Fourth Large House Church in China Shut Down, Banned

March 28, 2019 by Lindy Lowry in Asia

Another large house church in China has been raided. Shouwang Church in Beijing—one of the largest in the city—makes the fourth major underground congregation shut down by the Communist government since September 2018.

The church, which draws more than 1,000 attendees, has been formally banned. On Saturday, March 23, at around 1:50 p.m., more than 20 police officers and other Chinese government officials reportedly raided a Bible school class at  Shouwang Church.

Locks were switched out to prevent church members from returning. An unspecified number of branches across the city have been shuttered, ChinaAid’s Brynne Lawrence told Open Doors USA.

Shouwang Church members refused to sign a document pledging to never attend the church again, and leaders said the house church will continue to worship by adjusting meeting times and locations.

Church leaders issued a statement to its members, saying it does not accept the authorities’ decision to ban their church and that it will continue to operate “while adjusting its meeting venues and methods.”

A Renewed Effort to Quash Shouwang Church

Members of Shouwang Church after police halted Bible classses

The church had been charged with violating the country’s Regulations of Religious Affairs and Regulations on the Registration and Management of Social Organizations by operating without government registration.

Christianity Today reported that throughout Shouwang Church’s 26-year history, Shouwang members have refused to come under Communist authority and persevered despite persecution, with their “underground” services forced outside when evicted from their buildings in 2009 and with their founding pastor Jin Tianming under house arrest since 2011.

Lawrence noted that Pastor Tianming’s situation has recently worsened. “Before, he was allowed to do things like go to the downstairs portion of his apartment complex,” she said,  “but now, he cannot leave at all.” 

This recent raid represents a “renewed effort to quash Shouwang Church,” Lawerence said.

Standing in Unity with Shouwang Church

Pastor Wang Yi of Early Rain Covenant Church remain under arrest and detained since the December 2018 raid.

The raid on Shouwang Church echoes recent incidents focused on large underground churches in China such as Early Rain Covenant Church in Sichuan, Zion Church in Beijing and Rongguli Church in Guangzhou. Members of Early Rain, who have maintained visibility and a public voice since the December 2018 raid on their church, issued a statement of solidarity with Shouwang.

“When we heard that Shouwang Church is being persecuted again, […] and other churches facing various pressure from the government, we kneeled down to pray to give thanks and praises to our God, because we are delighted that the bride of Christ is closely following her husband.”

Early Rain’s pastor Wang Yi remains detained with a dozen church leaders. He and others were extremely vocal about their opinion on China’s new religious regulations implemented in February of this year. The rules restrict proselytizing and charitable work, crack down on religious education for minors, limit the collection of donations, and forbid posting some faith-based content online. They also require churches to register with the government, which empowers officials to censor sermons, choose or reject pastors, and otherwise interfere with worship. The government has also begun installing facial-recognition technology in many registered churches.

In a letter Wang wrote anticipating his arrest, Pastor Wang observed: “the persecution of the Lord’s Church and all Chinese who believe in Jesus Christ is the most evil and terrible sin of Chinese society. This is not only a crime against Christians, but also a crime against all non-Christians. Because the government violently and cruelly threatened them and prevented them from coming to Jesus, there is nothing more sinful than this.”

Yet earlier this month, leaders of state-run churches shared more vocal support for the government’s “sinicization” plan, to infuse sectors of society with more cultural and party alignment. “[We] must recognize that Chinese churches are surnamed ‘China’, not ‘the West,’” the head of the state-run Protestant body said. “The actions by anti-China forces that attempt to affect our social stability or even subvert the regime of our country are doomed to fail.”

Praying With the Church in China

Photo: Early Rain Covenant Church

God has given the global Body of Christ the privilege and responsibility to get on our knees and join in fervent prayer around the church in China. The situation in China is likely to continue to escalate as the Chinese Communist Party increases its power and focus on Chinese nationalism, says Open Doors CEO David Curry.

“There will be even more pressure on the Body of Christ in China,” Curry said. ”The government is trying to force out unregistered churches. Those churches that are registered, they approve sermons, these kinds of things, slowly turning up the heat and making it a ‘Chinese’ church, not a church of Jesus.” 

The church in China needs our prayers and encouragement to stand strong. Conversely, we can also learn from these stalwart Christians who are now risking their lives to stand up for the gospel.

A few months ago, one of Open Doors’ indigenous ministry partners who works to equip church leaders in China offered this insight: “The situation on the ground [in China] is always changing. Don’t be too quick to jump to conclusions about what China needs. Pray for wisdom for the leaders. Pray with us.” She shared specific prayer needs for church leaders and churches in China:

Top photo: Courtesy of ChinaAid