Correlation between house churches and "Three-Self" Church in China has come into spotlight at a recent seminar hosted by a leading Taiwan-based Chinese mission and research organization. Dr. Chan Yu, a researcher at the China Ministries International (CMI), was one of the speakers at the seminar entitled "The Transformation and Renewal of House Churches in China." In the light of the rift between house churches and so-called government-sanctioned "Three-Self" church in China today as well as the persecution faced by the house churches, Chan was asked to comment on what is the greatest need of the house churches. "The most important thing for house churches today is to correct the misunderstanding of overseas churches, which usually consider them as anti-government organizations," Chan replied. "House churches have contributed a lot to the Chinese society. Christians have become the light and the salt at different places," Chan explained with some examples. In eastern China, a network of local house churches has organized some visits to old people, offering cleaning and catering services. Their work has touched many people. Some other house churches have also been making visits to hospitals, offering counseling to foreign students and helping grassroots workers. According to Chan, some Christian intellectuals have taken initiative to serve the country by providing advices openly to the government concerning the problem of the current religious regulation in China. The regulation has contradicted the Constitution of China in terms of religious freedom. In addition, the intellectuals have tried to draw the governments attention to some real cases of persecution against house churches, which should be well reported. "Today the development of house churches is very diverse. It is incomparable to the past when people misunderstood that house churches were just merely organizations made up of ignorant rural villagers and heretics," Chan argued. Chan admitted that heretics do exist in some cases, however, it is due to the lack of communication between house churches. "Because house churches do not have communication, they are very vulnerable when heretics try to infiltrate their congregation. Therefore, house churches need a open platform," suggested Chan. She added that some house churches have started to form networks in 1995 to 1998 and declared the statement of faith in an attempt to protect themselves from heretics, but not to oppose the government. Concerning the reasons why the house churches have refused to register with the government, Chan said that they refused to compromise with the limited religious freedom offered within the existing religious law in China. "The government has not treated the religious issue according to the Christian principle. For example, house churches believe that Christ is the head of the Church, but in current three-self system, the government has become the head," Chan pointed out the key issue. In particular, Chan criticized the restriction on evangelism within the "Three-self "system. "We are only allowed to evangelize people who come into the church, while evangelism outside the church is labeled as interfering others religious freedom," Chan complained. "The meaning of Three-Self today is totally different from that defined in the history, it is being twisted intentionally." read more: http://www.gospelherald.net/article/church/9841/expert-discusses-house-churches-three-self-church-and-religious-freedom.htm
_________________SI Moderator - Greg Gordon
I find this statement very interesting. "Because house churches do not have communication, they are very vulnerable when heretics try to infiltrate their congregation. Therefore, house churches need a open platform," suggested Chan. She added that some house churches have started to form networks in 1995 to 1998 and declared the statement of faith in an attempt to protect themselves from heretics, but not to oppose the government."So, is he saying because they do not have communications between each other they are vunlnerable to heretics infiltrating their congregation and spreading false doctrine?By open platform, does he mean freedom of religion within China? They are creating a statement of faith for all the churches they have networked with? And lastly, what does he mean, "but not to oppose the government?" Really appreciate any answers or insights that anyone has.
