The Effects of Pandemic and Persecution on the Church

Editor’s note: The last few years have intensified the pressures faced by many Chinese Christians. What has the effect of this persecution and pandemic been? Here, Chinese pastors present six reflections on how this season has impacted the current state of the Chinese house church.


#1: Building a Healthy Church Can Be an Idol

Over the past decade, because we are convicted of the power of the gospel, each of us pastors had the expectation that we would successfully plant a healthy church. At times, building a healthy church has become an idol. As we have striven to build these churches, sometimes our church bodies have become inward-focused; we concentrated only on internally building up our own churches. When we have this inward focus, the church becomes unhealthily centered on our own congregation. This warrants vigilance.

Outwardly, the [political] situation of the past few years has also posed a great challenge to the establishment of these idealized healthy churches. Even so, the external situation also gives us a good opportunity to reflect and adjust.

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”“We have often heard that persecution brings revival, but no revival has been spotted. The initial wave of persecution has slowly subsided, and now people seem to have become accustomed to this ‘pandemic prevention.’ Overall, it seems the church is lukewarm.”

#2: The Church Is Lukewarm

Under government policies of harassment, persecution, and so-called “pandemic prevention,” the living space for the church has been squeezed. Communication between churches has also been declining. Everyone seems to be “contextualizing.” We have often heard that persecution brings revival, but no revival has been spotted.

The initial wave of persecution has slowly subsided, and now people seem to have become accustomed to this “pandemic prevention.” Overall, it seems the church is lukewarm. Church members are pessimistic about the political outlook within China. Many are narrowly focused on their own lives as they search for a way out. There is a lack of kingdom vision and of kingdom mindsets.

#3: Chinese Community Has Been Confined and Compressed

Whether because of persecution or because of “pandemic prevention,” the richness of humanity is diminished as community life and human interaction are reduced. In reality, this is an all-round deprivation of humanity. Within the church, the communion of saints has been challenged. Humanity is confined and compressed. All this makes people prone to live with a certain level of depression. Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, anger, and powerlessness are fostered. Although we have already been adjusting to the current reality for a long time, we still cannot truly accept it.

#4: The Difficulties of Pastoring in Pandemic and Persecution

Although our enthusiasm has not diminished, pastoring in the midst of pandemic and persecution remains very difficult. While worship services cannot be conducted normally, the focus remains on preaching God’s word. Many co-workers are weak, with stress from life, work, family, and faith. Those teaching at universities have to fill out regular surveys regarding religious beliefs, and each month, they have to show up at appointments to be questioned by authorities regarding religion. Many are afraid to open their home to host gatherings.

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”“Pastoral depression is prevalent, and we ministers begin to cast our future hopes on finding relief… As pastors leading churches, we are faced with a question: ‘What are we to do?’”

Pastoral depression is prevalent, and we ministers begin to cast our future hopes on finding relief from the external environment (we wish for new government leadership). This process has revealed that some strong believers are continuing to gain strength, and that the Holy Spirit is working to change hearts. But at the same time, the weakness and sin of many within our body has also been revealed. The revelation of this lack of affection and of forgiveness is the manifestation of end-time humanity.

As pastors leading churches, we are faced with a question: “What are we to do?” How can we strengthen and encourage the church, not to mention exercise church discipline? How will the house church develop in the future? How will church planters arise? If a church planter is sent, but becomes a casualty in the process of planting, this is a great blow to morale. The training of co-workers is crucial.


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#5: The Wilderness is Life on Earth

We must surrender any hope that the external situation will change and bring us more space. In fact, this life itself is the experience of the wilderness. As long as the Lord Jesus has not yet returned, this wilderness will not end. Life is just about different forms of wilderness. Different situations within the wilderness reveal our various weaknesses; persecution and pandemic serve only to bring more of our problems to light. Our greatest challenge is not persecution; our greatest problem is we ourselves, the leaders in the midst of the wilderness.

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”“We ask God to take us to a higher vantage point, a perspective from which we can see the wilderness of this life – not so that we may reject the present wilderness, but that we may accept it, and learn to rest in the wasteland.”

#6: Our Hope is the Golden Shore of God’s Kingdom

At the present time, we are facing many and varied difficulties. The wilderness of this life feels even more “wild” than normal. This reminds me of the witnesses of the faith in Hebrews. Hebrews 11:39 speaks of “All these…commended through their faith,” and Hebrews 12: 2 says they were “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.”

We ask God to take us to a higher vantage point, a perspective from which we can see the wilderness of this life – not so that we may reject the present wilderness, but that we may accept it, and learn to rest in the wasteland. In the face of our weaknesses, may we learn to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit, and begin to “boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses.” We need to see how the eternal kingdom cuts through the shadows of reality, and inspires us to walk through the wilderness to execute the mission of the kingdom of heaven.

We pastors, as well as all those who are willing to serve, need to explore together how we can follow the Lord in the midst of China’s present situation and our own weaknesses. We do not follow him alone, but live within a grand story that covers all of time. This story is not one of methodology, but of theology. By faith, one can lose everything, even one’s own church. By faith, we see the golden shore we will one day reach. In the midst of unpredictable days, we know our future is secure.


