RADICAL REVIVAL FALLS ON CHINA’S STATE CONTROLLED CHURCHES
You’re about to hear first-hand testimony of an unprecedented Christian revival happening in parts of China. What is unique about this story is how God is moving among communist-controlled government churches. CBN News travelled to southern China to enquire and discover what happens when God shows up in a Church controlled by a communist government. The number of Christians in China is growing rapidly. Placed alongside the stories of how God is also moving in the underground house churches of China it clearly shows that Christ is starting to play an active role in China’s society and that has to be good news for the future of that nation. Here is our report.
It’s Thursday evening in Fujian Province, southeast China. Scores of men and women are dancing, waving flags, blowing shofars, singing and worshipping God. You might think these images come from a charismatic service in the United States. But they’re not. This is communist, atheist China. And what Duan Huilai says is remarkable about this scene is that it’s happening in an officially government-controlled congregation known as the Three-Self Church. “Dramatic changes are happening,” Duan said. “God is moving in a powerful way inside these Three-Self Churches.” Duan and his wife have witnessed this move first-hand. Both are evangelists and have for several years crisscrossed the Chinese countryside documenting the Holy Spirit’s move among Three-Self Churches.
“The most amazing thing is that the Lord is raising up God-loving people in these churches who love God deeply and want to serve Him,” Duan said. Pastor Duan says what is happening today in Beijing and other parts of China amongst the Three-Self Churches is quite remarkable considering where the Church has been in the last 30 years. “Every sermon that the pastor preached back then had to be vetted by the government authorities. Young people were not allowed to attend churches so you’d only see old people, mostly women,” Duan said. “Preaching about the power of the Holy Spirit was forbidden. You couldn’t talk about end times or preach repentance.” Topics on healings, miracles, signs and wonders were out of the question. Not anymore. “Nowadays people have accepted these topics,” Duan said.
Two main types of churches exist in China: registered and unregistered. Registered congregations, known as Three-Self Churches, are government-approved. Unregistered, or underground house churches, operate outside government control, and for decades faced intense persecution. And with that persecution came tremendous growth. Three-Self Churches on the other hand never experienced that kind of explosive growth. Until now. “Now there is revival happening in the Three-Self Churches,” Dr. Zhao Xiao told CBN News. Zhao is one of China’s foremost experts on Christianity. A former Communist Party member and atheist, Zhao converted after reading the Bible. “If you go to Haidian Church, you’ll find yourself in a more than 100-metre line trying to get inside and worship.
In Shenzhen an average of 500 people are baptized each Sunday!” he shared. Decades ago young men and women below the age of 18 could not attend Three-Self Churches by law. Zhao says this has now changed. “There’s an increasing proportion of young male Believers, professionals, mainstream celebrities, especially in the big cities, that are attending the church unlike the past when it was mainly the elderly who attended.” Back at the Thursday night meeting in Fujian Province, folks have gathered for a 4 day event affectionately called “Love Camp”. “Love Camp aims to help the Believer grow in their faith and get closer to God,” Sun Rengui told CBN News. Sun is a pastor and leads the camp.
He says the idea came 12 years ago when the Holy Spirit showed up while he was preaching at the Three-Self Church he pastors. “We were in the middle of the service; suddenly everyone in the church felt the Holy Spirit anointing fall. Some couldn’t stand straight; others fell down. Some were dizzy and nauseous. When the worship began, people started crying. After the service, some were healed. I saw demons leaving people.” Pastor Sun says his church had never experienced anything like it. “It was unprecedented and completely new for us,” he said. “We were one of the first churches to experience this in the area. Other church leaders came to us to receive the Holy Spirit.” Pastor Sun said. But it wasn’t without controversy. “People doubted it was real. There was conflict among my church staff,” Sun said.
“As time passed, more people accepted the power of the Holy Spirit.” Twelve years later, Pastor Sun says the impact of the Holy Spirit’s move is seen in the transformed lives of church members. “Our cell groups are expanding, more people are attending church, and sharing the Gospel outside the Church” The church twice a year puts on the Love Camp which aims to evangelize people, strengthen the family, disciple Believers and encourage other Three-Self Churches to embrace the power of the Holy Spirit.” Pastor Duan said this is evidence that God is doing something special in China. “At Christmas, I was speaking at a Three-Self Church in Yuhuan and was amazed there were 12,000 people,” Dr. Zhao, and many others say they feel honoured to play a part in helping more Chinese turn to Jesus Christ.
CHRISTIANS LOOK FORWARD TO A NEW DAY UNDER NEW ADMINISTRATION
For nearly a decade, it seemed Washington sent Christians to wander in the wilderness, and now they feel a sense of deliverance. “Christians are treated horribly because there is nobody to represent them,” Donald Trump said prior to running for president. Since winning the election he’s appointed one Christian after another to his cabinet. “I will be the greatest hope of Christians they’ve had in a long time,” Trump said. And now those who helped him win are ready to reap their rewards which include the appointment of pro-life Supreme Court justices and the banning of late term abortions. “A baby in the womb that has all its vital organs, which can hear and respond to its mothers voice and feel pain deserves legal protection as a human being. And he’s agreed to sign that into law,” said Penny Nance.
