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Churches in China: Complex, Confusing, Convoluted! By Don Boys, Ph.D., Posted July 15, 2013       

tn_chinese_church.jpgChina has a complex, confusing, and convoluted religious structure; however, there is no question that it is having one of the greatest revivals in history! There are more real Christians in China than in America! Chinese Christians have been crushed since the Reds took over (with the help of the U.S. State Department!) in 1949, and that persecution has resulted in prodigious spiritual fruit. Could the "good life" that U.S. churches have experienced be one reason we aren't seeing much fruit in America?

 

The Chinese leaders are atheists who hate the churches but realize that it is impossible to wipe out all Christians, so they are trying to control them through registration.  (In the U.S. the powers-that-be control churches through 501(c) (3) status!) The Chinese leaders consider all groups they cannot control as a threat to their power which, of course, is true.

 

The Religious Affairs Bureau tries to control all religion and insists that all churches register with the Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM). Three Self refers to self-supporting, self-perpetuating, and self-governing.  “Self-governing!” That’s a joke but Christians aren’t laughing--only languishing in prison. 

 

The Communist leadership permits registered churches to exist but doesn't permit worship outside of the approved churches and limited designated hours. It is illegal to teach the Bible to children  under 18, and preaching "excessively" about the Second Coming of Christ and other eschatological issues is also frowned upon. Admittedly, TSPM has many dedicated Christians and many evangelical pastors; however, they are controlled in many areas of religious activities. And that control varies from city to city and time to time.

 

On the other hand, there are millions of Chinese Christians who refuse to register with the government and they meet in illegal “house churches.” China has far more of these illegal churches than there are legal, registered churches. In the U. S. and Canada, almost all churches are registered through incorporation. 

 

According to Christianity Today (Feb, 2013), “Most Protestants in the ‘house church’ movement have vast theological differences with the TSPM and view its leadership as complicit in past and ongoing persecution.” But the defining issue between the two groups is registering with the government thereby getting official approval to do God’s work.

 

UPI on February 6, 2004 reported that China’s official Protestant denomination boasts that the Communist government is giving $3.5 million to help build two large church buildings each of which will seat 1500 people. So the Commies (haven’t heard that word in a long time, have you?) have decided that they can’t destroy them so they will join them as long as they can control them. And those capitulating Chinese Christians don’t know that what the government (any government) funds, it runs.

 

To qualify as a "registered" church they must have a committee of five to run the church and the committee must be approved by the Religious Affairs Bureau. Moreover, the pastor must have the approval of the TSPM. Alex Buchan says there are three formal restrictions called the "three designates" that govern the churches. They are: "designated pastor, designated place of worship, and designated sphere of ministry."  In some provinces an approved church must have a preacher's certificate, a baptism certificate, and a registration certificate, all issued by the Three Self Patriotic Movement! They must also use only books that are government approved.

 

All thinking Christians would conclude that those restrictions are outrageous; however, many Chinese Christians in the government-approved churches defend them as progress! They are quick to point out that official churches did not exist 25 years ago, and since 1990, they have increased from 6,000 to more than 13,000 churches under state control. Their membership during that time has increased from 5 million to almost 15 million. So what's the big deal about some state control? It seems that American pastors ask the same question!  

 

While there are many committed Chinese Christians in the registered churches (as there are in U.S. registered churches) there are still massive problems, not the least of which is the Scriptural position of Christ as Lord of His church. If the government (any government) is head of the church, it is impossible for Christ to be. After all, anything with two heads is a monstrosity.

 

One pastor told about Religious Affairs Bureau officials who came to his legally registered church and sat in the front where they drank beer, smoked and talked while TSPM pastors treated them royally and almost kissed their rings. As a result, numerous laymen left the church to join with illegal "house church" Christians.

 

Millions of dedicated Chinese Christians have done the same thing: They refuse to be identified with registered churches and have fled them to serve Christ and worship in illegal "house churches," and to suffer the consequences.  Government persecution of churches is not simply a few political thugs throwing their weight around but is a definite policy of the Communist Government to take control of all religious institutions. They have discovered that the “house churches” are impossible to control and have stepped up harassment, arrests, fines, beatings, loss of jobs and property, detention, rape and torture while detained, and long prison terms–for refusing to register down at the local commissar’s office.

 

These committed Chinese Christians are excellent examples to Christians in the free world who are members of approved, accredited, and accommodating churches. Most of these Christians in the free world are so uninformed that they don’t even know there is an issue of cowardice, compromise, and capitulation.

  

Copyright 2013, Don Boys, Ph.D.

 

More articles and bio for Dr. Don Boys...

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