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China: Growth of church worries leaders

October 23, 2017

In the last week China’s political leaders gathered for the 19th Communist Party Congress, and experts are suggesting that the Communist Party is feeling increasingly threatened by the ‘uncontrolled growth of Christianity’ in the country.

In the five years since the last congress there have been significant changes in China. One of those changes is the ‘uncontrolled growth of Christianity’ – a growth so explosive that, according to some experts, the Communist Party is now feeling threatened. The number of Christians is estimated by some to reach 247 million by 2030. This will make it ‘the world’s largest congregation’ – according to Eugene K. Chow writing in The Diplomat. He writes: ‘Threatened by the rapid, uncontrolled growth of Christianity, the Communist Party is gearing up for a sweeping crackdown.’

Chow describes how ‘many state sanctioned churches have been forced to install surveillance cameras, and preachers, selected by the government, are monitored to ensure that their sermons do not broach taboo topics’ – for example, messages that contain foreign influences. China’s government is concerned foreign powers want to infiltrate churches to destabilise the country.

“They want the pastor to preach in a Communist way,” said an underground church leader. This means that the state churches are even avoiding certain ‘subversive’ parts of the Bible. The story of Daniel, for example, who refuses to worship the state leader, is not a welcome subject in a country increasingly focused on the personality of its leader.

This increasing control is one reason why most Chinese Christians avoid the registered, state sanctioned churches, and gather for worship more covertly, in the booming ’underground’ churches.

Increasing pressure

Between 2013 and 2015 over 1,200 crosses were pulled down from churches in the prosperous eastern coastal province of Zhejiang, known as the ‘Jerusalem’ of the east for its strong Christian presence. Worse than damage to buildings are the numerous cases of Christian leaders who disappeared, were imprisoned and tortured, or harassed. These people, it is clear, have not been keeping to the ‘correct path’.

However, Chow writes, ‘While the Communist Party has developed increasingly sophisticated ways to manipulate its citizens, it remains to be seen if the government can successfully subvert a religion that has withstood repeated repression over its 2,000 year history. Given Christianity’s long, enduring track record, party officials are perhaps rightly worried.’

Pray now

  • For both the state and underground church in China – that they would stand strong against government pressure
  • For protection for church leaders and their families and for the courage to preach the gospel
  • For the influence of other governments, that they challenge China on issues of human rights.

We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.