How to Start a Lay Church, Principle VI: Train People to Become Living Bibles

Make sure the Bible is inside the Christians in your lay church, not tucked under one arm.


Materials are for internalizing. They’re not intended as permanent prosthetics. From the very beginning of their faith life and continuing steadily throughout it, Christians must learn the whole counsel of Scripture by heart so that ultimately no external printed text is required when they’re out and about and engaged in the Christian ministry of mirroring Christ to the world. That’s the way the New Testament and other oral-oriented literature is designed, and persecuted Christians can tell you of the necessity of this practice.

Hymns and music also need to be able to be learned in a way that they can be shared anytime, anywhere, by nonprofessionals (i.e., people like me who have sub-angelic voices and absolutely no guitar skills).

In the words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:2, “You are our letter.” You are (or are intended to be) a living Bible.

Regrettably, despite the historically unparalleled motherlode of printed Bibles readily available in the United States, there sure is a dearth of living ones.

Zondervan—the Christian publisher—did a survey a year or two back. They found out that the average American Christian owns nine Bibles—nine—and is actively trying to buy one more.

But what about North Korean Christians?

Here is the testimony of one young, new North Korean Christian–a girl sold into sexual slavery in China who was rescued by a Christian missionary. The missionary enrolled her in an underground seminary for North Koreans in China.

At the age of 22, after four and a half months of training, I left the safety of the seminary in China and crossed the river to go back inside of North Korea… My purpose was to share the Gospel with my family and friends.

I was finally arrested after one and a half years, when the North Korean state security agency discovered the Bibles and hymnals I was distributing inside of North Korea.

The North Korean police treated me cruelly as if I were a terrorist. The most difficult punishment I faced was being required to sit in one position for twenty-four hours without moving.

One month went by, then two months. Almost a whole year of my life passed by, with me behind bars. I thought God had forgotten me.

Then something happened that helped me to understand that God had a specific purpose for sending me to that prison.

A new prisoner arrived. Her name was EJ.

EJ had been a spy for North Korea. She had been serving undercover in China, trapping North Korean defectors who had escaped. She would send them back to North Korea to die. She tried to defect from China to South Korea but she was caught and sent to North Korea to the same jail as me. She felt so guilty for all she had done. She wanted to know if God existed and if He could ever forgive her.

I told EJ about 1 John 1:9 which says that if we confess our sins He is faithful to forgive. I also shared other verses with EJ that I had memorized. After many days, EJ confessed all her sins and received Christ as her savior.

One evening EJ had a dream. In her dream the Lord told EJ he was going to bring me out of prison. This was a crazy thought, since everyone knew I was going to be sent to a concentration camp for my crime. But EJ believed the dream. She was so happy for me but sad for herself. “I cannot make it here by myself,” she cried. So I asked the Lord what I could do to help her. God directed me to write down some scripture for her.

There was no paper, so we had to use the only thing we had to write on:

Toilet paper.

I didn’t have a pencil to write with, but EJ was able to smuggle one from the investigation room. And that’s how I began to write out ten verses as a “toilet paper Bible” for my new sister in Christ.

When I was finished writing, EJ tried to return the pencil, but it fell from her pocket and the guard saw it. He interrogated her angrily.

I was afraid that EJ would confess about the toilet paper Bible I had written, but she didn’t. When I asked her why, she replied, “You risked your life to give it to me, so I will carry it wherever I go.

The average American Christian has nine Bibles.

One North Korean—a Christian for four and a half months—constructs, from memory, a 10-verse toilet paper Bible to pass on to a former persecutor.

Who is the more effective student of the Scriptures?

In the lay church we vote for the North Korean Christian.

And that’s why we learn, by heart, one story and one song each week.

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is the former International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to How to Start a Lay Church, Principle VI: Train People to Become Living Bibles

  1. Ken says:

    I would be interested in seeing more information about the service as a whole. Sounds interesting. The best thing is that this type of service does not divorce the house church from the historic inheritance from church history.

    • EFoley says:

      Thanks, Ken–that’s one of the importance elements in my view: stewarding the historic inheritance. Otherwise we have a tendency to be somewhat less than an inch deep and only about as wide as our personal experiences and prejudices, despite our desire to embrace the whole counsel of Scripture.

  2. Pingback: Proclaiming The Gospel In North Korea Part VI: How Do They Proclaim? | Rev. Eric Foley

  3. Pingback: 12 Unconventional Church Planting Principles From North Korea | Missio Links

  4. isaiah41v10 says:

    Our family started memorising Scripture together when we began homeschooling 5 1/2 years ago. We usually memorise one new passage a month. We use the following system, as it is excellent for methodically reviewing verses that have already been memorised.
    We are very thankful that we started doing this. The Scriptures we have memorised have become part of us and affect how we live each day.

    • Pastor Foley says:

      Good to hear, isaiah41v10. Memorization of large quantities of scriptures is certainly a cornerstone of North Korean underground Christians in particular and the underground church around the world in general. One aspect of scripture memorization we emphasize is hearing and doing the word, i.e., How do we do the scripture we just heard and memorized? Hearing and doing the word ensures that we do not become foolish in our study of the Bible–Jesus’ words, not my own. Jesus says wisdom comes from hearing AND doing the word; foolishness from hearing alone. The DOTW (Doers of the Word) method is designed to give Christians a framework for doing the word they have heard and memorized, but it is simply one method among many. I always tell people that I hope they can come up with a better method than mine, but that whatever method we use, Christ calls us in his great commission to teach everyone to obey (i.e., do) all that he commands. I thank the Lord to hear about your seriousness in answering his call.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s