Recently, I asked Brother Paul, the founder of the ministry "Asia Harvest", to give us some insight into the current situation concerning the persecution of the Chinese Church. Brother Paul very graciously granted my request. Please, take a minute to visit Paul's website and see how you can partner with Jesus and the Church in China and throughout Asia: www.AsiaHarvest,org.
1. Who is Xi Jinping? How did he come to power? How is he different from China’s previous Chairman?
He's actually better known as the President of China rather than Chairman. He is the son of a hardline Communist, Xi Zhongxun, who was one of the earliest Communist leaders in the 1930s and is regarded as one of their greatest founders. Marxism, and hard-line atheism, was therefore in the current president's blood from his youth.
2. Is the nation generally in favor of Xi Jinping’s current disposition towards the Church?
Most Chinese people have absolutely no idea that Christians are being persecuted, because it is done in a quiet and low-key manner. Prison labor camps were abolished several years ago, which the world welcomed, but they were replaced by the even more sinister "black jail" system, where people are taken to undisclosed locations and tortured mercilessly, or killed, without any due process or family members being notified. People just simply go missing. This has been happening to Christians in many parts of China. Most citizens think that the government is doing what they need to do to protect the society, and they have no knowledge of what's really going on due to the government controlling all media. 3. Can you describe for us what is happening to the Church in China?
For the last 2-3 years a gradual pressure has been coming against the Body of Christ, as new laws are introduced. In the past 12 months this intensified greatly and morphed into full-scale persecution, especially of the illegal house church movements, which contain around two-thirds of all Christians in China. Even the government-registered churches have not escaped the persecution, however, with church leaders being forced to give political/patriotic speeches from the pulpit and to display flags of China and even posters of Xi inside their church buildings. Hundreds of house church leaders have vanished, with many presumably killed. 4. I’ve heard it said that China is so big that anything you have heard about China, be it persecution or freedom to worship, is true somewhere. How broad is the current change in China’s disposition toward the Church?
Things right now are terrible in some areas, not as bad in others, but these are early days and believers in China are deeply concerned that the severe persecution will affect believers everywhere before long. Again, persecution is normal for Christians in China, but the current situation seems to be much more than a normal crackdown. It seems the government may be determined to get rid of all religion once and for all, or at least oppress and control it. They've tried this in the past and failed miserably, because they didn't count on coming up against the Living God!
5. I have heard that some Chinese believes bemoan the complacency of the Church when times are not difficult. Is the current rising persecution in China a result of the prayers of Chinese believers?
Partly, and indeed the Church will be purified by this. Already many false or half-hearted believers have run for the exits. The number of Christians in China may be smaller when the dust settles, but they will be refined like pure gold and the Body of Christ will emerge stronger and more vibrant. This seems to be the pattern of all great moves of God in history, both in the Scriptures and throughout the last 2,000 years. 6. What are the most urgent needs for the Chinese Church?
Bibles! Over the last 25 years the Chinese government and many Western church leaders have done a good job deceiving Christians around the world into thinking there are plenty of Bibles available in China. It was only true in the past for members of registered, government-approved churches, but even they are now desparately short of God's Word because the government has sharply reduced the quota they allow to be produced each year. The house churches, meanwhile, have always had to try to survive with a few crumbs that fall from the table of the registered church. A decade ago there were a dozen or more ministries providing Bibles to the house churches in China, but these have been removed from action one by one through intimidation, seduction, and a variety of other means. This has resulted in a massive shortfall of tens of millions of Bibles for believers in China today, and that is without even mentioning the millions that are needed for enquirers. Many people ask, "why don’t they just download Bibles in this modern era? Many have done so in the past, but now most Bible and Christian websites have been blocked inside China, and Bible apps have also been targeted. The police have the authority to stop anyone on the street and inspect their phones, and any apps or websites that are deemed dangerous can lead to their arrest. The situation is getting increasingly dire.
Here is a link to a short BBC video which may help people understand the difficulties facing Christians in China today because of the rapid advance of technology: https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-asia-china-42248056/in-your-face-china-s-all-seeing-state 7. Are you worried for the Church in China?
If my focus is on the Church then yes I am worried somewhat like the Apostle Paul was for the churches when he wrote: "Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches." (1 Cor. 11:28).
If I focus on the Lord Jesus Christ, however, I am not worried for He is in complete control and not a hair on the heads of any of His children will be harmed without it being the Father's will.
8. I have heard it said that persecution “has never been worse” than it is in China right now. Is that a fair statement?
Not quite. It's pretty hard at this stage to match the brutal and demonic persecution that occurred during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), when hundreds of thousands of Christians were killed and pastors were sentenced to 20 or more years in prison. There has also been some awful times of persecution since then, such as in 1983. Many church leaders, however, are saying that things right now are the worse than they have been since the Cultural Revolution. 9. What is the good news concerning China? Where do you see hope?
All hope is only in the Lord. There's no hope in the political systems of this world, that's for sure. I'm reminded of a famous quote comparing Communism with Capitalism. The quote says: "Under Communism, man is oppressed by man. Under capitalism it's the other way round!"
His kingdom plans are never thwarted, as Nebuchadnezzar declared after learning his lesson the hard way: "His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth" (Daniel 4:34-35). Many Christians in the West and around the world have a form of propsperity Gospel, not in terms of money, but in terms of thinking that if you follow the Lord than all will go well in your life. That is completely unbiblical and destructive to people's faith, as they falter when things don't go according to their wishes. True believers are those called to take up their crosses and follow Jesus to the end. That means to be prepared to die for Him who willingly died for us. It may not be comfortable to many readers today, but it is the truth.
10. What is your deepest desire for the Chinese Church?
That it will overcome all obstacles to reach the 400 unreached ethnic groups ('nations' in the Bible) that live within its borders, and the thousands of Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist people groups that live in surrounding countries. Only when all peoples have heard the Gospel and some have believed will the Lord return for His inheritance.
11. What is the best thing that Western Christians can do for China right now?
Pray for your brothers and sisters, and learm what you can about how God has revealed Himself to the Chinese Church over the years and how He has glorified the Name of Jesus through them. We just started releasing a series of many books called 'The China Chronicles', which are accounts of the wonderful acts of the Holy Spirit in China. The first book, Shandong, is available now and many more will be coming at regular intervals. (you can find them at www.asiaharvest.org)
12. Do you have a message from the Church in China for the Church in the US?
According to God's Word, the normal experience for the followers of Jesus Christ is struggle and persecution, and even death. It is not normal for disciples of Christ to enjoy religious freedom, so make the most of this window of opportunity to fortify yourself in Him. Get to know God's Word intimately and serve Him with all your heart, for the night is coming when no man can work. We have a wonderful opportunity right now to extend the kingdom of God throughout the earth, before the Lord Jesus returns to rule and reign over the nations. Hallelujah!