Editor’s note: This year, China Partnership is praying for the church in China to hold fast. In the fall of 2022, we spoke with Chinese house church leaders and asked them how the global church can pray for and support them in 2023. They specifically asked that we pray that they would hold fast to Christ and to his promises in the midst of pressure, persecution, and uncertainty. We invite you to join us as we labor in love and prayer for the church in China.
This letter of encouragement was written after the author spent time with many Chinese believers in Jakarta, Indonesia, at a gathering of many believers from all over the Asia-Pacific region. These are his thoughts after a week with Chinese Christians.
We are like you in all things essential
It is humbling to know that Westerners have something to contribute to the Christ-following believers in China – especially our prayers. We are more confident we have a great deal to learn from your faithful way of life in the present evil day.
Recently, a mainland pastor shared his testimony and captured an important reality. This pastor pleaded, “Please do not treat us as a mission in need, but as partners in the same commission. Let us be fellow brothers, fellow sufferers, fellow sinners.” In other words, believers in China and believers in North America have far more in common than differentiates them.
This pastor pleaded, ‘Please do not treat us as a mission in need, but as partners in the same commission. Let us be fellow brothers, fellow sufferers, fellow sinners.’
It is not the case that believers in China are held captive by their government, while in North America Christians are free. The Bible never describes freedom in political terms: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Jesus never defines slavery in relation to governing authorities, but said, “Whoever commits sin is a slave to sin.” Every Christian’s struggle against sin determines the bounds of their freedom and slavery. East or West, the Babylon spirit of licentious indulgence grows ever stronger, spinning a global web to snare all but the faithful.
It is also an illusion that believers in China are the persecuted, while believers in the West are free. This misconception arises when we confuse economic license with spiritual freedom.
Every believer is called to be a willing outcast of the world: “Conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile.” In our nations, as in yours, we have to face the swelling riptide of atheist propaganda. Like you, we live in a godless land and must “redeem the time because the days are evil.”
We do not hate. Rather, we join you in praying for our enemies, for those who rule, for magistrates, police, and educators, asking that God would restrain or convert them.
We are unlike you in some important regards
Recently, my family had to evacuate during a raging forest fire, which destroyed 180 homes. In North America, we are in a spiritual firestorm. Unlike you, we are strangely unaware of our peril – neither ready to evacuate, nor to engage the fires.
In North America, we are in a spiritual firestorm. Unlike you, we are strangely unaware of our peril – neither ready to evacuate, nor to engage the fires.
When it comes to learning from persecution, we all confess we have growing to do. One of your pastors lamented, “Persecution is of no value if we don’t grow up in all things into Jesus Christ… so they will see our joy in suffering and ask why we are this way.” Yes, you have need of growth in the Spirit – yet you know the times and discern the spirits. On the other hand, for our part, we seem to imagine the current rise of evil is “just a phase that will pass.”
Would You Pray With Us Today?
You recognize the urgent need evangelize. For our part, we experience a guilty silence. Every believer is endowed to proclaim “the mighty works of God.” You heed these words. We do not.
Let us pray for one another
To return to the theme of our common life, as we suffer, serve, and witness together in the evil day – let us pray for one another! Recently, we prayed with four Mainland pastors. How beautiful when they prayed for those who pray for them in North America. I do not understand Chinese, but I was deeply moved.
As we suffer, serve, and witness together in the evil day – let us pray for one another! Recently, we prayed with four Mainland pastors. How beautiful when they prayed for those who pray for them in North America. I do not understand Chinese, but I was deeply moved.
In China churches are being broken up by persecution and are meeting in smaller groups. One of your pastors begged us to pray. He said, “We have a great need to develop more leaders.” Some pastors work 80 hours. We also have great need for more pastors and leaders, not just well-educated preachers, but men and women willing to forsake all to follow Jesus, to train leaders, and to evangelize.
The seals have been opened, the final trumpets are sounding. Together we cry out: how long, O Lord, how long? In the brief remaining time, with one voice and one prayer, together we cry out to God for boldness to make Christ known. “And when they had prayed…they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.”
Our faith is a global faith! We exult with you. “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
John Smed is the founding director of Prayer Current, an organization that helps leaders make multiplying disciples through prayer and evangelism. His conviction for prayer was born out of thirty years of experience in church planting and urban mission.
Pray for Chinese Christians to be encouraged by the Word of God and the testimony of his people around the world, that we have not forgotten them but labor for and with them in prayer.