1996) Church Declining? Not in China!

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The Chinese government takes down crosses; the number of Christians goes up

Churches across China are facing increased pressure to align with the Communist Party, including replacing crosses with the national flag and displaying pictures of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Chinese Christians gather for worship

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By Eric Metaxas and Stan Guthrie, on Breakpoint Daily, posted September 25, 2018, at:  http://www.breakpoint.org

     I want you to meet some brave Christian leaders pledging their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

     When thinking of the golden age of the Church, many of us hearken back to the book of Acts, when Peter and John stood up to the religious authorities, who told them to be silent about Jesus the risen Messiah.  “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God,” they answered, “you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”  Then they prayed for boldness, and the Church exploded across much of the ancient world.

     But there’s a golden age for the church going on right now—with the same kind of courage, persecution, and Spirit-empowered growth.  Where is it?  In communist China.

     World missions historians tell us that when all the foreign missionaries were kicked out of Mao’s China a few years after the Second World War, there were probably no more than 3 million believers in Jesus Christ in the whole, vast nation.  But today, seven decades later, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life counts 67 million Christians of all kinds—35 million independent Protestants, 23 million Protestants in government-sanctioned churches, and 9 million Catholics.  Other estimates go even higher.

     Whatever the true number is, it’s almost as many as there are members of the Communist Party!  Maybe that’s why the government is cracking down on Christians.  According to Christianity Today and other news outlets, Under President Xi Jinping, China’s government has been tightening its grip on religious affairs.

     In February, regulations aimed at religious groups have brought increased pressure on churches to be “Chinese” culturally and to submit to the authority of the Communist Party.  Churches are being told to burn their crosses and replace them with Chinese flags and to display slogans praising the Communist Party.  Some are being forced to join the government-sanctioned churches and permit video surveillance of their services.

     Meanwhile, in Jiangxi province, authorities have forced at least 40 churches to display banners forbidding foreigners from preaching and anyone under 18 from attending.  In August, they even published new rules stating, “Party members who have religious belief should have strengthened thought education.”

     In the spirit of Peter and John, a group of at least 250 Chinese pastors has publicly signed a joint statement opposing the new regulations.  In the statement they declare that Jesus is Lord of all, offering eternal life to anyone who will repent and believe in Him.

     But they also say, in a challenge to the Chinese communists, “God hates all attempts to suppress human souls and all acts of persecution against the Christian church, and he will condemn and judge them with righteous judgment.”

     Then, like Peter and John, they pledge obedience not to the earthly authorities but to King Jesus, no matter what.  “We declare that in matters of external conduct, churches are willing to accept lawful oversight by civil administration or other government departments as other social organizations do.  But under no circumstances will we lead our churches to join a religious organization controlled by the government, to register with the religious administration department, or to accept any kind of affiliation.”

   They close their incredible joint statement with the bracing yet sobering words, “For the sake of the gospel, we are prepared to bear all losses—even the loss of our freedom and our lives.”

     Friends, is it any wonder that the church in China has grown, and continues to grow?  What we’re seeing before our eyes is the golden age of the church in China.  How can we not pray for these wonderful brothers and sisters?  And more than that, how can we not emulate their costly faithfulness in our own little corner of God’s world?

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Acts 4:18-20  —  Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.  But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges!  As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

Acts 5:27-29  —  The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest.  “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said.  “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”  Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God and not men.”

I Thessalonians 2:4  —  On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel.  We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.

Matthew 10:28  —  (Jesus said), “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

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Faith of our fathers, living still
In spite of dungeon, fire and sword,
O how our hearts beat high with joy
Whene’er we hear that glorious word.
Faith of our fathers, holy faith;
We will be true to thee till death.

Our fathers, chained in prisons dark,
Were still in heart and conscience free;
And blest would be their children’s fate,
If they, like them should die for thee:
Faith of our fathers, holy faith;
We will be true to thee till death.

Faith of our fathers, we will strive
To win all nations unto thee;
And through the truth that comes from God
Mankind shall then indeed be free.
Faith of our fathers, holy faith;
We will be true to thee till death.

Faith of our fathers, we will love
Both friend and foe in all our strife,
And preach thee, too, as love knows how
By kindly words and virtuous life.
Faith of our fathers, holy faith;
We will be true to thee till death.

–Frederick William Faber  (1814-1863)

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