Challenges of Starting a Church in Burma
Despite global euphoria over reported reforms in Burma, little has changed for the more than four million Christians and other minorities left to suffer from one of the world’s longest-running civil wars.
This is particularly true in villages, where opposition to Christianity is felt the most severely. When a group of believers wants to set up a church, much hinges on the attitude of the village chief. “We must secure his letter of recommendation, one of the required documents to start a church,” says a pastor in Arakan state. “After that, they will issue us a ‘temporary permit.’ Getting this permit takes at least one year, no less.”
“Once we get a permit,” he adds, “we can build a small thatched house and we are allowed to pray, sing, and have other religious events, but we are not considered a ‘church.’ We call the place a ‘prayer house.’ To be recognized, we need to apply for a ‘permanent permit’ from officials at the district level and then at the Central Government.” But the high cost of such a permit is beyond the capacity of most grassroots pastors in Burma.
Despite opposition and obstacles, the church in Burma is growing both in numbers and spiritual maturity as leaders receive vital training to lead their flocks. This pastor recently participated in an Open Doors preparedness seminar, leadership classes, and livelihood workshops for Christian pastors in Burma. “I wish that what I know now was something I knew back then, when I was just starting in my ministry,” he says. “The way I did things before did not really produce Christians who were mature in the faith. The lessons I learned about personal discipleship will help me much in my ministry.”
Thank You, Father, for the faithful ministry of pastors in Burma. We pray that You would give them wisdom on how to encourage prayer house members, especially those caught in the crossfire. Give them patience, persistence and favor as they seek to legally register their churches. Thank You for Open Doors training programs, and we pray that You will use them in powerful ways to strengthen the pastors to shepherd and lead with “integrity of heart and skillful hands.” We pray also for many believers in Burma to attend discipleship and livelihood training programs so that they might prosper spiritually and be empowered to support their families in God-honoring ways. In the name of Jesus who leads and guides through His Spirit within us, Amen.