Article May 5, 2016

Prayer for the persecuted church: China

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:1-8)

We learn from this parable that even a unrighteous judge responds to the persistence of the widow’s call. Because we know we appeal to a perfectly righteous, perfectly just judge, let us bring our appeals on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Christ all the more urgently.

A huge and complex situation

You may have heard that in China, the state-sanctioned church is growing, healthy and broadly enjoys support from the government. You may have also heard stories about house church leaders being arrested, jailed in secret prisons and tortured.

That both of these stories can be true shows that China is an enormous place, with great ethnic, religious and political diversity.

There was first a Christian presence in China in the seventh century. However, the church nearly disappeared between the ninth and 13th centuries under the Yuan Dynasty. The church experienced some growth in the 18th and 19th centuries and has experienced explosive growth since 1980. An indigenous Chinese Protestant movement known as the Three-Self Patriotic Movement emerged in the 1950s and has grown tremendously. At the same time, there have been multiple movements of house churches throughout China that are not sanctioned by the state. This is why both stories can be true at the same time, although we should note that discrimination against the state-sanctioned church exists as well.

Part of the problem is that the Chinese government only allows for freedom of religious belief for “normal religious activities.” Whether something is “normal” is, of course, in the eye of the beholder. As a result, regional and local government officials are empowered to either support or discriminate against house churches based on their own desires, outlook and perspective.

In 2014, 400 churches were either demolished or had crosses forcibly removed, a significant increase from previous years. In 2015, the number had risen to 1,500 in Zhejiang Province alone, home to China’s largest Christian population.

Bob Fu, Founder and President of China Aid, a Christian human rights NGO operating in China provides further context on the situation in China:

How to pray

Bob Fu also explains how we can pray for our Chinese brothers and sisters in Christ:

Here are three ways for you to pray:

  • Pray for the boldness of the Christians and Christian leaders in China in or out of prison
  • Pray for Christ to reveal himself to government officials who seek to control the church
  • Pray for Jesus’ teachings to take deep root in the culture

Further resources