As president of Concerned Women for America, Nance says it feels like a new day in Washington. “I believe God has given us another chance,” Nance said. The new president is also expected to enforce the constitutional right of Christians to live their faith and obey their consciences. “There is no more important issue than freedom of conscience or religious liberty,” said Charles Haynes, founder of the Religious Freedom Centre. Haynes went on “In this country, people seem to believe that people of faith should be quiet in the public square, keeping their faith for their homes or their churches, which is absurd. “I don’t want to equate persecution in the US with what is taking place overseas, but you’re seeing people of faith squeezed out,” said Frank Wolf, fellow at the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative.
“We’re finding hostility in the media where it seems okay to ridicule a Catholic priest or a Christian missionary as some kind of joke,” Wolf said. It’s a frustration that has turned to relief for Christians with the arrival of an advocate in the White House. U.S. Civil Rights Commission chairman Martin Castro wrote “The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance.” “The report was appalling because it essentially said, when there’s a conflict between non-discrimination for example and religious freedom, non-discrimination always wins, religious freedom never” Haynes said.
We’ve entered an era where the claim of religious freedom is perceived as an effort to deny someone else their rights. “By using language that suggests Christians who want accommodation are by definition bigots is very wrong and dangerous,” Haynes continued. Christians happy with Trump are thrilled with his vice president. Former congressman Frank Wolf served with Mike Pence in the house. “Pence is one of the finest men that I’ve ever served with. He is honest, ethical, decent, a moral man of great faith.” Wolf said. He added that the Church needs to keep the lines of communication open with both the new president and Congress to keep this agenda moving in the right direction.
REFUGEE CRISIS EXACERBATED BY RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION
Religious persecution plays a “central role” in the global displacement crisis according to Open Doors 2017 World Watch List. The charity noted that more than half of the world’s 65.3m refugee population come from Somalia, Afghanistan and Syria, all countries in which it has become extremely dangerous to identify as a Christian. In its supplementary report, The Persecution of Christians and Global Displacement, Open Doors said that religious persecution was a “dangerously underestimated” factor behind some people’s decision to flee their homes. The charity estimated that around half of Syria’s 1.7m Christians have left their country due to conflict and persecution. It also said that around 2.1m Nigerians have fled because of various factors, including attacks on Christians by Boko Haram jihadists.
In Asia and Mexico, Christians were driven from their villages for practising a faith differed from that of the majority. Pastor Aminu Sule from Nigeria said his congregation had shrunk from 400 to 20 as Christians fled from attacks by Boko Haram. He said: “I can’t count the number of people I have buried.” Once displaced, Pastor Sule said that Christians are often denied access to aid distributed by the local government. “They are dying of hunger and I cannot help them,” he said. Daniel, a church leader in Iraq, described how he fled from Baghdad after receiving a death threat from Al-Qaeda. His church has helped look after some of the 120,000 Christians chased out by Islamic State, but he added that many had since chosen to be resettled in “countries that respect their human rights”.
The report found some migrants were attacked after leaving their countries, and cited a Nigerian Christian who was abducted and repeatedly assaulted by a gang who had seen a Bible in his pocket. The charity urged the British government to support the right to freedom of religion and belief and to “target” nations where there is violent persecution of religious minorities. It noted that the UK Home Office claims that Pakistani Christians were not at “real risk of persecution.” The report also called on the Home Office to “increase the religious literacy of its staff” so that those who processed asylum applications could recognise instances of religious persecution. It urged the Home Office not to restrict visas for religious leaders invited to the UK to share of the suffering in their own countries.
The UK Home Office faced criticism last month after it denied three archbishops from Iraq and Syria visas to attend the consecration of a Syriac Orthodox cathedral in west London, on the grounds that they lacked sufficient funds to support themselves and they might not leave the UK. Open Doors UK and Ireland urged the British Foreign Office to prioritise freedom of religion and recognise championing that right as a way to combat terrorism and poverty, arguing that unchecked political oppression of a minority “creates a breeding ground for violent and radical groups”. In India, it said, since the landslide election of Hindu nationalist President Narendra Modi in 2014, there has been “a deterioration in freedom in all aspects of Indian society, and Hindu radicals have virtual impunity from the Government”.
UK BILL PUTS TRADITIONAL VALUES ON PAR WITH TERRORISM
A UK terrorism expert has warned that proposed counter-extremism laws could silence people who support traditional belief systems on matters such as marriage and family. The UK Government’s Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson QC, said that because the definition of “extremism” is being linked with ideologies contrary to British ‘values’, the proposed laws could target those with traditional views as “extremists”. “The problem with rules like that is that all sorts of people are going to be subject to them. People are going to complain about neighbours, people they work with, the police are going to feel they have to investigate all sorts of people who are miles away from being terrorists, but may just practise religion in a conservative way, or may have eccentric political views.”
