences between the persecuted Church and the western Churches are attributed to the fact that the west does not understand the difference between freedom of religion and freedom in Christ, leading them to rely on tools such as specially designated buildings and full time paid pastors which persecuted Christians cannot attain.
“These aren’t bad things, but when our faith is grounded or rooted in these tools, then when persecution comes we fall away,” said Foley.
Foley believes the tools used in the North Korean Church and the New Testament Church are based on freedom in Christ. Freedom and affluence hinder growth while the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church according to Foley.
Foley adds that by not sharing the gospel in the west, it brings very little chance of true growth and discipleship.
“If we do the things that God calls us to do we’ll be persecuted whether it’s in North Korea or the U.S., whether it’s by the government or by our co-workers,” said Foley.
Foley feels that persecution purifies the Church, and prosperity makes it weak. According to him the free world church can learn a lot from nations such as North Korea and can learn a lot to change the state of Christianity for the better.
“And so I say that Kim Jong Il was the inspiration for this strategy as a way of reminding us that whatever the enemy intends for evil God intends for good,” said Foley.