We have reports that another 60 members (in addition to the 100+) of the underground Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, China, were arrested in the recent raid of the Protestant congregation and the intensifying and widespread crackdown on the church in China.
This time, the arrests took place at a riverside park where congregation members met for worship when they were banned from their church building. Reportedly, they were arrested and taken away during the gathering. Several other Christians who met at a separate location in the field of a nearby university were also taken by police.
A church member not wanting to be identified told BBC News that the lock on the church was broken, some of the churchgoers’ homes were ransacked, and a number of believers were “under house arrest or are followed all the time.” The church building is being guarded by police and plain-clothes officers, not allowing anyone to enter, the church member added.
Police have reportedly been attempting to force churchgoers to pledge to leave the church.
‘Today, We Worship You in Police Cars’
Throughout the widely publicized raid, deep statements of faith and conviction have emerged from both arrested Pastor Wang Yi (he wrote an open letter urging Christians to stand against persecution from the Chinese regime) and members who continue to post on social media. A recent prayer on Early Rain’s Facebook page reads:
“Lord, today we worship you in police cars. We worship you in police stations. We worship you in detention centers. We worship you in prisons. And we worship you in homes. We have no other goal except to worship you alone. We ride in buses heading to police stations as though riding down the road to Zion. For you tell us, Lord, that you are seeking worshipers who worship you in spirit and in truth.
“May you be pleased with our worship. We have nothing to offer you but our hearts. We offer them up sincerely to you now.
“Wherever I am, whatever I meet, I will follow your will forever.”
A Chinese Church, not a Church of Jesus
Since new religious regulations were implemented in February, the Chinese regime has increasingly tightened its grip on both state and underground churches with a push toward nationalism to, as Open Doors CEO David Curry says, make them “a Chinese church, not a church of Jesus.”
“There will be even more pressure on the Body of Christ in China,” Curry said. ”The government is trying to force out unregistered churches.”
Over the last few months, Open Doors has seen numerous developments, in addition to this recent raid, that represent what is now being referred to as an all-out “widespread crackdown” on church leaders and churches throughout China.
On Saturday (December 15), police raided a children’s Bible class at Rongguili Church in the southern city of Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong Province, and closed the church. And in September police closed the prominent Zion Church in Beijing led by Pastor Jin Mungri after the church refused to install surveillance cameras.
Additionally, the regulations also have played out in other ways:
- arrests of church leaders and church members
- Muslims and Christians sent to re-education camps
- the destruction and closure of unregistered churches
- anyone under 18 not allowed in churches
- the removal of crosses from church buildings
- requiring registered churches to install facial-recognition technology in many registered churches.
Praying With Believers in China
Recently, one of our 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:
- 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.
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