I recently listened to a Research on Religion podcast about house churches in China and learned four things.
First, I’ve known for years that the state-run Protestant church in China is called the Three Self Patriotic Movement in China, but I never realized where the name came from. Here’s a hint: think missiology. That’s right — the three selves in the Three Self Patriotic Movement are “self-supporting, self-governing, self-propagating.” I am an idiot for never making that connection. I bet there’s a good story behind it.
Second, one of the unregistered churches in China (commonly called house churches) has grown to around 500,000 members. That is not a typo — this one “house church” has half a million members. Wow. That blows my mind.
Third, the unregistered rural churches are almost entirely Pentecostal/charismatic and the unregistered urban churches are more sedately evangelical. The unregistered urban churches tend to be led by university professors and other intellectuals. Interesting.
Fourth, China has largely stopped sending pastors of unregistered churches to labor camps because the pastors were too effective at planting churches in prison. Now the state uses indirect pressure to thwart churches, so that the Communist party pressures landlords to cancel leases and employers to hassle employees.
After listening to the podcast and reflecting on it for a while I realized that there’s an interesting contrast between the challenges faced by the church in China and those faced by the church in America. America seeks to seduce the Church into complacency, whereas China seeks to intimidate the Church into compliance.
These challenges correspond to the strategies Satan deploys against the Church in the book of Revelation: Babylon (seduction) and the Beast (intimidation).
No, I did not just say that China is the Beast nor did I say that America is the Great Harlot called Babylon. I merely said that China and America resemble them in certain ways.
If this intrigues you check out the free online book The Returning King by Vern Poythress. It’s one of the best introductions to the book of Revelation that I know.
All in all that was one of the more stimulating podcasts I’ve heard lately.