The article lists serious concerns about the anti-extremism measures being taken by the UK Government, highlighting its impact on personal freedom. Anderson said “If you are going to engage in extremist activity, then you could be subject to coercive measures whereby you may not be able to use social media, or be limited in your associations, or in where you can go, and so on.” Anderson is not the only one who sees major flaws with the Bill. Last July, the Joint Committee on Human Rights stepped in, urging the Government to reconsider the legislation. The group expressed concerns that the Bill would initiate war on those who espoused conservative values, and posed if anything, a weak solution to the global issue.
The committee said it was concerned that any new legislation targeting conservative religious views regarded as homophobic or misogynistic by many Britons, was likely to end up either discriminating against Muslims or being used indiscriminately against evangelical Christians, Orthodox Jews and other groups which have no record of encouraging violence. Not only does the Counter-Extremism Bill specifically focus on religious groups, but it attacks traditional values in general. It threatens the societal pillars of marriage and family, equating “conservative” views to acts of terrorism. Under this Bill, punishments such as the revocation of social media or limitation of social contact could be enforced upon those who don’t embrace the secular agendas, even when in conflict with their conscience.
One of the greatest increases in animosity towards Christians last year took place in India as a result of religiously motivated nationalism, according to the Open Doors 2017 World Watch List of the 50 countries in which it is most difficult to live as a Christian. Since the rise to power of the Hindu nationalist BJP party, India has increased its ranking and is now placed 15th on the list. Several other Asian countries also climbed the list, with Afghanistan up one place to 3rd, Pakistan up two places to 4th, Bangladesh up nine places to 26th, Bhutan up eight to 30th and Sri Lanka joining the list at No. 45. “A stand-out trend is that religious nationalism is driving the Asian countries up the list,” said Dr. Ron Boyd-MacMillan, Director for Strategic Research at Open Doors.
“It’s a long-term trend which has been gathering pace since the 1990s when nobody noticed it. This year it’s really come into its own. It is most visible in India which is at its highest position on the World Watch List ever. The Hindu extremists are in power, and a mob can do what they like in India.” For the 15th year in succession, North Korea tops the list, while Somalia rises from sixth to second. Nine of the top 10 were among the top 10 on the previous year’s list. Yemen’s arrival among the top 10 displaced Libya, which now is No. 11. Somalia (2), Afghanistan (3), Pakistan (4), Sudan (5), and Iran (8) each rose in the rankings; Syria (6) and Iraq (7) fell slightly. Christians are a “small and vulnerable minority” in the majority of the countries on the list, according to Open Doors.
In 41 of the top 50 countries, Christians comprise less than 15% of the population; in 27, less than 5%. Islamic extremism is the most common cause of pressure against Christians. More people are killed for their faith in Africa than anywhere else in the world. As extremist Islam spreads across Africa, almost every country from Kenya up is affected. A common form of religious persecution is the deliberate sabotage of homes, churches and villages by extremists aiming to eradicate Christianity from a particular area. This is widely seen in northern Nigeria, Syria and Iraq where, after people have been driven out, homes have been ransacked, churches destroyed and village water sources poisoned. In Nigeria, cattle are deliberately stolen and crops burned, which makes returning home all but impossible.
FRANKLIN GRAHAM SAYS TRUMPS IMMIGRATION BAN IS NOT A BIBLE ISSUE
Franklin Graham, evangelical pastor and president of international Christian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse, said President Trump’s attempt to protect America from harm is “not a Bible issue.” During an interview about Trump’s order to impose a 4 month refugee freeze into the United States, Graham said there is a difference between showing love and putting lives at risk. Graham sees no problem with the White House plans to prevent refugees fleeing war-torn Syria from entering the United States. “It’s not a biblical command for the country to let everyone in who wants to come,” Graham said. “We want to love people, be kind to people and considerate, but a country should have order and there are laws that relate to immigration and I think we should follow those laws,” he added.
“Because of the dangers we see today in the world, we need to be very careful.” Graham said despite the length of the process for vetting refugees, experience has shown it needs to be better. However, Trump’s new vetting procedures for anyone allowed into the United States are meeting stiff criticism. Some major technology companies have expressed concerns about safely getting their employees back to families in the United States. Protesters in cities across the United States continue to express disdain about the travel ban. Graham, son of the famous evangelist Billy Graham, has stood firmly behind Trump’s administration since the election, joining the president’s “Thank You” tour and offering a Bible reading at the inauguration.
Some people are questioning Graham’s true values as it pertains to those in need of security from persecution, as his Samaritan’s Purse organization takes its name from the biblical parable of the Good Samaritan, who went out of his way to help a stranger whose life was in danger. The United States admitted about 18,000 Syrian refugees since conflict erupted in Syria in 2011. Those who come into the U.S. must submit to a rigorous vetting process that takes from 18 to 24 months and requires the involvement of multiple law enforcement agencies. Just over 50% of applicants pass this screening process, the majority of whom are women and children. The other half include both denials and cases that are pending. Graham said he thinks the vetting process isn’t good enough.