This issue interests me because I just finished reading "The Heavenly Man". This may not be a coincidence but surely God wants us to be aware of what is happening in the Christianity in China.I suggest you read "The Heavenly Man" so you can have a detailed understanding of the House Churches, the Three-Self church the government of China is promoting and the lives of Christians there especially that of Brother Yun (and his story).In the book, Bro. Yun mentioned that the Church of Christ at China started as House Churches unlike in the Western world church where there is an erected building where Christians could meet.You may ask, "Why not build the Christians build a church building there?". Unfortunately, such an idea is very difficult since the government are against it. The government were the ones who persecuted the Christians (some being sent to prison and even martyred). They thought that the Christians were against the government. Yet the government of China failed to stop Christians from spreading their faith.To lure out Christians and the leaders of the House Churches, the government set up what is called a Three-Self Church calling every church (Christian or not) to join in so they could have "religious freedom". But actually, the government was using it so that they can control the activity of the Christians, especially that of the House churches. Of course, by God's leading, the Christians in the House Churches did not gave in to this trap. Bro. Yun was one of the leaders of the House Church.By open platform, Chan might be saying that the House Churches all over China should be connected in some way so they could discuss and establish a statement of faith so that they could be one in their doctrine and faith. As stated in the book, the House Churches all over China are not as close when it comes to their location with each other. Their might be instances that some House Churches are drifting away from the true Gospel so they need to be connected some how. This was the goal of Bro. Yun. He and the different elders of the House Churches formed what is called as the Sinim Fellowship. Lastly, the government of China has a very watchful eye on the House Churches because they were the only ones who did not join the Three-Self Church of the government. The government is doing everything it can to prove that the House Churches are there to oppose the government (which of course is very untrue). We can see the motive of the House Churches in China: To exalt Christ and bring others to Him and NOT to oppose the government.Hope this helps.
_________________June Dick Espinosa
And lastly, what does he mean, "but not to oppose the government?"
That's what I was thinking, Natan and that is why I asked the questions. To see if this was an alert to anyone else.Can you say ecumenicalism for House Churches? Once identified, they can be even better infiltrated. Once everyone is known and life is easy, why they can be a church like America has. I did read Brother Yun, by the way. I hope the Chinese govt doesn't get wind of what Constantine did. We're stil in that hole, and some have climbed out.
The Church is most potent when it's most persecuted and pressed, driven underground.
From a friend:I agree that the so-called "Three-Self" church is merely a ploy by the Communist Chinese gov. to control the Church. Those who are serious about the Lord meet in houses instead. While house church members tend to be more serious Christians, some of the "Three-Self" sanctioned churches are quite God-fearing and are walking with the Lord. To some extent, the degree of freedom in the "Three-Self" churches depends on the regions of the country. Certain regional authorities may be lax in enforcing the regulations from the central gov, while others may exert more control then even the central gov mandated.... And the house churches are just as diverse as the denominations in the US. Keep in mind that the Chinese house churches do not exist because of vision of the Lord's purpose or an urge to return from Babylon; rather, they exist because they do not agree with the gov. control through the "Three-Self" churches. Many Western house church enthusiasts cite China's house churches as shining examples of the legitimacy and viability of the house church movement. But, I would venture to say that as soon as China removes regulations imposed on the Church, most of the house churches there will vanish to rejoin whatever denominational affiliations they have been comfortable with. And, there still are wide spread heretical teachings and practices in rural house churches mainly due to the ignorance and religiosity of the villagers who are easy prey to ambitious elements. Even in large cities, house churches tend to affiliate with whatever denominational backgrounds they feel comfortable with. And there are also a large segment of the house church that affiliate with independent churches such as W. Lee's Local Church, or other far out in the left field groups.... Regarding the statement: "Because house churches do not have communication, they are very vulnerable when heretics try to infiltrate their congregation. Therefore, house churches need a open platform, suggested Chan." I am not sure this is a viable solution to stem the heretics from infiltrating the congregation. It merely attempts to address a problem with a human solution. In my opinion, it only strengthens an existing bond between house churches that share a common denominational bias. And I wouldn't pretend to have a solution either - other than Christ being the Answer. One other thing about house church in China. Some time ago a dear brother relayed to me a conversation between him and an old mature bother in the house church there. When asked what the greatest need they had, the older brother said, "Please tell the brothers and sisters in the West not to pray for the removal of persecutions from the government" he continued, "for it is the life-blood of the church." As soon as the heavy hand of the government is lifted, he said the church would become complacent and fall.... I think this pretty much sums up the sentiment of the true remnants who know the Lord deeply. I have also heard this about the Believers in Vietnam. They say "don't pray for a stop to the persecution", but pray that we may remain strong and courageous.