Church leaders in China have vowed to continue spreading the gospel even if police continue shutting down all the underground churches in the region, warning pastors not to hold any more meetings or face arrest.
Open Doors, an organisation that serves persecuted Christians worldwide in more than 60 countries, met with Chinese church leaders recently to listen to their stories and testimonies of what is currently happening in the world’s most populous country.
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, Open Doors reported.
China’s constitution guarantees religious freedom, but since President Xi Jinping took office several years ago, the government has tightened restrictions on Christianity seen as a challenge to the authority of the ruling Communist Party.
“Anti-China forces in the West are trying to continue to influence China’s social stability and even subvert our country’s political power through Christianity, and it is doomed to fail,” a senior government official in China said earlier in March, speaking to parliament’s largely ceremonial advisory body.
China has been following a policy it calls the “Sinicisation” of religion, trying to root out “foreign influences” and enforce obedience to the Communist Party.
A pastor told Open Doors: “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.”
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 told Open Doors 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.
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.”
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