Wang Jianguo is a collective pseudonym for urban Chinese house church pastors.

 

FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION

Pray for God to help Chinese pastors to see their lives from his perspective. May they accept “wilderness of this life” and “learn to rest in the wasteland.”

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LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA

With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.

WILL YOU JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA? PRAY FOR:

  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church

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ABOUT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

About Shenyang

Shenyang is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Liaoning Province. It is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, including the Shenyang Imperial Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shenyang is also a hub for China’s heavy industry, with companies such as the China First Automobile Group and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation having their headquarters in the city.

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About Qingdao

Qingdao is a city located in eastern China and is famous for its beaches, beer, and seafood. The city is home to several landmarks, including the Zhanqiao Pier and the Badaguan Scenic Area. Qingdao is also a major port and has a thriving economy, with industries such as electronics, petrochemicals, and machinery.

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About Xiamen

Xiamen is a city located in southeastern China and is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful coastal scenery, including Gulangyu Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also a hub for China’s high-tech industry, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE having research and development centers in Xiamen.

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About Chongqing

Chongqing is a city located in southwestern China and is a major economic center in the region. The city is known for its spicy cuisine, especially its hot pot dishes, and is also famous for the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam. Chongqing is also home to several historic sites, including the Dazu Rock Carvings, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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About Nanjing

Nanjing is a city located in eastern China and is the capital of Jiangsu Province. It is one of China’s ancient capitals and has a rich cultural history, including the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, the Nanjing City Wall, and the Confucius Temple. Nanjing is also a modern city with a thriving economy and is home to several universities, including Nanjing University and Southeast University.

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About Changchun

Changchun is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Jilin Province. It is known for its rich cultural heritage and is home to several historical landmarks such as the Puppet Emperor’s Palace and the Jingyuetan National Forest Park. Changchun is also a hub for China’s automotive industry, with several major automobile manufacturers having their headquarters in the city.

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About Guangzhou

Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is a city located in southern China and is the capital of Guangdong Province. It is one of the country’s largest and most prosperous cities, serving as a major transportation and trading hub for the region. Guangzhou is renowned for its modern architecture, including the Canton Tower and the Guangzhou Opera House, as well as its Cantonese cuisine, which is famous for its variety and bold flavors. The city also has a rich history, with landmarks such as the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, and the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. Additionally, Guangzhou hosts the annual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in China.

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About Kunming

Kunming is a city located in southwest China and is the capital of Yunnan Province. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its mild climate, Kunming is a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty and cultural diversity. The city is home to several scenic spots, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Stone Forest, Dian Lake, and the Western Hills. Kunming is also famous for its unique cuisine, which features a mix of Han, Yi, and Bai ethnic flavors. The city has a rich cultural history, with ancient temples and shrines like the Yuantong Temple and the Golden Temple, and it’s also a hub for Yunnan’s ethnic minority cultures, such as the Yi and Bai peoples.

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About Shenzhen

Shenzhen is a city located in southeastern China and is one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolises. The city is renowned for its thriving tech industry, with companies such as Huawei, Tencent, and DJI having their headquarters in Shenzhen. The city also has a vibrant cultural scene, with numerous museums, art galleries, and parks. Shenzhen is also known for its modern architecture, such as the Ping An Finance Center and the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. Despite its modernization, Shenzhen also has a rich history and cultural heritage, with landmarks such as the Dapeng Fortress and the Chiwan Tin Hau Temple.

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About Chengdu

Chengdu is a city located in the southwestern region of China, and the capital of Sichuan province. It has a population of over 18 million people, and it is famous for its spicy Sichuan cuisine, laid-back lifestyle, and its cute and cuddly residents – the giant pandas. Chengdu is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where visitors can observe these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. The city also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with numerous temples, museums, and historical sites scattered throughout its boundaries. Chengdu is a city of contrasts, with ancient traditions coexisting alongside modern developments, making it an intriguing and fascinating destination for visitors to China. 

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About Beijing

Beijing is the capital city of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 21 million people. The city has a rich history that spans over 3,000 years, and it has served as the capital of various dynasties throughout China’s history. Beijing is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in China, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. The city is also a hub for political, cultural, and educational activities, with numerous universities and research institutions located within its boundaries. Beijing is renowned for its traditional architecture, rich cuisine, and vibrant cultural scene, making it a must-visit destination for travelers to China.

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About Shanghai

Shanghai is a vibrant and dynamic city located on the eastern coast of China. It is the largest city in China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 24 million people. Shanghai is a global financial hub and a major center for international trade, with a rich history and culture that spans over 1,000 years. The city is famous for its iconic skyline, which features towering skyscrapers such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower. Shanghai is also home to a diverse culinary scene, world-class museums and art galleries, and numerous shopping districts. It is a city that is constantly evolving and reinventing itself, making it a fascinating destination for visitors from around the world.

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