A young American man travels to a Chinese college on a mission to share Christ. A young Chinese woman travels to an American college, hears the gospel message and accepts Christ. Years later the two meet in China, where they are both serving Christ.
They marry, start a family, and dedicate their lives to serving God in China despite the constant hardships. “We are always facing stress and obstacles and attack. But God is faithful through it all. We turn to God every day.”
Matt and Anna* are serving in a large city as part of a house church of around 200 members, most of whom heard and accepted the gospel as college students. As parents of young children, Matt and Anna have made natural connections with these other young families who are seeking truth and meaning for their life.
Being a Christian today in China can be challenging. But the believers who are faithful are fervent in their faith. Matt says, “There are no ‘pew-warmers’ in China. If you are in church, you really want to be there. There is no one going to church for social reasons or status, because being a Christian does not improve your social status.”
In Chinese society, Christianity is looked down on. The schools teach atheism, and the Chinese people in general are far more interested in self-advancement than in sacrificing self for the overwhelming value of accepting Christ. Matt tells us, “Most men see their job as making money. It’s the number one barrier to becoming a Christian. They say, ‘If I say yes to Christ, will that inhibit my ability to make money, to support my family?’ Because it might. To get the best jobs, you need to be a communist party member, and if you’re a party member, you shouldn’t believe in God.”
Christian persecution is on the rise in China as the church grows. House churches are facing increasing pressure – some have been raided and their members imprisoned. Anna says, “Many people are awakened through persecution and come to love God more.” There is a government-sanctioned Christian church in China, but they are directly controlled by a department of the government. House churches resist government control as they recognize that Christ is the head of the church.
While they are illegal, house churches in China are generally accepted. They preach the gospel, teach the children, worship regularly, and have small groups for personal growth. But they are careful. House churches don’t keep a membership list, don’t keep the church’s money on hand, and they do have back-up plans for continuing even if the government tries to shut them down. Most house churches worship in homes or office buildings to stay off the radar of government officials.
Many of the believers at Matt and Anna’s church have had to make sacrifices for their faith. They have a full-time pastor, which is unusual in China. That man gave up a secure professorship to become a pastor. “When he made a decision to quit his job, his co-workers and parents thought he was crazy. Why would he quit a stable and prestigious job to serve as a pastor? Being a pastor is basically viewed as being unemployed in China – a very shameful thing. But eventually he led his family to the Lord, and they understand his passion.” His job as pastor is doubly challenging as churches generally don’t plan to support a pastor. Matt says, “the concept of giving money is virtually unknown in China. Pastors are challenged to teach the concept of tithing to people who have never considered giving financial support to anyone outside of their immediate family. It’s hard. Christians really have to grow to be willing to give money away.”
Virtually everyone in a house church is new to the faith. In the cities, they are made up of young educated people who heard the gospel in college. In rural areas, church members are older, often uneducated. Religion has been suppressed for so long in China, that there is very little remaining history of the Christian faith, particularly in the urban areas. A friend of Matt’s became pastor at a rural church at age 14. The congregation was largely illiterate, but this young man could read and the people in the church wanted to hear the gospel. God used this pastor in mighty ways, and now, in addition to pastoring a house church in an urban area, he leads a network of rural churches.
“There is a great need for training of pastors in China,” Matt says. “While there are a few seminaries, they are operated by the government, which makes their teaching suspect. A few underground seminaries have been started, but they are quickly shut down.” In addition, there is very little access to quality biblical resources, and it can be difficult to find a Bible in China.
In spite of the many years of persecution in China, God’s Kingdom continues to grow as the Chinese people are presented with the gospel message. It is estimated that there will be more Christians in China than in any other country in the world by 2030. God’s power and presence is being revealed to millions of believers in that country as the gospel message spreads.
LMW invites you to pray for the gospel in China. Matt and Anna ask that we pray specifically:
- For their safety and health. China is very polluted, and their family has struggled with respiratory issues.
- For the Christian home school program they have started – that more parents will have the courage to send students to them, and for the safety of the school, students, parents, teachers.
- For a change in the mindset of the Chinese leaders, to see that Christians are good people who desire to influence Chinese society in positive ways.
* The missionaries’ names were changed to protect their identity.
NOTE: LMW has long been active in getting resources for teaching and preaching into China. Much of The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible® has been translated into Chinese, and some of the volumes are available on the free Chinese Bible app, WeDevote. We anticipate having the Chinese language Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible available on the LMW App by 2020.