How the Church Should Face Persecution – A Handwritten Letter from Early Rain’s Last Elder

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Editor’s note: Over 100 members of Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, China, were arrested starting on Sunday, December 9,through Monday, December 10. Authorities arrested pastors, elders, deacons, and congregants, at times using violent means. Some of those arrested have been released, others are being monitored closely, and still others have not been heard from and are unlocated.

Li Yingqiang (李英强), the last elder of Early Rain Covenant Church to be arrested, wrote this letter to the church just a few hours before being found in his hideout and arrested. In it, he describes the church’s plan for facing this persecution in the following days, including where to worship next Sunday.

Additional materials:

Letter for All Christian Churches to Pray for Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, by Western China Presbytery
LIVE POST – Early Rain Covenant Church Urgent Prayer Updates, by Early Rain Covenant Church
China Partnership’s Early Rain Prayer Guide, by Ryan Zhang
My Declaration of Faithful Disobedience, by Wang Yi
Wang Yi’s 14 Decisions: In the Face of Persecution, What Will I Do?, by Wang Yi
The Church-State Conflict: 20 Ways Persecution Is God’s Way to Shepherd Us, by Wang Yi
A Statement from CP on Requests for Permission to Repost Early Rain Material, by Hannah Nation

Beloved brothers, sisters, and fellow workers:


Would You Pray With Us Today?

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Thank the Lord! Just as the year 2018 is about to end God has given us a reward in the form of this large-scale persecution that arrived on December 9. 

Since yesterday evening until noon today, over 100 pastors, elders, staff, brothers and sisters have been taken away. As of now we still do not know where they all are, and even if we did know it would be difficult for us to help them. But, thankfully, we know for certain that the Lord’s loving face is shining upon them. They are within the gracious, sovereign providence of the Lord. He will be with them in the midst of their chains and trials. 

The Apostle Peter says, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” (1 Pet. 4:12-14)

Beloved brothers and sisters, do you have joy? Are you rejoicing in the fact that you are suffering with Christ because of this church? Do you know that we are blessed? The Lord is bestowing on us poor people today treasures of glory from heaven! The Lord himself is bestowing on us weak people comfort from heaven! The Lord Jesus is shining on us blind people his great light. Those of us brothers and sisters standing on the front lines of the gospel war will earn great spiritual riches!

Thank the Lord for being with us in this trial. Thank the Lord for cultivating us according to his true Word! Thank the Lord for training us through these days of hardship! Thank the Lord for sculpting us through today’s persecution! May the Lord give us great joy and true hope and make us strong through reliance on him. 

What these next two days or next few weeks hold we do not know. These days are in the hands of the Lord. Just as he turns the dew into frost and the rain into snow, just as he makes the fragrance of the plum blossom waft across the bitter cold, we are in the hands of the Lord. How wonderful it would be if, because of this suffering, we might be able to give off the sweet fragrance of the gospel! 

Beloved brothers and sisters, I’m afraid this “great persecution” will become the status quo for us in the future. I don’t know if you know this, but three years ago on December 9, persecution was officially unleashed against Living Stone Church in Guiyang. Police also went to the homes of those brothers and sisters one at a time. They would use multiple police officers and community workers to control just one person. Their small groups were also broken up one by one. How should we respond to these things in the days to come? According to the contingency plan prepared by our session of elders, there are a few things we must do. 

1. Those elders who are still free must take up the responsibility of pastoring the whole church, waiting for the pastor and elders to be released. If Pastor Wang Yi is not released within 48 hours, those elders who are still free must lead the church down the next stretch according to the order decided on previously. 

2. Regardless, Early Rain Covenant Church must not alter the statement of faith and the path of openness that it has proclaimed publicly in the past. And we will not alter our previous stance on the relationship between church and state (正教分立) or our beautiful spiritual inheritance from the Chinese house church of walking the path of the cross. We will not register with the Religious Affairs Bureau; much less will we join the Three-Self Church. 

3. We will not easily relinquish our church building and retreat to our small groups. Regardless of who is leading the church, they must try to return to the church building that God has given us. Neither paper seals nor arrests should hinder our determination to worship in our church sanctuary. Unless all elders, preachers, and seminary students able to lead public worship and the preaching of God’s word lose their freedom, we will not retreat to small groups. If we cannot enter the church building, we will rent another place. If there is no place indoors where we can worship, we will begin worshiping outdoors.

4. Meeting in small groups is our last resort. If there is even a very small possibility of worshiping together as a whole church, we will not retreat to small groups. But if we must meet in small groups and encounter opposition while doing so, we are willing to pay an even greater price to bear witness to the great work of the gospel in our lives. We are willing to have 200, 300, or 500 people arrested and imprisoned. May the whole world know that we are joyfully willing to receive this persecution for the sake of our faith. 

Beloved brothers and sisters, I am writing this letter in “hiding.” May you all be filled with joy in the gospel of Christ. May you welcome, filled with hope, the even heavier cross and more difficult lives that lie ahead of you.

“Christ is Lord. Grace is King. Bear the cross. Keep the faith.” This is the vision Early Rain Covenant Church received from the Lord. May we all obtain it, cherish it, put it into practice, and live it out! 

Loving you all, 

Elder Yingqiang
December 10, 2018

To watch a video of Elder Yingqiang reading this letter out loud, click here.

You can read more articles on the coordinated arrests here: New York TimesWall Street JournalSouth China Morning PostReuters,World MagazineDaily Mail

English translation provided by Brent Pinkall.

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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

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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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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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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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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 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 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

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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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