Stand Firm: Perseverance of the Saints from 1949-1978

Editor’s note: This article was originally presented as a speech in a 2021 pastors’ gathering in mainland China. In it, Elder Li Yingqiang divides the history of Chinese house churches into three time periods: 1949-1978, as the Chinese church stood firm in strong persecution; 1979-2008, when the church experienced great revival; and 2009-present, as the church has remained faithful through trials of money and power. Li divided house church history into these periods to help delineate general trends and characteristics during large segments of time. In this first section, he lays out the history of how the house church began and shares some experiences of those who helped to found her.

This selection has been edited and condensed from the original version for both time and space. It was originally published on the Grace to City website.

Standing Firm in the Persecution of Blood and Fire (1949-1978)

The house church movement began in August 1955, when Wang Mingdao was arrested. But planning began much earlier, during the government transition [to Communism]. In 1948 or ’49, one pastor suggested going to the countryside to plant house churches. Historically, the move to become house churches has been reactive, not proactive.

“Historically, the move to become house churches has been reactive, not proactive.

Before 1955, the Chinese Communist Party promoted the Three-Self Movement. The CCP supported leaders like Wu Yaozong and other Christians aligned with the regime. The Three-Self Movement promoted an accusatory movement forcing Chinese churches to sever ties with foreign missionaries and ecumenical churches. The Three-Self Movement used patriotism and nationalism to force Christians to sign the Three-Self Manifesto. Between 1950 and 1955, more than 427,000 people, more than half of Chinese Christians, signed.

Many Chinese churches of that day were already implementing “three-self ideology.” [This was originally conceived as a plan to help churches indigenize, and calls for self-governance, financial self-support, and self-propagation of the church.] But in 1955, the CCP brought established Chinese churches under government jurisdiction. They did this by arresting several leaders and dissolving or reorganizing their churches. During the land reform period, church activities were stopped, and church buildings were repurposed. In 1956, the Hong Kong Times reported on Christian persecution in China from about 1950 to 1953. Although we do not know exactly who these people were, simple arithmetic shows that more than 10,000 people were killed. Even before 1955, some Christian leaders in northwest China were arrested and sentenced for reactionary crimes.

Never miss a story

Sign up to receive our weekly email with our original articles.

How many believers would stand firm when great persecution came? At that time, the Chinese church was under pressure from three directions. The first was pressure to sign the Three-Self Manifesto. If you signed, you were patriotic; if you refused you were reactionary. Second, there was pressure to denounce fellow church members and church leaders. Those who made accusations were on the side of the people; those who refused were reactionary. Third, there was pressure to join the Three-Self Patriotic Movement. Joining was a patriotic religious activity; refusal to join was reactionary.

Most Chinese Christian leaders of that day signed the declaration, denounced their colleagues, and joined the Three-Self church. Yet compromise did not result in preservation of ministry. This proved true again and again in the political movements that followed. Pastor Wang Yi said the Chinese church, from leaders to laymen, was adulterous and had a terrible witness. But the Lord preserved for us 7,000 who did not bow down to Baal.

The Founders of the House Church

The Chinese house church movement officially began when Wang Mingdao was arrested in 1955. On August 7 of that year, he preached his last sermon. It was called “The Son of Man, Sold Into the Hands of Sinners.” At midnight, he, his wife, and 18 other young believers were arrested. On September 14 that year, the Guangzhou Damazhan meeting was closed. Samuel Lamb and others were arrested as members of the “Wang Mingdo Counterrevolutionary Gang.” A few months later, the “Watchmen Nee Counterrevolutionary Group” came to light. Many more were arrested.

Yet we have seen the wonderful work of God’s caring hand in history. When they went to prison, the Lord protected those who opposed the Three-Self Patriotic Movement and kept the faith. From 1955 to 1978, many of God’s faithful servants and children were arrested. Wang Mingdao, Samuel Lamb, Xie Moshan, Yuan Diben, Zheng Huiduan, Yuan Xiangchen, Yang Xinfei, and Li Tian’en are well-known. But there were many more unknown laymen and pastors.

“Most Chinese Christian leaders of that day signed the declaration, denounced their colleagues, and joined the Three-Self church. Yet compromise did not result in preservation of ministry.

