by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
November 17, 2002

For three Sundays in October the Orange County Register, a large newspaper in Southern California, ran a continuing story on the remarkable revival of Christianity in the Communist-controlled People's Republic of China.

The first report was titled, "A Lesson in Truth: Bible Smugglers Reaffirm Their Beliefs by Putting Their Fate in God's Hands." The most interesting development in China, as this article points out, is the fantastic growth of the underground church movement:

The government has mounted a campaign to wipe out illegal churches, but in many places illegal "house" churches openly draw thousands of worshippersMost Christians attend illegal house churches, following their faith despite threats of fines, imprisonment and torture (Orange County Register, October 6, 2002, Special Report, p. 1).

The October 6 article gave an overview of Christianity in China, beginning in 86 A.D. Recent archaeological evidence indicates that China was penetrated with the gospel at that time, during the lifetime of the Apostle John. In 1807 British missionary Robert Morrison reached Macao and began translating the Bible into Chinese. He baptized one Chinese believer before his death in 1834. In 1842 the Treaty of Nanjing granted foreign missionaries access to China. In 1865 James Hudson Taylor, a British missionary, established the first of 205 preaching stations for his China Inland Mission. In 1928 the number of foreign missionaries in China reached 8,325. The Communists came to power in 1949 and began expelling all foreign missionaries. A ban on the ordination of clergy went into effect in 1955, lasting until 1985. The Cultural Revolution of 1966 launched a campaign against all religion. Many Christians were sent to prison. In 1995 China banned "evil cults" in the house church movement. In 2002 President George W. Bush visited Beijing, and called for an end of religious persecution, which still goes on in spite of his efforts.

With a background of persecution like this it is truly miraculous that Christianity, and especially the "house church" movement, has mushroomed into the millions. The article says,

Evangelical Christians estimate as many as 100 million believers in China, based on reports that more than 10,000 a day are joining the faith.

My feeling is that 100 million is inflated. It is probably around 50 million. But even this figure shows the astonishing growth of Christianity under persecution in China.  For instance, the Southern Baptist Convention has 15 million members.  This means that there are nearly three times as many Christians in China as there are Southern Baptists in America!  The difference is this:  Only about 20% of Southern Baptists attend church at all.  80% of Southern Baptists are totally inactive.  100% of the Christians in China are active - attending church every week, usually more than once!  This shows the vitality of Chinese Christianity, and the deadness of American Christianity!

In Guangzhou (formerly Canton) Rev. Samuel Lamb (77) pastors a church that grew from four hundred when he was arrested in 1955 to 900 when he was released from prison 20 years later. The church now has 3,000 members. Rev. Lamb said, "The more persecution, the more I'm growing. That's the history of this church." He spoke in the English he learned as a schoolboy.

The Register asked, "Is there persecution?" The answer:

Yes, religious groups face harassment, fines, property expropriation, torture, imprisonment, incarceration and even execution, according to human-rights monitoring groups (ibid., p. 3).

The article gave an interesting website that you should check out.  It is the Committee for Investigation on Persecution of Religion in China, evangelical Christian monitoring group: can click it on here.

Many new evangelicals in America would like to broadcast our religious television programs there, but I hope they never get the chance! The Chinese Christians are doing just fine without us! They don't need Billy Graham, Robert Schuller, or TBN. They have what we don't have in America - real revival. The soft "decisionism" of our culture cannot match their robust faith. We can learn far more from them than they could ever learn from us. How many American pastors would go right on preaching if they were imprisoned and tortured? How many American "Christians" would keep coming to church if it was that dangerous?  How many in your church would be there next Sunday?

This naturally leads to one more question - how many people in your church are truly converted?