Editor’s note: Several years ago, we had a conversation with a Chinese house church pastor about how he evaluated the current situation of Chinese believers. Things change rapidly in China, and recent years have particularly intensified pressure on Christians. For instance, large urban house churches like the ones he mentions still exist, but are much less common post-Covid than they were only a few years ago. Yet the insights of this older pastor are still valid, and still tell an important story about the reality of faith and life in China for Chinese Christians. The struggles with dissension among believers is a common one, as is the pull to be more like the surrounding world – in general, Chinese do not have the luxury of living in Christian enclaves and must figure out how to follow Christ in a world that does not understand their faith.
China Partnership: As you look at the situation of Chinese Christians, how do you believe it will develop?
Zhuang Qin: This is the situation for Chinese Christians, especially those who preach in the countryside: they have never had a chance to receive good seminary training, and they have no systematic training. But they are really innocent and pure, and that pure faith is really good!
A lot of times, Christians have a traditional background: for example, they say they are a Christian because their father was Christian. They have not experienced real repentance, and do not really know what a relationship with God is. All they know is, “My dad believed in the Lord, so I believe in him, too.” The faith is passed on from generation to generation. I think this is a big threat, because these people don’t have real understanding of their own sin. They just know it is what their family has done for generations. This is a danger.
Minority peoples are generally polytheistic. The threat to their faith is that, at church, they worship and sing to God. But they go home, and there are idols and things like that. It is all mixed up together. This is a pretty common situation in the countryside.
There is another issue in city churches, and that is the relationship between the churches. That is your church; this is my church; there is his church. There is a deep separation. On the one hand, there is competition; on the other, theological differences drive them apart.
I am shepherding a city church now. For them, the issue is material things. They want money, position, face, and leisure activities. They say they believe God, but are too influenced by the things of the world. This is especially true for young people living in cities. Their pursuit of faith, their hunger for God, and their pursuit of the Bible is very little; they are too influenced by materialism.
There is another issue in city churches, and that is the relationship between the churches. That is your church; this is my church; there is his church. There is a deep separation. On the one hand, there is competition; on the other, theological differences drive them apart. When everybody gets together, it is like: “What do you have to do with me?” They don’t respect each other.
What I am trying to do is look for people who can cooperate and work together. City house churches often have 50 or more people, and big ones might have 200. Right now, our church is about 30-plus. Actually, now I’m shepherding two churches, and I’m trying to hand over leadership of one of them.
The church here is all young people. The majority of them are single. They talk with each other, start dating, and get married. I’m their pastor, and I don’t want them to marry a non-Christian. But they are in church only on Sunday. Monday through Saturday, most of their time is with friends out of the church. I’m really worried for them, because the influence of the world is too great and is always pulling them.
They are in church only on Sunday. Monday through Saturday, most of their time is with friends out of the church. I’m really worried for them, because the influence of the world is too great and is always pulling them.
In China, in the immediate future we are facing a lot of pressure from the government. House churches always have some problems, and recently it has been more intense. They oversee us strictly. We have moved our church meeting place so many times, but they always come find us. They come for us and make us move. The first time I didn’t care at all: if you don’t want me here, I’ll go find another place. But after we moved the first time, I realized it had an impact on our church. The control and pressure on house churches is really intense recently.
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In addition, the government is overseeing schools very heavily. Before, we could talk with people at universities and colleges. You could bring the subject up and talk about it. Now, the school has told everyone that these types of people [like us] are bad. Before, we could openly discuss things, and a lot of schools were even supportive. But now, the religion department is really fierce toward anything related to overseas. There is basically no freedom.
When we do trainings, we have to be very sneaky about it. A few weeks ago, we did an evangelistic training. We only invited people we knew well, who had been highly recommended. All this was because of safety concerns.
Chinese churches are facing a big choice as they continue to develop and grow. If you are open [and let others know about your faith] – well, everyone has to choose.
 In Chinese culture, having face means one is respected and honored in the eyes of others.
 One of the ways the Chinese government regulates religion is by labeling it a foreign faith and carefully monitoring anything that did not seem to originate in China. This can be seen in current attempts to “Sinicize” faith and to bring Christian teaching and practice in line with the thought of the Chinese Communist Party.
Zhuang Qin is a pseudonym for a Chinese house church pastor. He became a Christian in middle age, and he and his wife have one daughter.
Pray for Chinese Christians to faithfully continue following God, whether their challenges are materialism, knowledge, or persecution.