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Have you readers ever heard of the ichthys? Maybe not, but you’ve no doubt seen it.

This Greek word for a symbol that looks like a simple drawing of a fish frequently appears on Christian merchandise such as jewelry and bumper stickers. But its background is deeper than most of us realize. Its name is an acronym for “Iesous Christos Theou Yios Soter (‘Jesus Christ, God’s Son, [is] Savior’).”[i] As the Lexham Geographic Commentary on the Gospels explains:

The first letter, iota, is the initial letter in the Greek word for “Jesus”…. The second letter, chi, is the first letter in the word for “Christ”…. The third letter, theta, is the first letter in the Greek word for “God”…. The fourth letter, upsilon, represents the Greek word for “son”…. And the last letter, sigma, is the first letter in the Greek word for “Savior”…. As it does today, the early symbol of the fish could be used to identify a believer in Jesus without the need for verbal communication.[ii]

Interesting… Why would early believers need to be identified “without the need for verbal communication”? Because, the early Church was, just as we will be in the End Times, facing persecution that drove them into secrecy. The Roman Empire saw to the death (or severe beatings) of anyone openly claiming to be a Christian for about three hundred years after the Resurrection, so the first Christians couldn’t simply stroll down to the local church building on the corner to connect with their spiritual family and strategize about how they would reach the lost with the Gospel. They needed a way for disciples to recognize one another or mark the location of a Christian gathering without blowing their cover. If a disciple wanted to find out whether he was in the presence of another Christian, he would casually draw an arc shape on the ground—representing half of the fish symbol we so quickly recognize in our iconography. If the other person completed the drawing, he or she could silently alert the disciple that he was in the presence of a fellow believer. If the second person did not complete the drawing, the first man’s nonchalant “doodling” would escape notice, and the second man would be revealed as a nonbeliever.

When the Remnant Church is forced into secrecy, whether that will be sooner or later, we will find ways of communicating that are similar to the way the ichthys was used in the early Church. We, just like the early Christians, won’t be able to meet at local churches. Yet, “taking church outside the building” shouldn’t be a new or frightening concept. It’s precisely how the early Christians “did church”: “They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts” (Acts 2:46; NIV).

Somehow—because the Remnant is always spiritually alive on the inside—we will continue to prioritize the Great Commission until the very end. (This is true regardless of what one believes regarding the Rapture. Even if it occurs before the Tribulation, the Remnant will awaken and arise from the population of those who were left behind.) In addition, at some point during the Tribulation, survival will require that the Remnant develops some form of community that can trade and function under the radar. Exactly what this will look like and how it will be carried out is obviously unknown at this time.

However, sometime between now and then, the Remnant will have to learn a new way to “do church” outside of the institution. We’ll need “practice rounds,” so to speak, of the style of worship we read about in the New Testament. It will mark a return to the old ways.

On the other hand, while true Christians are already exhausted from trying to remain alive in the institution that brings death anyway, there are already ample benefits to worshiping together outside the building in the “usual” way, not the least of which is the fact that the government cannot shut down these nontraditional church gatherings like it did the mainstream churches during the pandemic!

And, before anyone thinks this sounds too complicated or mysterious to invest much mental or emotional energy into, please note: It’s easy to lazily rest in the comforts of “God is in control” theology. He certainly is in control, and most definitely He is at all times, but we must remember that the control He holds has established an eternal plan for mankind, and it involves our participation, whether we like it or not. Creating a permanent buttocks-imprint in the sofas of our spiritual living room with the attitude that God “has it handled” is vile negligence in the Lord’s eyes that could result His command: “Depart from me…I never knew you!” (Matthew 7:21–23). There are serious chores to do, and if we ever wish to hear the beautiful words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant” (25:21–23), then we need to dust off our timecards and clock in for work. Far, far too many Christians are late in reporting for duty, and the evidence of that has made the Cult of Western Christianity thrive…and stink.

On the other hand, it may not be the intimidating prospect many Christians fear. These authors have started a personal ministry movement beyond the walls of the Church that:

  1. Follows the New Testament model;
  2. Has a proven track record of immense ministerial success;
  3. Doesn’t cost a dime;
  4. Takes place on an organic, customized schedule (and therefore naturally prevents “ministry burnout”);
  5. By its very nature accomplishes the true meaning of communion (as well as many other benefits briefly covered in the next few pages).

Just as the Battle of Jericho was fought with peace, we believe our present-day battles should be fought with peace, because, in our current culture and political state, the Body’s refusal to compromise on certain secular trends is more and more being recognized as “hate speech.” Just as the warriors in the Battle of Jericho reclaimed territory for Jehovah’s purposes and will, we believe our grounds (churches, houses, ministry properties of all kinds across the West) need to be reclaimed for the Lord’s purposes and will. Thus, this new kingdom initiative has been coined the “Jericho Project.”

Though, alternatively, in the interest of the discretion that will brand the communication habits of the future underground Remnant Church, we could simply call it “dinner with a friend.”

We will let you in on what we are doing. It’s been some of the most important Gospel work we’ve ever done. (Within just the first month of its inception, one person accepted Christ as Savior.)

