Q: What have you learned from the recent tactics used by the Chinese leaders?
Julie: Control of the church has long been high on the political agenda, even though believers are not really interested in politics other than to pray for the country’s leaders. Since 2017, the government has been closing some large churches, monitoring and putting pressure on pastors to limit church growth, and an increasing number of believers meet in small groups. This new season of control and fear-mongering has highlighted an overwhelming crisis that, I believe, is also an opportunity from which the Chinese church can springboard to a new season of revival.
The first lesson we have learned is that modern churches need to know how to respond biblically to persecution, as the younger generation hasn’t experienced such pressure before.
The second is the need for effective, vulnerable, anointed small-group discipleship.
Over the past 15 years, as churches have increased in size, much of the emphasis has moved away from small group worship, prayer, the reading of God’s Word and personal ministry, to an over-emphasis on stimulating sermons and theological training. In some cases, because the church is now much wealthier than before, they are channeling their resources into bigger and bigger church buildings instead of using the funds for evangelism and growing a network of house churches.
Now that increasing number of believers meet in small groups, the training of small group leaders who can disciple others has become crucial. It’s like God is re-calibrating the foundations of the church to prepare for a new season of growth.
Q: What was your impression of the Chinese church before you joined the ministry?
Anna: After many years hearing stories of persecution, forced labor, strange heresies and lack of Bibles, I assumed the church would be weak, uninformed and disjointed. I hoped by joining Open Doors, I could somehow help the Chinese church understand the Bible better and play a role in church growth. It has been an incredible privilege to meet believers, encourage them and learn from them.
Q: Has your view of Chinese Christians changed?
Anna: To be honest, I was shocked right from the beginning to see how Chinese believers didn’t just know their Bibles—they often memorize large portions of Scripture. They experience God every day by taking God’s Word literally and living as if it is were totally true and trustworthy. While there is an undisputed need for basic discipleship for Christians from minority people groups, the way Chinese believers from these groups come to God with childlike faith, believing in a good Father who answers prayer, has always inspired me. I love listening to them talk about miracles and faith and to watch their faces light up when talking about God.
Another thing I love is how they constantly insert the phrases “Ganxie Zhu” (“thank the Lord”) and “Zanmei Zhu” (“praise the Lord”) into their conversations. They have learned to be grateful in all circumstances. They seem to live from that place of contentment.
Instead of being weak, I found the believers to be bold and full of faith.
While they may be lacking teaching about the nuances of various Bible passages or the origins of some Hebrew or Greek words, they could hardly be regarded as uninformed, choosing to believe God’s Word at face value and applying it to their lives, resulting in God doing all manner of wonderful things in their midst.
Far from being disjointed, the church is more unified than our churches at home, which are often divided along denominational or geographical lines.
I feel so privileged to know these house church pastors personally!