These three things are true: Christ is coronated as king and has absolute lordship over all; the church has a heavenly nature; and—this is the result of the previous two realities—in the Spirit, the church is faithfully obedient to God.
The question Chinese churches face now is: what is the church? How are they to respond to their current situation?
Resurrection and ascension theology is at the core of the Chinese house church. For Chinese believers, if there is suffering, persecution, or pressure, then those things are actually about who the king is and their identity as a church.
Under all this persecution, the mentality of the Chinese church is that they are not here to survive, they are here to thrive. For the sake of the kingdom, they want to flourish. We see again and again that their response to persecution is worship. Worship is the mark of God’s people, and these believers never stop worship. Sunday after Sunday, they are trying many different ways to worship in the midst of many different situations. Some churches still meet in commercial, rented spaces. Others have now moved to focus more on meeting in households.
Only last night I received a message from a church who has had one of their preachers detained since last Sunday. He was released yesterday, on Friday. I received a photo of this church group, welcoming their pastor out of jail. These church members waited for him outside of the city’s detention center. When he came out, they went up to him, gave him flowers, and took a group photo. Although this was that pastor’s first time in jail, this is not the first time this has happened to this church. Although it is a cruel reality in China, we joke about it—the pastor is given five days in jail, then he has Saturday to prepare for the next Sunday’s sermon. Maybe next time he will a commentary book with him so he has more time to prepare for that weekend’s sermon!
Would You Pray With Us Today?
These churches respond to persecution with uncompromisable Sunday worship. Again, I will tell you about a church who celebrated Christmas last year by publicly singing Christian songs. For that, they were taken to the police station. After they were released, they also took a picture as a celebration of their Christmas evangelism. In the back, again you see the police station. Other times, pastors meet online to try and go deeper with one another as they equip themselves to serve.
In the summer of 2020, under a situation of persecution and pandemic, a church in southeastern China was able to plant five new churches. A young brother whose wife is a florist and artist became the pastor of one of them. They sent me photos of their service, which showed the incredible amounts of effort, love, and intentionality they put into decorating their space. Although they know they can be kicked out of their space at any time, still, they poured their heart into it. This is beautiful. That church began with about 30 people, and has now grown to more than 80.
I want to reiterate what I have already shared again and again and again.
First, persecution is about the coronation of the king, Jesus Christ, and his lordship. We do not see this, as it is invisible, but it is real. Christ’s lordship is just as real as the government of the United States or the Chinese Communist Party. We are only awaiting the day when this invisible kingdom will appear before our eyes.
The second thing is that, in the Spirit, we follow Christ. The Holy Spirit is here and leads us. That is why we pray. Through the Spirit, Christ returned to his people. Eventually, he will return in bodily form and we will see him with our eyes.
Third and finally, our obedience and faithful following of Christ is the result of these first two realities. Chinese churches are not praying to “leave Jerusalem”; they are not praying for their suffering to be removed. They see that these things are an integral part of being united with Christ.
Suffering is a part of our kingdom identity. It is how the kingdom advances. Yet, we do not seek suffering: we seek Christ.
As we come before you, your Spirit is moving through us. We come and ask that the power of the gospel—the felt reality of your resurrection, ascension, and kingship—will be the same experience we have as we follow your path. Help us to taste your Son; help us to touch the Spirit in our prayer, our daily walk with you, and our reading of Scripture. We ask this so that we can be a living testimony to the resurrected king until the day you come again.
In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.
Muxi Zhang is a pseudonym for a China ministry veteran who has in-depth and extensive ministry experience.
FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION
Pray for the Chinese church to be more deeply united with Christ through the hardships they face.