The persecution of Christians in China has reached unprecedented levels. Therefore, Christians are finding creative ways for meeting with each other. The goal is to worship Jesus Christ together; the challenge is to remain undetected by the Chinese authorities.
The Chinese government has implemented a system of severe crackdowns on “unofficial” churches – that is, churches not recognised or approved by the state. But the government has also taken a hardline approach to state-approved churches. “Many meeting venues have been shut down, forcibly demolished, or taken over for government use,” ((article by Bitter Winter, Wednesday, January 15, 2020 www.bitterwinter.org).
Here are a few examples of the creative ways in which some Chinese Christians continue to meet and worship, while trying to avoid detection.
A Sola Fide house church in the Shandong Province was shut down in May last year because it was unlicensed. So the congregation started meeting in a member’s home. But this was soon reported to the authorities, who also shut down this venue. The church was determined to keep its meetings going and sought an alternative venue. However, the only available place was an abandoned pigsty; so that is where they met and worshipped. Imagine that! These committed believers – desirous to meet with each other and worship the Lord – decided to use whatever was available.
It reminds us so much of how the first century Church prevailed in the light of persecution in the Roman Empire and eventually flourished as a leading institution and religion.
Then there is the situation with the Three-Self Church in Henan’s Xinyang city which was closed down in August 2018. The congregation then gathered to meet in the church’s kitchen, but the local government threatened to demolish the entire building if they continued to meet there! So the membership decided to meet in a member’s home. But they were again harassed and threatened by the local officials. Eventually, despondent and having nowhere else to go, the church began to worship in the forest! Unfortunately, the forest was a great distance away, and the journey was wrought with much hardship. So it was almost impossible for elderly members to attend the services.
This is how one congregant explained the forest gathering: “We have to sit on the ground, and lots of small insects crawl all over our clothes. During the summer, the heat is unbearable, and everyone sweats profusely. We gather wherever we can find the most shade,” (article by Bitter Winter, Wednesday, January 15, 2020 www.bitterwinter.org). Truly, we have to highly commend these Chinese believers for such faithfulness and devotion.
The passage, Hebrews 11:37, 38, comes to mind: “… They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”
Another Three-Self church in Shangqiu city was shut down in August last year. And what was the congregation’s response? They rented a sheep pen on a farm for 100 RMB ($14.00) for each time they met! And to avoid being detected by the authorities, they started worship services before dawn and concluded before 8:00 a.m.!
There is also the Catholic church in Changchun city which was forcibly shut down by the government. Now, the church holds Mass in a cemetery!
The above are just a few examples of the severe pressure Chinese Christians are under as they try to live out their faith.
Let us take to heart their examples of faithfulness to the Lord. May they inspire us to be just as devoted, and to bear them up before the Lord every single day.