The Voice of the Underground Chruch
Richard Wurmbrand was a courageous Messianic Jew and Romanian Christian leader who stood bravely against the communist takeover of Romania. For his resistance to the communists’ attempt to control Romania’s churches for their purposes, Wurmbrand was imprisoned and tortured for fourteen years, which included three years in solitary confinement, during which time he saw no one but his communist torturers. Thanks to his bestselling books, especially his number one bestseller, Tortured For Christ, Wurmbrand became known as the “Voice of the Underground Church.” He also founded the international missionary organization, The Voice of the Martyrs, which serves persecuted Christians all over the world.
Although Wurmbrand taught that suffering is inescapable for the Christian in this fallen world, he also taught that it should be evaded as much as possible. We, according to Wurmbrand, should attempt to reduce it to a minimum. Yet, he did not teach us to seek to avoid capture and torture for our own sakes, but for the sake of the Gospel. After all, Wurmbrand argued, if we, the lone stewards of Christ’s Gospel are silenced by incarceration or execution, the Good News of God’s salvation in Christ will be silenced upon the earth as well. Truly, the silencing of the church by a tyrannical state will strip its enslaved population of all hope of salvation.
Wurmbrand cites Christ’s words to Ananias concerning Saul of Tarsus as Scriptural proof that Christians are called to suffer (Acts 9:10-16). Here’s Wurmbrand’s commentary on this important passage:
“Jesus, our Lord, told Ananias: ‘Meet Saul of Tarsus. He will be My underground pastor, My underground worker.’ That is what St. Paul was – a pastor of an Underground Church. Jesus started a crash course for this underground pastor. He started it with the words, “I will show (him) how great things he must suffer.”
Wurmbrand goes on to write:
“Preparation for underground work begins by studying sufferology, martyrology… first of all there must be a certain spiritual preparation for it. You might have the mightiest faith in the world, but if you are not prepared to suffer, then when you are taken by the police, you will get two slaps and you will declare anything. So the preparation for suffering is one of the essentials of the preparation of underground work.”
Wurmbrand taught that the gauge by which one can measure their preparedness to suffer persecution is their commitment to Christ and Christ’s cause. Surprisingly, to Wurmbrand, many a perceived Christian champion, such as a popular preacher, best-selling Christian author, or award winning Christian artist, is swiftly exposed to be a coward under the scourge of persecution. For instance, Wurmbrand points to the popular composer of the best hymnal of Romania, who under persecution quickly converted to communism and became a traitorous tunesmith of communist tunes.
Wurnmbrand argues that the secret to preparing for impending persecution and its inescapable suffering is a matter of stepping out of “the sphere of words” and into the realm of “divine realities.” To put it succinctly; it is to know Christ in reality, not just to know about Him doctrinally.
“God is the Truth. The Bible is the truth about the Truth. Theology is the truth about the truth about the Truth. A good sermon is the truth about the truth about the truth, about the Truth. It is not the Truth. The Truth is God alone. Around this Truth there is a scaffolding of words, of theologies, and of exposition. None of these is of any help in times of suffering. It is only the Truth Himself Who is of help, and we have to penetrate through sermons, through theological books, through everything which is ‘words’ and be bound up with the reality of God Himself.”
Our time has come in America, as it did to Niemoller’s and Bonhoeffer’s Germany, as well as to Wurmbrand’s Romania, when we will be called upon to suffer for our faith. Therefore, we must begin to prepare ourselves and our churches for the ominous days ahead, as well as to secretly spread the Gospel one on one and from house to house. Perhaps, a good place for us to start is with a rereading of 1 Peter, a New Testament epistle written to believers suffering for their faith. The first century recipients of this timely letter, like Christians in today’s America, found themselves in a hostile pagan culture, within which they were suffering persecution and intimidation. They also found themselves, as I fear we will shortly, facing deprivation and death. Yet, we, like them, ought to rejoice in our fiery trials, since they make us partakers of Christ’s sufferings and prepare us for His soon Coming!
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” (1 Peter 4:12-13)