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Chinese House Church Leader Samuel Lamb Dies

August 7, 2013 by Open Doors in General

Chinese House Church Leader Samuel Lamb Dies

One of the most well-known Christian leaders in China, Pastor Samuel Lamb, died on Saturday (Aug. 3) in Guangzhou, at the age of 88.

He had been arrested during one of the first big waves of persecution in Mao’s China and was first imprisoned from 1955 to 1957, when estimates put the number of Christians in the country at a few million.

Lamb, also translated from the original Chinese as “Lam,” was targeted by the government because of his refusal to merge his illegal house church into the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, the state-regulated protestant church. In an effort to control him, the Chinese authorities sentenced him a second time in 1958, where he spent 20 years in labor camps.

He saw his wife for the last time during the five months that he was on remand; she died in 1977, a year before Lamb’s sentence ended.

After his release, he again took up his work as a pastor, during which he was able to witness the exponential growth of the Chinese Church.

In 1979 he started his house church on 35 Da Ma Zhan in Guangzhou. Attendance grew quickly, and he had to move his congregation to a bigger building in the same city. Today his urban house church is still unregistered, but tolerated by the authorities. Pastor Lamb became an example for millions of believers in China, where today estimates say there are now about 80 million Christians. Some estimates claim one tenth of the population is Christian.

The story of Pastor Lamb’s life is one of God’s clear calling. Samuel Lamb (or Lin Xingiao in Chinese) was born in 1924 to Chinese Christian parents in a mountainous area overlooking Macau on the southern coast of mainland China. His father pastored a small Baptist church, so Lamb was raised as a Christian and began preaching when he was 19.

He was first imprisoned in 1955, his sentence lasting almost 18 months. In 1958, he was again arrested and ended up behind bars for 20 years, where he spent twenty gruesome years in labor camps, mostly working in coal mines. Despite the harsh punishments, Lam continued to preach and teach.

Lamb saw China change in the past decades and that Christians are now granted more freedom. The government used to forbid Christian leaders to preach about the second coming of Christ and to teach minors under 18-years-old.  Lamb’s theology challenged the government and the attendees of his church, as well as other Christians inside and outside China. He taught that Christians should obey the government unless those leaders directly opposed God with their law enforcement. “The laws of God are more important than the laws of man,” he used to say. Suffering played an important part in many of Lamb’s sermons. He was famous for repeating, “More persecution, more growth.” That phrase had not only to do with numbers of believers, but also with spiritual growth.

“I can understand Job’s victories and Job’s defeats,” Lamb once reflected. “It taught me that grumbling does not help. Not against God, not against those who persecuted me. My dear wife died while I was in prison. I was not allowed to attend her funeral. It was like an arrow of the Almighty, until I understood-God allows the pain, the loss, the torture, but we must grow through it.”

Pastor Lamb wanted to make sure that Christians do not too easily assume that nothing will happen to them. Even though his congregation is still illegal, it hasn’t been raided in years. But he always remained cautious about the government. He always warned, “We must be prepared to suffer. We must be prepared for the fact that we may be arrested. Before I was sent to prison, I already prepared a bag with some clothes, shoes and a toothbrush. When I had to go to the police station, I could just pick it up. I was ready. People are still being arrested. You don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Today the authorities are not bothering us, but tomorrow things may be different. I pray that we will receive the strength to stand firm.”

To reach the church of Pastor Lamb in Guangzhou today, you have to zigzag through the narrow streets of the city. It is not a detached church building, but simply a block of three-story houses. In a neighboring block, another two stories also serve as part of the church. Four services are held each week with as many as a thousand people at each service. “I no longer preach at all the services, you know, only once a week,” he said earlier this year. For this preaching, he sat in one of the little rooms on the top floor of the complex. In the other rooms, which would be filled from wall to wall with wooden benches, there were television screens on which the sermon could be followed.

His memory used to occasionally let him down, but with a broad smile on his face, he regularly received international visitors to his house church-travelers, journalists, consuls and other high-ranking people.  Every Sunday after service, Chinese pastor Samuel Lam invited foreign guests into his office and almost without listening to the questions asked, began to tell the story of his life, which he summarized in this one “holy principle”-“More persecution, more growth.” Lam became an example for millions of Chinese believers, as well as Christians in many parts of the world. A book about him has been published in America.

In the 1980s, 90s and early 2000s, Lam proved to be a reliable partner for Open Doors. Through his network over 200,000 pieces of Christian literature found their way to Chinese believers. His death leaves a hole in the Chinese Church. Together with other renowned figures like Wang Mindao and Allen Yuan, he symbolized the bravery of a Church that grew at an unprecedented speed in world history. Long after his passing it will be said in many churches that more persecution only has one outcome-more growth.

Father, we praise Your name for the rich testimony of Pastor Samuel Lamb who led Your people in China through decades of persecution and who saw Your power and authority in their midst as the church grew exponentially during that time. Even as we grieve his passing from our midst, we rejoice in his current freedom in Your very presence. Bring comfort to his family and church, Lord, as they mourn .Thank You for sharing him with us for these many years that we all might be challenged to turn our eyes from our own trials to Your purposes as we live out our daily lives, whether in the midst of persecution or in freedom. Thank You for using this faithful servant to grow Your church in China when he was in prison and when he was free to pastor his flock. Now, as he has passed the baton to others in China, empower them to lead Your church with courage and faith. Indeed, may we all, Christians across the globe, take up that same baton wherever we are and “run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” In the name of Jesus who bestows His power and authority on the church. Amen.

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