Persecution of believers in China has increased since the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. But the Chinese Church grows by an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 new believers each day, making it the largest revival in the history of the Church. The Cultural Revolution of the mid-sixties in China led to much oppression of Christians. All churches were closed and desecrated. It became illegal to hold Christian meetings and all forms of evangelism were forbidden. Christian homes were searched; Bibles and hymnals were either confiscated or burnt. Many believers lost their lives at the hands of the Red Guards and others were sent to remote labour camps.
In this very tightly-controlled, totalitarian society, every move was under scrutiny from local party officials. Despite such extreme opposition, there were many Christians who refused to join the government-controlled church, known as the 'Three Self Patriotic Movement' or TSPM. Instead, they met in small groups in their own homes. They were keenly evangelistic and also focused on worship, prayer and Bible study.
The church had gone 'underground': in some cases quite literally, meeting in caves or cellars! This basic pattern of a church not restricted to buildings has carried on. Meetings have continued to take place in courtyards or fields, sometimes late at night.
After 1979 when attempts to curb the growth of Christianity was seen to have failed, the TSPM opened a few city churches. Some believers welcomed the opportunity to worship more freely, but others continued to meet secretly, suspicious of the motives of the TSPM.
The persecution persisted and believers from house churches suffered many injustices, including fines and public beatings. Arrests and the confiscation of Bibles were reported in 16 out of a total of 30 provinces during the period 1982-1985. The post-Cultural Revolution era in China has been marked by an equally oppressive anti-religious policy.
This became even tighter after the tragedy of Tiananmen Square. Around 2,000 -3,000 people, protesting for reform and democracy, lost their lives, crushed by the tanks of the People's Liberation Army.
House church members had brought food for the protesting students and many showed their support for the Democracy Movement. One leader carried a ten-foot high cross into the Square, followed by his 50-strong congregation, singing hymns and handing out tracts. The aftermath led to even greater controls over the church, with leading hard-line figures condemning the 'subversive' nature of 'hostile foreign forces' associated with Christianity. As one official Chinese propaganda video states menacingly: "China must strangle the baby of Christianity while it is still in its manger."
But the revival flourishes in all provinces. Eighty million people have been baptised since the Communists took over in 1949, many in secret.
Signs and wonders accompany the powerful preaching of the gospel with many healings and miracles. Liberated worship in the open air in some areas amazes onlookers with its dancing, tambourines and gospel songs.
Street preaching can land leaders in prison, but it doesn't stop them sharing the love of Jesus inside with inmates getting converted! Itinerant evangelists also play an important part in spreading the word, on dirt tracks or highways, by bicycles or buses.
The power of the Holy Spirit is moving over all sections of society from, the remote rural regions to the cities. Tears, powerful intercession and spiritual release in tongues are increasing features of the reviving work.
This continues to alarm the authorities. In a meeting in March, 1992, of the Communist Party's propaganda department, Hu Qiaomu, an arch conservative, warned of the resurgence of religion.
"If this continues," he said, "there will be more religious believers than Communist believers."
From one million known Christians in 1949, there are now an estimated 60 million believers. Between 10,000 and 15,000 are added to the church each day! Numerically, it is the greatest revival in Church history and it is beginning to change the moral and spiritual climate of the most populated nation on the earth.
you can read more about how house Churches in China operate in this free ebook: http://gfelorg.weebly.com/principles-book.html
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon