The Church In China

Welcome to the Great Wall of ChinaI 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.

12 thoughts on “The Church In China”

  1. Thanks for discovering our podcast series “Research on Religion.” I have another interview scheduled regarding China that will probably air in the next two months regarding international efforts to promote religious liberty there. It will be with a scholar who was recently visited with other scholars there to discuss the issue.

    And don’t forget that we have other great episodes as well, so please tell your friends about our free podcast series sponsored by Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion.

    Tony Gill

  2. I’ll be sure to pass it along. Whenever I download new episodes of podcasts to my mp3 player and I notice that there’s a Research on Religion episode I’m more excited for that one than most of the others. You interview interesting people.

    And to avoid future triangles set up a gravatar at — it will display a profile pic for you on lots of different websites when you leave comments.

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

  3. I’m sad to say that I didn’t get to experience or really learn much about the Church in China while I was there myself nine years ago. Chalk that up to a lot of things — some no doubt due to my own sin issues while there.

    I was there to teach ESL with a team of fellow collegiate students. We were/are all Christians. We had contact and support of fellow Westerners living there, but due to time constraints and the government, we worshiped by ourselves with zero contact/knowledge of other Chinese Christians. In fact, apparently at one point we were tailed by some local police, I guess wondering what several Westerners were doing clearly out of place and alone in the middle of no where.

    We did a fair amount of prayer-walking though.

    And I got to see a fair amount of Xianjiang.

    Part of me wishes I could have done it all over again. Hindsight, regret and all that. Hopefully I grew in my walk because of it.

    It is wonderful to continually hear how vibrant the Church is in China. The gospel truly does grow under pressure, under persecution.

    Around the same time as my trip, I heard of an apparent hope/belief among many Chinese Christians that they’d be the ones to bring the Gospel, the Evangelism of it, full circle to the Middle East, to Jerusalem.

    With the Silk Road and Xianjiang as well as the Turkic peoples from Turpan to Istanbul — the geopolitical rise of Turkey and China as well as the continual concerns of the region, in light of Islam — the Chinese believers might well be onto something.

    Consider the history of the Evangelical movement starting with the Apostles. In effect it always headed West. The US took up where England left off. In 2001, apparently South Korea was on fire for the Lord and I heard many Koreans in London saying that they were taking up the mantel of global evangelism from the Americans. Now, it’s the Chinese, moving ever Westward.

    Some things to think about, especially in light of a church a half a million strong. In light of the power and ability of God to do His will irrespective of us.

    Matt. 24:14 “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come”

    The sun sets in the West. Golgotha traditionally was to the west of Jerusalem. Christ will return at the Mount of Olives, to the East of Jerusalem. The sun/son rises in the East.

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