|Cuba, Hopelessness or Hope?|
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The Western Baptist Convention described the 1990s as “the one with the most growth in our history” accomplished “without strategy,” “without temples,” and “without equipment.” This massive response to Christ is estimated to have resulted in 10 percent of the Cuban population, over 1,000,000 people, becoming active evangelical believers during the last decade of the twentieth century. There were at least two church-planting movements in Cuba during this decade. One is between the Eastern and Western Baptist Conventions, and the other is among the Assemblies of God churches in Cuba.
These church-planting movements can be attributed to the shift towards house church meetings as a more reproducible method for harvesting the many interested seekers, coinciding with a dramatic increase in church growth, which “freed the church from physical limitations and thrust the gospel witness into the community.” Also, ironically a positive result of persecution in Cuba was that ‘persecution weeded out those who were not serious followers of Christ.’ Operation World summarizes this spectacular growth of the evangelical churches in Cuba during the 1990s: "Evangelicals now outnumber church-going Catholics. The 1,250 evangelical congregations in 1990 has increased to possibly 4,500 congregations and a further 10,000 house groups in 54 denominations. A high proportion of the new Christians are young people."
God on Mission in Twenty-first Century Cuba
In an attempt to curb the movement, the Communist regime has targeted house churches since 2000. In September 2005, the government began enforcing restrictive new regulations aimed at curbing the growth of house churches.
The new regulations, though unevenly applied in practice, restrict the locations, times, and frequency of house church meetings; forbid foreigners from attending these meetings; and require information on attendees to be provided. If complaints are filed against a house church meeting, the church can be disbanded and the members arrested and imprisoned. Other tactics include the destruction of church buildings, baseless accusations, arrests, interrogations, and imprisonment of church leaders and other forms of harassment and intimidation.
Despite continued Communist efforts to repress Christianity in Cuba, the Church continues to proliferate. The total Baptist community (church attendance) has doubled between 2000 and 2006! For example, one church used ‘Operation Andrew’. The church implemented the program for one month, inviting all the friends to church on the fifth Sunday. So many new friends came to the church that morning that the pastor asked ALL of the members to get up and leave their seats to the newcomers. The church members went outside and lined up all around the external wall of the sanctuary, placed their hands on the wall, and prayed for their friends inside while the pastor explained the gospel. Scores came to faith that morning.
The incredible influx of seekers has meant that many new home Bible studies have been started. These are held in every imaginable venue: a public garage, a flimsy tent lean-to, a living room with boards for benches, etc. Churches often fill to capacity with some now experimenting with multiple services.Churches are equipping ‘lay missionaries’ to become the leaders of these cell groups.”
Clearly God is at work in Cuba, revealing what happens when the spiritual hunger of a godless society is met with an obedient church that is willing to pay the price to live and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.
(excerpted from Kurt Nelson and Bob Garrett, A Church Planting Movement in Cuba?, Mission Frontiers, March-April 2011)