The administrative detention of two ministers of Beijing’s Zion Church by Chinese authorities earlier this month has prompted a response from Zion’s pastor: A letter to his congregation teaching the spiritual benefits of persecution.
“Those in chains for Christ will be completely free in Christ,“ wrote Pastor “Ezra” Jin Mingri, in an open letter to Zion Church members on May 1, co-signed by the church’s elders and other pastors. The letter describes the April 28 arrest of Zion Church minister Qie Jiafu and his sentencing two days later to 10-day detention. The detention of another Zion Church minister, Huang Chunzi, who was detained until May 9, was later discovered after the church released the letter.
“Pastor Ezra’s letter is extraordinary by modern standards,” says Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, “But in fact it is a good example of what was very common in the early days of the church, including the letters we see in the Bible: Pastors writing to their congregations, often from prison, helping them understand and rejoice in persecution and not be afraid.”
Photo from a Sunday service at Zion Church before it was banned by authorities.
File photo of Beijing Zion Minister Qie Jiafu (3rd from right), who was detained by authorities earlier this month until his release on May 10.
Representative Foley says that letters to her organization from persecuted pastors today often take the form of a cry for help or a request for legal or political intervention. Such requests are important, she says, but they can also overlook the pastor’s role to teach the congregation that persecution is an unavoidable part of the Christian life and that it is often God’s catalyst for individual and congregational growth. “In his letter, Pastor Ezra directs the congregation to pray that God uses the detention of Minister Qie Jiafu to bring revival to Zion Church. He assures the congregation that Minister Qie Jiafu himself is certainly being spiritually revived by God through his detention. And he says that persecution raises a question for believers: ‘What cost [price] does our faith deserve?’ It is a good question not only for Zion Church members but also for us,” says Representative Foley.
Representative Foley notes that Zion Church was one of Beijing’s largest megachurches, gathering more than 1,500 in attendance on Sundays until September 2018, at which point the building was shut down by authorities. Representative Foley says that since then the church has met outdoors and in small groups in believer’s homes, with authorities periodically detaining church leaders for various alleged offenses. “But Pastor Ezra’s letter shows something that we are seeing across China today in the churches where the Communist authorities are cracking down the hardest,” says Representative Foley. “Namely, those persecuted churches are become much stronger spiritually. As Pastor Ezra says in his letter, quoting the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:58, they are becoming ‘steadfast and immovable’. Church members are learning to worship indoors, outdoors, in their homes, in the streets, with ministers, without ministers, with their family members, and even in prison. It’s certainly not the outcome the authorities were expecting or hoping for. But it’s an outcome that we Christians should have been able to predict from reading the Bible.”
Zion Church lead pastor Jin Mingri's letter to the Zion Church congregation. (The letter, apparently dated May 1, 2020 in error, was released May 1, 2021.)
The full congregational letter from Pastor Jin to Zion Church follows.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Greetings from your grateful pastors,
The persecution which began in 2018 seems to have reemerged in Spring 2021. We have learned that many churches and Christians across the country have been raided. So grateful that God uses us—a small vessel and lets us have share in the hardship.
On the evening of April 28, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) security agents seized Minister Qie Jiafu. During the early morning of April 30, officials announced that he would be administratively detained for 10 days. Today marks the first day of his custody at the detention center. Many faithful stewards and maids of God in China have walked this path before Qie, and their path was tougher than today’s. We will witness that people who tread the path [of persecution] will bear good changes, for instance, God will refine their hearts, and build their characters. He will increase their love for Christ and hope for His kingdom.
We believe that our Lord is shaping our beloved Brother in this way.
Not only that, we with our detained Brothers and their families in Christ, pray. May the Lord answer our prayers to encourage them, comfort them, and accompany them. We look forward to the great joy of reuniting with them.
Please intercede with us for the following three prayer requests:
Pray that we may meet with Brother Qie soon. We went to the designated detention center, but officials couldn’t find Brother Qie’s information in their system. Detention center staff said that no visits nor phone calls are allowed during custody. Also, guards will not allow anyone to deliver anything to him nor deposit money (a small amount of money for the use at the detention center) on his account. We are making efforts in the hope that we will see Brother Qie soon.
Thank God for the protection over Brother Qie’s family, particularly the peace God has granted to his wife. His family has cancelled some of their big plans because of detention. At this time, Brother Qie cannot fulfill his responsibilities to his family. May the Lord give his family wisdom and stamina. Also, pray that the Lord dispatch many angels to help them.
Pray that God uses this recent turmoil to revive us. The event as such reminds us that spiritual warfare is fiercely taking place throughout this land. God compels each of us to think: What on Earth do we believe? What cost [price] does our faith deserve?
As long as we can breathe, we must preach the gospel, pastor flocks of sheep, and serve the world. Let us not forget the reminder from the disciples: “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” [1 Cor 15:58]
Jin Mingri, lead pastor of Zion Church
Pastors, Elders, and Committee of Zion Church
Representative Foley says the release of Minister Huang Chunzi on May 9 and Minister Qie Jiafu on May 10 was confirmed by contacts in China.
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File photo of Beijing Zion Minister Huang Chunzi (center), who was detained by authorities earlier this month until her release on May 9.