The Church Can Only Be Built on the Rock of Jesus Christ

Editor’s note: Pastor Gao Zhen serves the house church in Beijing. He and many other pastors are thinking critically and writing about issues related to the spread of Christianity in China, as well as the church’s relationship to the state.

In this post, Pastor Gao reflects on why he believes the house church, not the state church, is the true vehicle for gospel truth and proclamation. The thoughts he shares here represent one common perspective among house church pastors on the Three Self Church; however, there remains a wide diversity of views among house church pastors on the topic.

We can trace the history of the Three Self church back to the late 1940s and early 1950s, the early stages of when communist China became a nation. Chairman Mao wanted to destroy Christianity as materialistic and anti-Marxist. He thought Christianity would be a source of harm for China, so he wanted to weed it out. Mao Zedong wanted to become the god of the Chinese people. God is a jealous god; Mao was very jealous of God. Mao forbid the Chinese to have different gods and different beliefs. He wanted to be the god of China, so he wanted to destroy Christianity. 

At this time, Wu Yaozong was a graduate of Union Theological Seminary in the United States. After graduating, Wu went back to China. In the U.S., he learned we need to give people human rights to have their own faith system. When Wu came back to China, he met with Zhou Enlai [the first Premier of the People’s Republic of China], and told him, “This is the faith system in America. China should have a similar belief system.”

 Zhou said, “This is impossible. You need to give me a reason for this. Why should we allow Christianity to survive in China?”

Wu returned home and tried to think of a reason. He tried to solve the problem, and think how he could give Christianity a reason to survive. He met with Zhou Enlai again, and Zhou told him, “We will always uphold Communism. The church can be a part of the building process of socialism in China. We should ask the church to always uphold the Communist Party.”

For us, this idea is very strange. But for Zhou Enlai, it was a good reason. So Wu wrote a statement on how to be a patriotic church. Of course, now we know this is a compromise of Biblical truth. But Christianity was seeking a way to survive, so they compromised Biblical truth.


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Wu said, “The Bible teaches to love God and love people. Loving God is primary. We will share that you love people by loving God. Through loving people, we will show we truly love God.” 

This became twisted. It turned into a statement that we need to love first the nation of China, and then we love the church.

Many pastors were misled. At first, a lot of pastors joined the Three Self Patriotic Movement for the sake of survival. But those pastors who put all their faith in the Bible, those pastors who did not want to compromise Biblical words, they refused to sign these documents. They realized it was not true Christianity. 

Today, there is a lot of twisted Christianity. We add words to Biblical truth. We change the word of God for the sake of survival. Some people call this refined Christianity. I call it heresy.

In its doctrine of faith, the Three Self church does not emphasize that people are sinners. They do not emphasize the salvation of Jesus Christ. They emphasize how to be a contributing citizen in order to build up China. This kind of teaching is not truly a religious teaching.

“Just be a good person”—is that truly the way? Just being good does not get you to heaven. You cannot even come to the U.S. by just being good! When you go to the embassy in the U.S., if you write on the visa application, “I am a good person,” they will reject your application. Being a good person is useless. You have to escape from sin, you have to become righteous. How can you have eternal life in Christ? This is the true calling God has for us.

But the Three Self church does not teach this. I believe it is refined Christianity. They have been bought by the government. They, like Esau, sold their firstborn privilege for the sake of a bowl of soup. If all the churches in China were like this, then I would say China does not have a true Christian church anymore. 

The house church in China, that is our difference—we do not accept this kind of refinement. We do not accept this heretical Christianity. We say the church can only be built solely on God’s word. The church can only be built on the rock of Jesus Christ. He is the foundation of the church.

The Three Self church is built on the wrong foundation. Many people do not understand this. They believe we can partner with the Three Self church. I would say this is a major problem. We are studying how to support the church in China, and help it build a healthy and Biblical church. 

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Further Reading

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The External Cross: A Pastoral Letter
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Qingdao: How to Pray
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Qingdao: Locals and Outsiders
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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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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 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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