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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, September 30, 2018

“I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich)…” (Revelation 2:9).

A biographer of the Chinese Christian patriarchal pastor Wang Mingdao said,

Regardless of which policy the Chinese government pursues, the church in China will profoundly affect the shape of Christianity worldwide for generations to come. With [about] seventy million souls [now 160 million] and a growth rate of 7 percent annually, the number of Christians in China dwarfs the number of Christians in most nations of the earth. Like Christians throughout the developing world, Chinese Christians represent the vanguard [front rank] of the church in the twenty-first century (Thomas Alan Harvey, Acquainted With Grief, Brazos Press, 2002, p. 159).

David Aikman, in his book Jesus in Beijing, said,

It is worth considering the possibility that not just the numerical, but the intellectual center…for Christianity may move decisively out of Europe and North America as the Christianization of China continues and as China becomes a global superpower…The process may have already started in the hopes and works of China’s house church leaders (David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing, Regnery Publishing, 2003, pp. 291, 292).

Christ’s description of the church at Smyrna pictures what is happening in the “house church” movement in China today,

“I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich)…” (Revelation 2:9).

Concerning the church at Smyrna, Dr. James O. Combs said,

Smyrna, north of Ephesus, a congregation pastored by Polycarp for decades and who died as a martyr in 155 A.D. in his 90s…they endured much suffering and confiscation of worldly goods, but they were spiritually rich (James O. Combs, D.Min., Litt.D., Rainbows From Revelation, Tribune Publishers, 1994, p. 33).

Like the church at Smyrna, the faithful Christians of the house churches in China suffer great persecution and “tribulation” yet they are spiritually so “rich” that their evangelism produces a growth rate of “7 percent annually” (Thomas Alan Harvey, ibid.). Thus, the number of Christians in China already “dwarfs the number of Christians in most nations of the earth.” I think that the majority of the more than 160 million Christians in China are real converts, and that there are already more true Christians in China than there are in the United States. That is staggering! We should ask ourselves, “What is the reason for their success? What is the secret of their evangelism?” Why can it be said of them,

“I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich)…”? (Revelation 2:9).

When we consider the fact that evangelical Christianity is not growing at all in America, and the fact that many are even saying that evangelical Christianity here is dying, we in America should think deeply about what they don’t have that we have, and what they do have that we don’t have.

I. First, what they don’t have that we do have.

They don’t have church buildings! Only the “Three-Self” churches have buildings. But the “house churches” are the ones that are growing, and they have very few church buildings. The vast majority of them don’t have church buildings like we do!

They don’t have government approval. They are continually persecuted by the government of China. They do not have freedom of religion like we do!

They do not have seminaries to teach pastors like we do. The only training the pastors have in China is in someone’s house – and it is very short and not very thorough. They get what little training they can “on the run.”

They do not have Sunday School buildings. They do not have buses for “bus ministries.” They do not have “Christian TV.” They do not have “Christian radio.” They do not have Christian publishing houses. They do not have equipment for “Power Points.” They do not have TV projectors to show the preacher on a large screen. They do not have “Christian rock bands.” They do not have organs, and usually they do not even have pianos. They have no printed Sunday School material. They often do not even have Bibles for everyone, or hymnals. No, they don’t have what we have! Instead, they have sporadic persecution and tribulation from the government. They sometimes have to go to prison for simply being Christians. There is always the threat of that for anyone who becomes a serious Christian! Go to to read about persecution of Christians in China. And yet the Christians in China are wildly successful in winning lost souls. The number of Christians is exploding all over China, in the greatest revival of modern history!

“I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich)…” (Revelation 2:9).

I fear that many of our churches in America are better described by what Jesus said to the church at Laodicea,

“Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17).

II. Second, what they do have that we don’t have.

Here is what they have that we don’t have. And herein lies the secret of their success – and the reason for our failure!

They have suffering – and thus learn to bear the cross! Most American Christians are unwilling to suffer the loss of one evening a week to go to prayer meeting. Most American Christians are not willing to suffer the loss of an evening a week to go soul winning. Most American Christians are not willing to lose the comfort of a Sunday evening to be in church! Many pastors in America need to lose weight. We need to suffer the loss of some calories. But in China the preachers are thin. Therefore they can preach with vigor and power. We need to lose weight, or we cannot preach with vigor. In China they have thinner men who are filled with the Spirit when they preach. I have never seen a Chinese “house church” preacher who was overweight. No wonder the people in China have great revival, while Christianity is drying up and fading away here in America, and throughout the Western world! It takes a certain amount of suffering to exercise. It takes suffering to be on a diet and eat less until you lose weight! It takes suffering to become the kind of man God wants you to be! The great Chinese evangelist Dr. John Sung said,

Great suffering brings about great revival…God finds the greatest use for those…who are honed in the most difficult environments…More suffering brings more benefits…The lives of disciples are likened to olives: the harder we are being pressed, the more oil will exude from within. Only those who have gone through suffering can show empathy [love] and consolation to others (John Sung, Ph.D., The Journal Once Lost, Genesis Books, 2008, p. 534).

Jesus said,

“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).

Again, Jesus said,

“I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich)…” (Revelation 2:9).

They have suffering in China! Therefore they have the riches of God’s blessing in revival! Let us here in our church also deny ourselves, and take up our crosses to follow Christ – no matter what it costs!

Second, they have tears when they pray for the lost! One brother, who knows, said to me, “There are many tears in China.” He is exactly right! They weep when they pray for the lost. No wonder there are so many conversions to Christ! The Bible says,

“They that sow in tears shall reap in joy” (Psalm 126:5).

Pray that God will give you a broken heart for lost souls! (all pray).

Third, they do all in their power to bring in lost souls to their “house churches.” D. L. Moody said, “Love them in.” That’s the way they get people into the house churches in China – and that is what we must do! “Love them in.” Soul winning is primarily loving people in to Christ – and in to the local church. “Love them in.” That’s not liberalism! That’s not “life-style” evangelism! That’s D. L. Moody! I think he was exactly right. It works in China – and it will work here! “Love them in.”

If we rush away from the services we will not win souls. Only those who linger can win souls. Only those who are friendly to the lost before and after the services can win souls. There is no other way to add lost souls to a church! We must “love them in” – like they do in China! Sing “Make Me a Channel of Blessing”! It’s number 4 on your song sheet.

Make me a channel of blessing today,
   Make me a channel of blessing, I pray;
My life possessing, my service blessing,
   Make me a channel of blessing today.
(“Make Me a Channel of Blessing” by Harper G. Smyth, 1873-1945).

I must not close this service without saying a few words to you who are not yet converted. Coming to church does not mean you are converted. Studying the Bible will not convert you. You must repent of your sins. You must turn to Jesus Christ and come to Him. He died in agony and Blood on the Cross to save your soul. You must be washed clean from your sins by His Blood. Come to Jesus and be saved from sin, death and Hell. May that be your experience, is my prayer. Amen.

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Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Jesus Loves Me” (by Anna B. Warner, 1820-1915).



by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich)…” (Revelation 2:9).

I.   First, what they don’t have that we do have, Revelation 3:17.

II.  Second, what they do have that we don’t have, Matthew 16:24;
Psalm 126:5.