Last week Chinese authorities demolished the building of the 3,000 member Anhui Three-Self Church in Funan. This week Voice of the Martyrs Korea and China Aid co-released Chinese government documents denying state churches in Zhejiang province the right to baptize, have an offering box, or conduct revival meetings.
Pastors there must now submit their sermons to authorities three days before preaching. But according to Voice of the Martyrs Korea representative Hyun Sook Foley and China Aid President Bob Fu, the growing number of crackdowns like these against the Chinese government’s own state-registered “Three-Self” churches are likely to boost the growth of house churches in China rather than reducing the number of Christians there.
The documents released by VOMK and China Aid in which the Chinese government denys state churches in Zhejiang province the right to baptize, have an offering box, or conduct revival meetings. [Source: China Aid]
“Voice of the Martyrs Korea and China Aid released documents last year detailing the efforts by the Chinese government to reduce the number of government-registered ‘Three-Self’ churches by two-thirds, and requiring the remaining state churches to significantly reduce their membership,”
notes Representative Foley.
“But historically, in China and around the world, outlawing baptism and closing state churches has not curtailed the growth of the church. Instead, it has driven that growth underground, where the church finds new stamina and purpose. We expect that same thing to happen in China, and we are already seeing evidence in the form of a surge in interest in home-based worship among Chinese Christians.”
“The key is going to be providing resources for teaching and worship to these believers who are being driven into their homes as their church buildings are being demolished all across China,”
says Rev. Bob Fu, president of Voice of the Martyrs Korea partner China Aid. Fu says that hundreds of churches in more than 30 Chinese provinces are now looking to shift as many of the teaching and worship responsibilities of their churches to lay leaders and parents meeting in small groups in members’ homes.
“Home meetings led by lay leaders and Sunday Schools led by parents are much harder for the government to stop,” says Rev. Fu. “The challenge will be equipping all these new home meetings with resources for healthy worship and discipleship.”
“Sunday School in a Box” campaign led by VOMK and China Aid —a package of materials designed to equip parents of all educational levels to teach the full scope of the Christian faith to their own children and relatives outside of church buildings.
Representative Foley says the informal church coalition approached Voice of the Martyrs Korea and China Aid with the idea of a “Sunday School in a Box”—a package of materials designed to equip parents of all educational levels to teach the full scope of the Christian faith to their own children and relatives outside of church buildings. VOM Korea and China Aid responded by committing to provide at least 5,000 such boxes to these churches within the next 12 months.
“The contents of the box were determined by the participating Chinese churches. They consist of materials that are still legal in some locations in China but not readily available: the leading legal children’s Bible in China, a compact video player, and a comprehensive curriculum of digital resources for parents and children. Because there is no underground printing operation involved and no central purchasing or distribution hub, it makes the cost higher than past centralized efforts. But it also makes the project much more difficult for Chinese authorities to stop or to oppose on legal grounds.”
Rev. Fu notes that each “Sunday School in a Box” is designed to reach an average of seven to ten children and to be used by parents and lay leaders, not ordained pastors or professional Christian educators.
Chinese authorities demolished the building of the 3,000 member Anhui Three-Self Church in Funan. (October 19th, 2019)
“For many years the Chinese church followed the Korean mega-church model,” he said. “Now Chinese Christians are realizing it is much easier to close one mega-church of 3,000 members than it is to stop 3,000 Christian parents from teaching their children and their neighbors’ children in hundreds of homes. This requires a shift in strategy and resources, but Voice of the Martyrs Korea and China Aid have committed to help provide Chinese Christians the tools to make this shift.”
Representative Foley says that the cost for one Sunday School in a Box is 75,000 KRW. Voice of the Martyrs Korea is challenging Korean churches and Christians to sponsor one or more boxes. China Aid is issuing a similar challenge to American churches.