Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. (Matthew 16:18 NLT)
In China, God is referred to as ‘Shangdi’ or the Highest Emperor, and ‘Tianzhu’ or the Lord of Heaven. The history of Christianity in China goes back to the 7th Century AD under the Tang Dynasty. The Taoist Emperor Wuzong in 845 AD, banned Christianity (along with Buddhism and Zoroastrianism). We do not know what form the persecution took, but by 986 AD, a monk reported to the Patriarch of the East:
“Christianity is extinct in China; the native Christians have perished in one way or another; the church has been destroyed and there is only one Christian left in the land.”
According to the most reliable surveys, China now has close to 70 million Christians. When the last of the foreign missionaries left China following the Communist takeover in 1949, they numbered around 1 million. With an annual growth rate of 10%, China will soon be the world’s largest Christian nation. This, despite state repression under Mao’s regime and later, unrelenting surveillance and control by the Chinese state.
Just as in the days of the early church, much of this growth has been achieved through the house groups. Though newspapers may show photos of the giant red crosses atop Chinese churches being dragged to the ground by an angry government, the Christians remain undaunted in their resolve to carry forward the truth of Jesus Christ.
When we read the alarming news of Christians fleeing their homelands in the Middle East or feel depressed about the decadence of ‘post Christian’ Europe, with their gay marriages, here we have a reason to rejoice. China is thirsty for the living waters of Jesus Christ. They have tasted Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, secular atheism and materialism – and found that nothing but Christ can fill the emptiness within.
All this proves that the gates of hell cannot prevail against the Church. Now with China’s soaring economic growth, we see Chinese travellers everywhere, touring the cities of the world. It will not be long before their Christians begin fulfilling the Great Commission of taking the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth. Let us pray for that to become a reality soon.
“Father, we thank You for all the wonderful news from China. We pray that more and more Chinese will receive Christ, and that the light of the gospel will extinguish all darkness in that land. So many parts of the world are hungry and thirsty for what they have. We pray that You will call forth many workers from China to gather in the harvest. Be with them and strengthen their faith. Grant them peace and safety. Help them to be a blessing to the whole world. For we ask this in Jesus’ name.”