Recently, the Open Doors team met with Chinese church leaders to listen to their stories and testimonies of what is currently happening in the world’s most populous country and encourage our persecuted family as they lead the church during escalating persecution (China leaped 13 spots from No. 43 (on the 2018 World Watch List) to now No. 27 on the 2019 list). The time together was also a rare opportunity for them to encourage each other.
‘Our Faith Has Grown’
Bai Yahui*, a sister from Central China, shared how the police had shut down all the house churches in the region, warning pastors not to hold any more meetings.
Area pastors were placed on “probation,” she said, and were told to come to the police station every time they received a police call telling them to report on their movements and activities. Police call frequently at random times, day or night. Bai shares how she and other leaders are responding to the escalating persecution from the state:
“We are constantly on edge,” she said, “but our faith has grown and we are more determined than ever to see Christians in the area stand strong and not compromise their faith in Jesus. We have started many smaller meetings now, and more and more brothers and sisters are putting their hands up to act as mini house church leaders.
‘I Have Embraced This as a New Season’
Another pastor, Titus*, has been reaching youth and discipling them for many years. In 2017, the Chinese government again outlawed all Christian youth activities, this time with a new determination to stop teenagers from coming to faith. This new move has basically rendered existing youth work impossible.
“Initially, I was really frustrated by the government’s attempts to shut us down,” Titus says. “But recently, I have embraced this as a new season in which God will bring to us those who are truly hungry for Him and willing to follow Jesus at any cost.
“Many young people are too scared to attend our meetings, so we are trying new and creative ways to fellowship together. We play sports and practice musical instruments together, eat together and study in groups. We take every opportunity to pray for one another and share scriptures that make us strong and give us hope. The sense of love and solidarity is amazing.”
‘We Will Respond in Love’
Driving home the current situation for Christians in China, two pastors who traveled to meet with the Open doors team received phone calls from family members within 24 hours of leaving, alerting them that the police were looking for them. Authorities wanted to know their whereabouts and why they had not returned their calls.
In spite of continuous surveillance and the ever-present cloud of suspicion, these leaders reflected an overwhelming sense of joy as they worshiped God. Their smiles, laughter and determination to lead the church to know Jesus are representative of believers throughout the country who are meeting to determine next steps and their response to persecution. Bai Yahui shares:
“The situation is tense, but we know God is on the move in spite of the restrictions. We held a regional leaders’ meeting and agreed that when one of us is arrested, another will pick up the work. We also decided to respond to the police respectfully and in love even if they yell at us or use physical force [in attempts to] make us surrender the names of other believers.”
PRAYING WITH THE CHURCH IN CHINA
Recently, one of our indigenous ministry partners who works to equip church leaders in China shared specific prayer needs for church leaders and churches in China:
- Fortitude. Pray with Chinese Christians and church leaders for the fortitude to withstand increasing pressure and violent acts of persecution.
- Empowerment. Pray that God would empower His church in China to reach the next generation.
- Wisdom. Pray that leaders in China’s churches would have the wisdom to know how to handle the pressure they are coming under.
- Workers for the harvest. Pray that the Lord of the harvest will send workers to plant and nurture seeds that will ultimately bring forth an abundance of Kingdom fruit.
- Protection. Pray that God will protect the rights and abilities of His people in China to worship Him.
- Supernatural intervention in the hearts of leaders. Pray that Xi Jinping and other Party officials will hear the voice of the Holy Spirit and put their trust in Jesus.
- Courage for believers. Pray that given the choice between religious displays and poverty rations, believers will have wisdom and courage.
- House churches and new ways to worship. Pray with congregations whose church building have been closed—that they would be emboldened to meet in homes and increasingly grow in their faith.
- China’s next generation of believers. Ask God to speak to their hearts even as the state attempts to stop or thwart their exposure to Jesus. Ask Him to raise up leaders from this persecuted generation.
- The Word of God to spread throughout China—despite the halting of online Bible sales. Pray that the new laws would drive Christians to memorize Scripture and share it.
*Representative names and photos used for security reasons