OVERVIEW: Explosive growth has characterized the church for at least the past 30 years. About 130 million Chinese are Christians, most of whom worship in illegal house churches. Only about 30 million are affiliated with the government authorized three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), the state church controlled by the Communist government. The remaining 70 million worship in unapproved house churches. Despite continual pressure and oppression from the Communist government, house church leaders refuse to compromise the gospel and join government-approved churches. About 60 percent of believers in China live in rural areas. Few house church leaders have formal theological training or access to Bible study materials.
MAJOR RELIGIONS: Because of decades of atheistic communist belief promoted by the government, most Chinese are nonreligious, though about 20 percent are Buddhist and another 20 percent practice Chinese folk religion.
PERSECUTOR: The main persecutor is the government.
WHAT IT MEANS TO FOLLOW CHRIST IN CHINA: Ten years ago, unregistered churches in China’s “house church” movement enjoyed a measure of acceptance by the government, but today things are much different. In February 2018, a new religious regulation led to increased government restrictions on unregistered churches. Hundreds of churches have been forced to close, pastors and church members have been arrested or detained and the online sale of Bibles is prohibited. A campaign to remove crosses from churches also continues in one province. In the past few years, the government has installed more than 170 million facial recognition cameras, many in or near churches, to identify those who attend worship services. Church leaders are under intense pressure to join the government-controlled church. If they refuse, the government often files false charges against them. In general, the farther Christians are from Beijing the more freedom they have. Authorities pressure Christian parents by refusing their children an education, and even the grandchildren of Christians are often denied schooling. It is illegal to teach religion to anyone younger than 18. Christians are often charged with participating in cults or with other spurious charges, such as “bad business practices” or “intent to undermine the state.”
ACCESS TO BIBLES: Those living in rural areas have little access to Bibles and usually can’t afford them even when they’re available. Bibles can be purchased at book stores operated by the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), the only state-sanctioned Protestant church, but rarely in bulk. Still, the average of 300,000 Bibles that VOM distributes each year makes only a tiny dent in the massive demand.
VOM WORK: VOM distributes Bibles in the least reached, most challenging areas of China. We distribute children’s Bibles, which are illegal, as well as study Bibles for Christian leaders, which are both illegal and expensive. We also supply literature to groups that are reaching Muslims in China.