Not many know of Hu Zhenqing. A book called “Myrrh Mountain” tells his story. He was first arrested in 1955, and then released shortly after. He was arrested again in January 1958. This time, his sentence was increased, because he continued to persevere in prayer. He was released in 1969. Finally, he was arrested for the third time in 1973. Each time he was released, he immediately returned to serve the church. He died of illness in 1995. Throughout life, he alternated between prison and ministry.

Wang Chunyi is even less known. Her prison testimony is very moving. Many well-known preachers and evangelists were arrested at the same time as her. Her written testimony shows that many well-known pastors in prison gave up their faith in order to survive. Because she insisted on praying out loud before each meal and refused to bow to the statue of Mao Zedong, Wang was constantly persecuted and beaten.

She wrote: “Unfortunately, some of God’s servants and ambassadors were once used by God, but in the last leg of their journey, they were complacent and arrogant. As a result, they walked outside of God’s will, and suffered various degrees of loss to their own reputation and to the Lord’s honorable name. This is a warning to all of us who walk the heavenly journey.

Wu Weizun is known as the Chinese Epaphras. Many people know the principle he established in the face of persecution: “No answers; no explanations; no confessions; no recantations.” He insisted on this to the end of his life. During his imprisonment, he insisted on praying for his meals. He paid a very heavy price for this. Later, authorities made two simple of requests of him: first, don’t pray before eating; and second, requite quotations of Chairman Mao.

He replied, “I cannot fulfill either of these two requests. It is an abomination to God to worship Chairman Mao as a god and to put the leader in the highest position. It is impossible that a man will live forever; it is difficult to live even a hundred years. Chairman Mao will not live forever. When he dies, his time will pass. Why should I recite this nonsense that is not in accordance with God’s will?”

When the CCP later wanted to release him, Wu said he did not recant and did not want to be released. After he was deceived out of prison, he rented a house near the prison and lived there until he returned to the Lord in 2002.

There were many such testimonies in the Chinese church before 1978. We stand in awe of the wonderful work of God’s gracious hand.

Revival Begins In Suffering

Incredibly, the church began to experience revival in the midst of the extreme suffering of the Cultural Revolution. During that time, church leaders and believers were severely persecuted, raided, paraded around, and suffered extreme physical and spiritual devastation. Many were martyred; others were arrested and sentenced to long prison terms. However, in many parts of the country, house church meetings have never stopped.

“God’s hand is wonderful. Even in the midst of great and deep suffering and persecution, he revived his church. The revival of the Chinese church did not begin with reform and opening. It started during the Cultural Revolution.

In the 1970s, during the latter part of the Cultural Revolution, there was an unprecedented revival. The number of people increased greatly, to many times the number of believers before 1949. Preaching and training ministries were started. Because Bibles were confiscated during the Cultural Revolution, Wenzhou churches began to hand-copy mimeographed Bibles. The Wenzhou churches also continued to meet, getting up at 1 or 2 a.m. and going home at 5 or 6 in the morning. Then, in the day, they worked in the fields.

In the mid-to-late-Cultural Revolution, revivals occurred in Henan, Anhui, Shandon, Fujian, and Wenzhou churches. In the spring of 1971, more than 600 people, workers in charge of churches in urban Wenzhou and other counties, gathered secretly in Rui’an. That winter, the leaders met again and established the Wenzhou Area Christian Council.

Dear believers: God’s hand is wonderful. Even in the midst of great and deep suffering and persecution, he revived his church. The revival of the Chinese church did not begin with reform and opening. It started during the Cultural Revolution.

Elder Li Yingqiang is an elder of Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu. He and his wife have two children.



Praise God for his wonderful work in preserving and growing his church through difficult times.

Share This Story

Further Reading

Nanjing: Loving People Through Prayer
Read More
Nanjing: Love Under Pressure
Read More
Why Should I Love My Enemies?: Give Up Revenge, Love Enemies
Read More


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.


  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



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.


Stories from Shenyang

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.


Stories from Qingdao

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.


Stories from Xiamen

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.


Stories from Chongqing

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.


Stories from Nanjing

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.


Stories from Changchun

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.


Stories from Guangzhou

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.


Stories from Kunming

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.


Stories from Shenzhen

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. 


Stories from Chengdu

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.


Stories from Beijing

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.


Stories from Shanghai


A short message about partnering with us.