Over the past few years, being a Christian in China is getting harder and harder. Last year, over 5,500 churches were destroyed, closed down or confiscated. And in just two years, China has risen 20 places on the World Watch List. But it’s not all bad news. Pastor Timothy* is a Chinese Christian and he and his church are showing that God is still working in amazing ways in China.
As a church leader, Pastor Timothy faces harassment from the police. He explains:
“I was called to the police station for a ‘chat. But they locked me up and threatened me and interrogated me. When they locked me up, I just knelt in the cell and prayed. They told me I was not allowed to pray, so I told them I was a church leader and a Christian for many years, so all I could do is pray.
“During all their questioning and threats, I was never afraid. God gave me inner peace and confidence in Him. In the end they were intimidated by my confidence and joy and let me go.”
This was not Pastor Timothy’s first experience of persecution, he knew what it was like under the strict communism of the 1960s and 70s, And while the repression of religious freedom isn’t the same as then, he does believe lessons learned by the church in that period resonate now — especially the power of prayer.
Image: A government approved church in China
“Everyone knows the power of prayer,” Pastor Timothy explains. “It doesn’t matter what we are facing, or what we have been accused of: We all pray. Everyone knows that as soon as persecution comes, we first drop to the ground and pray. God is so faithful. He always answers us, sometimes in the most wonderful, even bizarre ways!”
He shares an example. “Over the last 12 months, we have experienced constant harassment by the police. They regularly interrupt our meetings to disrupt our fellowship and destroy our underground churches.
“They must get very frustrated, though, because we just love them back. We are all trained to be polite, and never fight back, even when they get physical. In 2018, they started pulling crosses off our churches. Each time they came we just knelt in front of them as a group and prayed for them and asked for God’s protection.”
“On one occasion, they were on their way to pull down a cross, so we started to pray,” Pastor Timothy says. He laughs as he recalls the stories. “Suddenly, in a nearby city there was a huge explosion, so they had to go there instead. On another occasion they sent a big crane to pull one of our crosses down. On the way their crane broke down twice, and this had never happened before. They thought that was very strange!”
Image: The remains of a house church after it was raided by police after the church refused to register with the local government
Pastor Timothy encourages his congregation to pray for their persecutors. “We know that this is not the fault of the police, they just need to know Jesus,” he says. “If we don’t pray for their salvation, who will?”
Pastor Timothy sees the rising persecution his church has faced in recent months as a sign that they are doing something right. “Something really wonderful is happening,” he says. “I think the government is actually ‘scared’ of our church because of our determination, our love and our unity.
“We just will not compromise on God’s word about anything, but we are also model citizens! We love Jesus, but we also love our country and abide by the law. The government knows that the community respects us so much they listen to us instead of the government. A few years ago, we started out with a handful of believers, now we are a few thousand. They really are worried!”
Open Doors has partnered with Pastor Timothy for many years. We have provided Bibles and Bible training, Sunday School teacher training, and youth camps for house churches in his network, and we stood with the leaders on many occasions when they were under pressure.
“Open Doors has been an amazing friend to us,” he says. “I can’t thank you enough for the years of help you have given us, especially when things were difficult. Much of our church growth is due to Open Doors’ input and training of our house church leaders. Everything you teach us, we replicate in churches across the region. Our leaders have a maturity and understanding of God’s Word that we never had before. I thank God for you all.”
He asks for our continued prayers for protection, and that Chinese Christians would stand strong even if the Chinese church is totally isolated from the outside like it was 50 years ago. He especially asks for prayer for the young Christians in his church, that they would hold fast to their faith and like so many before them, experience the hope, joy and closeness of God in times of trial.
“Above all, pray that our people never stop praying, and experience the power of prayer,” he says. “Prayer changes things!”
Image: Celebration and dancing by the Qiang minority Ethnic Group
Lord Jesus, thank You that, despite the increasing persecution in China, You are drawing more and more people to Yourself. May Your love reach the young people despite the ban on church attendance, and strengthen believers who are being monitored by the government. May the whole of China have the opportunity to respond to the gospel. Give grace and wisdom to church leaders, so they know how to respond to growing pressure and intimidation. Amen.
China is ranked at No.22 on the 2020 Open Doors World Watch List. Get our free map, stickers and youth session to be inspired by the brave faith of persecuted Christians like Pastor Timothy and to help you pray regularly for the persecuted church.
*Name changed for security reasons
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.