In China, new restrictions on religious Internet content are set to go into effect on March 1. Observers are noting that the restrictions are already having a chilling effect on Chinese Christians’ online activity. But one Chinese street evangelist is taking his bold message online and encouraging Chinese Christians to stay calm and keep on posting.
Evangelist Chen Wensheng, who was detained more than six times in 2021 for his street preaching in Hengyang, Hunan, took to social media earlier this month with a post entitled, “How Should Christians Respond to the Measures for the Administration of Internet Information Services”.
“In his post he rebuked Chinese Christians for already changing their chat names and online IDs and shortening or dropping words like ‘Jesus’, ‘God’, and ‘amen’ from their online posts, and even dropping out of online Christian groups completely,” says Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley. “He shared scriptures to encourage the believers to be bold, and he gave them a strong challenge to bring their light to the darkest place they can find, which includes the Chinese Internet.”
Representative Foley said that Evangelist Chen’s online message was more than fiery street preaching, however.
“Evangelist Chen said Chinese Christians need to have a basic understanding of law,” said Representative Foley. “He noted that the new regulations were technically ‘measures’ and did not yet have the force of law, nor had they yet been enforced to persecute Christians. He sees the new measures as a ‘win-win’ situation for Christians: If they continue to preach about Jesus online, any efforts to stop them can be declared illegal because the measures are unconstitutional. But if they are persecuted, then they can joyfully testify about Jesus to their persecutors.”
According to Representative Foley, this is the strategy Evangelist Chen uses in his own street ministry.
“On December 27, the community and local police, State Security officers, United Front Work Department, other government department officials, and the newly appointed district party committee secretary went to Chen Wensheng’s home to speak with him about his street preaching,” said Representative Foley. “Evangelist Chen saw it as a great opportunity to preach the gospel to them. This is what he did in each of his many prior detainments, so his advice to Chinese Christians comes from his own experience of joyfully testifying to the authorities in response to their efforts to stop him.”
Chinese street evangelist Chen Wensheng
Chinese street evangelist Chen and his 84-year-old mother on the streets of Hengyang preaching the Gospel
Representative Foley said the scriptures Evangelist Chen shared in his recent online message to Chinese Christians included 2 Timothy 1:7 (“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline”), Hebrews 10:35 (“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded”, and Ephesians 6:10 (“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power”).
According to Representative Foley, “Evangelist Chen says, ‘The darkest place is where light is most needed. The place with the worst persecutions is the place where the gospel is most needed. The place with the least justice is where God’s righteous judgment is needed the most! Do you dare to come to such a place? Dare to come to preach the gospel?’”
“In the Bible, the Lord raised up judges each time his people faced trouble,” says Representative Foley. “Evangelist Chen Wensheng seems to be the unlikely ‘judge’ that the Lord is raising up to calm Chinese Christians in the face of these sweeping new Internet restrictions. Years ago he was a drug addict. When he heard the gospel, he became a new creature in Christ and began preaching the gospel on the streets. He is a member of a small church, and yet because he has been faithful through his many detentions in Hengyang, the Lord is giving him more responsibility, to calm and challenge Christians across China in this crucial hour.”
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Chinese street evangelist Chen Wensheng and a family of Christians at church