As a study in the revivals and Great Awakenings of history will show: In the past, most recognizably during the day of the “Jesus People Movement” following the Vietnam War, some of the most passionate churches began outside church facilities on “grass roots” soil, such as wheat fields, abandoned coffee shops, barns, and most often, peoples’ living rooms. “Church” feels a bit stuffy these days, but believers and nonbelievers alike can benefit from a well-cooked meal and some hearty conversation. If a gathering is presented as a “meal,” it accomplishes what the New Testament communion sacrament really looked like (not the Dixie-cups-of-grape-juice-and-one-bite-oyster-cracker communion frequently shared in Western churches). When we serve dinner (“break bread”) and talk about the Lord (“in remembrance of Him” [Luke 22:19–20]) with fellow members of the Body (the ekklesia, the “church”; gathering of the saints together), we are technically fulfilling “church” and “communion” as the early Church experienced in the New Testament.

In this way of “doing church,” dinner can be by a host or hostess who wants to bless the others, or it could be a potluck meal. For true believers, a box of cereal is enough of a dinner if it means joining in badly needed spiritual connection with the Body. (An unleavened meal might also be a fun way to gather together and reflect on the first communion, which was a Passover meal, though these authors don’t think it’s mandatory.)

As the conversation allows, at whatever speed fits the mood, those present can begin to discuss the Gospel. The Bible should be kept handy so it can be opened and read from during these gatherings. (But note: Proselytizing is not the goal here! Remember that bringing lost souls into our homes to browbeat them or pressure them into repeating “sinner’s prayer” words that only lead to an obligatory, imitation conversion experience does nothing for the kingdom. It actually has the potential of placing unsaved people on a more direct path to damnation, Jesus says [Matthew 23:15].)

With the ensuing teaching, Bible study, conversation, worship (again, when appropriate), communion, and fellowship, we are, literally and theologically, a New-Testament-style church with far more flexibility on the schedule than the building on the corner could ever have.

Some may be unable to have people visit their homes for a number of reasons, including safety concerns. Certainly, caution should always be a priority. But if that’s you, somehow, somewhere, you need to interact with people for the purpose of bringing the Gospel outside the four tired walls of a church building. Perhaps it’s at the fitness gym, the salon, a waiting room, a school, the grocery store, at work…

You get the picture: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).

Every time you interact with others and carry the name of Jesus on your lips, you’re having the type of Church fostered by those New Testament radicals who flipped the world on its head and forever changed the notion of organized religion.

And you can do it, too!

No more ministry burnout. No more getting someone to cover the class you teach on a Sunday morning when you’ll be out. No more preparing three-point sermons in the middle of a busy schedule. No more feeling overwhelmed with the responsibilities of active church membership. No more obligations to stay to the end of a service, and, on the other hand, no more wishing that great service had gone on longer.

We can’t say it enough: Simplicity is key in this type of worship and ministry, whether it’s just having a friend over for dinner, taking someone to the library and talking about God in the car on the way, or giving someone a discount on a haircut or an oil change while reminding that person that the Creator has a plan for his or her life.

This makes ministry organic, unstrained, and welcome to the hearers, because the intensity can be adjusted to the individual’s needs. And, if the Church were to come back to life by means such as these, it wouldn’t be such a shock when, in fulfillment of prophecy, the institution goes apostate and true believers are forced underground. We’ll simply keep doing what we already do!

Aside from taking Christian practice outside of the building on the corner so as not to rely on the institution as our only future lifeline—which is a valid reason on its own—the need for a fresh kind of fellowship connection within today’s Body has been surfacing for a long time. The Church, as an institution, has been continuously deteriorating. True believers are tired of “spirituality competitions” between believers and interdenominational squabbles, pressures to keep up with the Joneses, “feel-good” (but theologically deficit) worship songs and sermons, and focus on feelings and/or prosperity over the Great Commission as well as the “take up the cross daily” message of Christ.

Meanwhile, in recent years, the Gospel has not been “taken to the streets” as it should. We are missing a massive opportunity while the West is still free enough to reach as many people as possible. This is especially true the longer the lost feel that the church on the corner will be unwelcoming to them, which is a perception that increases each day as our Body is further polarized by the unscriptural trends of the culture. Yet, for the reasons we just mentioned, many sincere Christians feel that “inviting nonbelievers to church” just isn’t the answer anymore. Additionally, certain evangelistic methods of the past—such as standing on the corner preaching, handing out tracts, or offering to pray for the needs of strangers on the roadside—will be more and more unwelcome in some cities, even when they’re not engulfed in flames or rioting.

But if the church on the corner is out of the question, how can true Christians witness to nonbelievers if the tired, ritualistic “sinner’s prayer in the middle of a coffee shop” makes them feel awkward, as we know it does?

Reaching the lost appears to be increasingly insurmountable in today’s social and political climate…and Christians are starving to meet like-minded folks whose walk with Christ is genuine.

UP NEXT: The Church That Blows Through the Stop Sign

If you would like more information on the topics covered in this article series, see the book Dark Covenant by Donna Howell and Allie Anderson, available below:



[i] Corduan, W., Pocket Guide to World Religions (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press; 2006), 39.

[ii] Laney, J. C., “Fishing the Sea of Galilee,” from B. J. Beitzel & K. A. Lyle (Eds.), Lexham Geographic Commentary on the Gospels (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press; 2016), 165.

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