For us in countries where Christianity has been established for many years, even hundreds of years there is much to learn from the vibrant moving of God's Spirit in China1. Though just one hundred years ago England and other countries were the basis of where God was teaching and sending out missionaries, this has all but switched now where China and other countries2 are becoming the teachers for us and examples of trusting God in an apostolic and Biblical way.
It is hard to narrow down some of the reasons for the success and growth of the underground Church movement in China yet from reading many accounts and testimonies from servant leaders there seems to be some focal points in the life of the Church that we can learn from.
May we humble ourselves in the West and other countries to realize we are in great need to learn from these precious believers who are giving up material gains and success to be rather rich towards God3 and His kingdom.
Focal Point 1 - Dependence On The Moving Of The Holy Spirit
For many in the North American Church there is a hesitancy to speak much of depending radically on the moving of the Holy Spirit4. For many sincere Bible believing Christians this terminology brings to mind many excesses of the worst kinds. Whether it's the selfish seeking after the Spirit of God for a feeling5, an anointing to enjoy for ourselves6, some sort of extravagant healing such as gold in the teeth or other blatant extra-biblical manifestations that grieve the heart of God. The Devil our enemy makes a Pseudo7 of the genuine in attempts to deceive8 some and deter others. Some in these charismatic circles claim the Chinese church is experiencing the same manifestations, but this is not true.
The underground church relies upon and even expects that when the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is declared that there will be a verification at times with great signs and wonders9. This dependence on the Holy Spirit to move, direct, guide and verify the Gospel is Biblical and needed in our Church here in the West. It was not unusual for healing's to occur in every village that the pioneers of the house church movement went into when they driven all across China because of the persecution. It must be asked in our lives, how much do we rely and depend on the Holy Spirit truly on a daily basis?
Focal Point 2 - Jesus Christ As Lord and Head
The Chinese Christians see the Gospel of Jesus's death and resurrection in all their activities. Out of a great love for this Saviour they speak to Him and of Him often to everyone they meet. The simplicity of the message of the Cross of Christ has gripped them and persecution has allowed the Church as a whole to keep this as their main message. In every meeting of the underground Church, Jesus Christ is given the rightful place as head10 of the meeting and He is recognized in the midst11.
The urgency to share Jesus Christ with the world is deeply engrained in all the believers hearts as well as believing and proclaiming the soon literal coming of the Lord. We can learn much from this example to keep the message simple12 and to not be as much focused on our church programs, ministries and resources. When Jesus Christ becomes the centre and head of the Church again the message is simple, the way plain and the power is given13 by the Holy Spirit to accomplish the task spreading the Gospel14.
Focal Point 3 - The Theology of Suffering And Martyrdom
As the underground church in China has been baptized in a fire of intensely severe persecution this has produced a revelation of the theology of suffering with Christ15. They have realized that all suffering is because of Christ and for Christ16. It was clearly told to the Apostle Paul that he was persecuting directly Jesus Christ when he was persecuted the early Church believers17. There is a willingness in the Church in China to suffer for Christ as simply part of being a believer. It is accepted that it is the will of God at times to suffer18 and even expect severe persecution at times. This type of suffering produces a joy and sense of privilege that they are willing to identify with their precious Lord that has saved them19.
Also suffering persecution has not built a resentment for China or its government but rather a deeper love for all the Chinese who are simply sinners in need of God's great love20. We in the West need to deeply learn and try and understand this lesson that we are to love our enemies as our Lord taught us. And as the spirit of Antichrist and persecution comes to us we need to learn the same theology of martyrdom21 that this young underground Church has so well learned.
Focal Point 4 - God Actually Answers Prayer
In the West, prayer is treated as the second or the last thing we do before God so He can help fulfill our in many cases, carnal plans. With thousands of books written on prayer we still have not placed prayer as the most important Christian activity we do as the corporate and private church. We have special times for prayer once in awhile and consider that God should hear us and then go back to normal without an intense reliance on God through prayer.
The house church movement in China has all its growth form the base of intensely fervent prayer22. Whole congregations cry out to God with weeping and tears in intercession for the lost in their country and for their persecutors23. Such passionate praying will shock and disturb many of us in the West yet the Church there truly believes that God answers real genuine prayer. As the widow who cried out to the judge24, so this House Church Movement cries out to God day and night and God hears them. If we realized that God would hear such praying we would spend much more time as a Church in the West in the blessed place of prayer and intercession. Persistent intercessory prayer can happen in many underground meetings for up to three to four hours at a time in duration.
