The Spiritual Legacy of the House Church – A Chinese Response

Yang Mingdao is the collective pseudonym for Chinese voices within China Partnership.

From my personal experience and reflection, and as someone who grew up amidst the generation of Christians under severe persecution in the 1960s and 1970s, yesterday’s recounting of the Chinese house church’s spiritual heritage is a good summary. It provides a window to peek into the differences between one group of the current generation of Christian leaders, represented by yesterday’s author, and the older generation. Because this account does not only describe the spiritual legacy, but also gives a respectful critique, its aim is to be reflective and pedagogical.

I am interested to remind our readers of several backdrops against which the house church’s heritage, and the national Christian leaders of the 1950s and 1960s who largely shaped this heritage, came into being. The key leaders of the house church movement were born between 1900 and 1928. The years 1900-1912 saw the final, desperate, survival attempt of the Qing dynasty, the end of which signified the termination of a great 2000-year old cultural and social-economic system handed down through multiple dynasties. 1912-1928 witnessed an ambitious political drama and attempt to bring new social order to China by introducing the Western constitutional political system. This series of efforts was only doomed to fail and eventually led the nation and its people into civil wars and tyranny. We had to admit that after thousands of years of empire, tyranny backed by force was the only alternative that could bring meaningful social order when the legitimacy of the emperor’s rule as the Son of Heaven was blown away with the Qing dynasty; there were simply few social constructs to sustain and reach any stable structure to sustain the modern constitutional political system. The church-state relationship rarely emerged as a serious category to the church leaders.

The great theological war between liberalism and Bible-believing Christians in the 1920s was also very impressive to the generation of house church leaders aforementioned. For that first generation of Christians who personally tasted the salvation of Christ, deeply convicted of sin, and rooted in the life giving word of God, liberalism was their foremost concern and enemy, rather than a new communist government who was then very shrewd. It was only afterwards, that we could recognize the basic motive and nature of this ideology and its regime. As the result, it was very natural for that generation to reject the Three-Self movement for the same theological and spiritual reasons against the liberalism.

However, having said the above, I also strongly doubt that the leaders, like Wang Mingdao and some others, were so naive and simple in their rejection of the Three-Self movement without any concern of the state’s interference into church affairs. In Chinese political tradition, the people have been trained to give good “face” reasons and hide their real rationale to avoid irritating the government, or even to save others’ [reputations].

The leaders of that time, as the second generation of indigenous leaders, arise out of the modern missionary movement in China from the mid-nineteen century. As Andrew F. Walls categorizes, the churches and the theology of the time were still in an infant and catechesis stage. What sustained them through the most severe persecution and hardship was not their matured theology or ecclesiology, but their mutual rootedness in their love of Christ and the decisive, cross-bearing commitment to following Christ. The heritage they handed down is truly the work of the Holy Spirit and the power of the gospel. It is the task of our generation to build on top of this great heritage through theology and ecclesiology in order to richly manifest and preach the kingdom of Christ.

Share This Story

Further Reading

Why Should I Love My Enemies?: Give Up Revenge, Love Enemies
Read More
Nanjing: Bringing the Gospel Into Life
Read More
Nanjing: A Welcoming City of Newcomers
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.