One underground Church pastor upon returning back to China stated to his movement: Our brothers in the West know how to plan, but we know how to pray.
Focal Point 5 - The Body Of Christ Is The Church
In the West we are pre-occupied with the concept of a building as the Church and we are members of the Church i.e. the building or organization. Yet in the early Church and Biblical record, God calls the people the Church25! Even one of our main desires in the mission field can be to want to build a building for believers, but this is not really always helpful. The true work of God is not dependent fully on money and resources to grow but rather on hearts that have been impacted by the Gospel of our Lord.
No structures, except the living structure of the body of Christ are necessary in the underground Chinese church. Almost the entire movement does not rely upon or have buildings but rather they make use of fields, caves26 and namely homes. What is important to them is the people of God and such was the burden of the Apostle Paul27. Part of this belief also strongly ties into the priesthood of all believers. They do not believe in leadership that controls the body of Christ but rather serves and equips it.
Focal Point 6 - A Love For God's Words
We take for granted the often dozen Bibles or more each Christian family owns in the West. We read Bible translations until we get bored with one and move onto another. We buy Bibles here for the style and look and other vain reasons. Yet the majority of our Bibles are not worn, marked, and memorized as the valuable possessions they actually are.
Bibles in the underground Church in China are scarce at times, and it is common that fellowships have handwritten copies of verses and epistles similar to the early Church days. The Chinese love their Bibles greatly and treat them as the most cherished item in the world that they own or have. Some of the current servant leaders in the Church would travel a day to just to be able to borrow and read a Bible and then travel back to their home. Most preaching especially in the earlier days of the movement was from memory, verses they memorized.
How much do we love God's word here in the West? Do you spend hours with your Bible reading over and over its truths? May God wake us from our spiritual slumber to see the true eternal value of the Word of God.
Focal Point 7 - The True Mission Of The Church
The closing words of Jesus Christ to His early disciples for their mission of making disciples of the nations, has also become the mission of the Chinese Church28. Even the newest converts in the underground Church get the immediate burden to tell everyone of the great Saviour of China and the world. Every Christian is encouraged to witness daily and do the work of an evangelist. Therefore they do not just rely on a special few as missionaries but the entire underground Church of China is a throbbing missionary movement spreading the glorious Gospel of our Lord.
Though we have many special emphasis's for missions and spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ, do we have the same burden for this mission as the early disciples did? May we learn in the West that the entire Church meaning everyone of us, is an missionary called to spread this Good News to everyone in our Nations and the entire world.
The underground Church in China has flourished and grown under the continual guidance and dynamic leading of the Holy Spirit of God. May God birth a similar movement here apart from any specific denomination or Church. May God raise up the body of Christ to all be active, unified and growing in the Good News of our risen Lord.
1 Speaking of the underground unregistered Church in China estimated at 100 million as a recent move of God's Spirit.
2 Many Asian and countries in Africa, South America, etc. God is raising up servant leaders who are allowing the body of Christ to be led by the Spirit of God and bear much fruit (John 15).
3 Luke 12:21
4 In The Book of Acts the Church was birthed, led, sustained and grew in the power of the Holy Spirit.
5 2 Timothy 3:4
6 Acts 8:18-19
7 2 Corinthians 11:15
8 Matthew 24:24
9 Romans 15:19
10 Colossians 1:18
11 1 Corinthians 5:4
12 2 Corinthians 11:3
13 Acts 1:8
14 Matthew 28:16-20
15 1 Peter 4:1-2
16 John 15:18-20
17 Acts 9:5
18 1 Peter 4:19
19 Acts 5:41
20 John 3:16
21 It would do use well to read accounts of martyrs a helpful book to read which is readily accessible is: Foxes Book Of Martyrs.
22 James 5:16
23 Philippians 3:18
24 Luke 18:7
25 Ephesians 4:12, Ephesians 2:19-22
26 Hebrews 11:38
27 1 Thessalonians 2:19
28 Matthew 28:16-20
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon