“One of my favorite people in the world is Bob Russell. After serving the Southeast Christian Church in Louisville Kentucky for 40 years, he continues to minister to people around the world with his unending encouragement and wisdom.He recently posted an article about China, reminding us to pray for that wonderful country. With his permission I am re-posting it here.”
Pray for the Persecuted Church in China
Thirteen years ago I visited Beijing, China with eleven other Christian leaders from across America. Our purpose was to petition the Chinese government to curtail the persecution of Christians. The Lord used a maverick Beijing missionary/lawyer to miraculously open doors, and we were able to meet with several high-ranking Chinese leaders. Afterward, Elaine Chao, U.S. Labor Secretary at the time, saw our pictures and expressed amazement that we had gained an audience with such influential communist officials, many of whom she recognized.
We appointed Max Lucado, popular American author and speaker, to be our chief spokesman. It was obvious each of the government officials appreciated Max’s humble, gracious spirit. We tried to communicate that Christianity did not pose a threat to their country but would significantly strengthen their nation since Jesus encouraged His followers to care for the underprivileged and the Bible taught an ethical standard that would benefit business. Although we were received graciously, there was no commitment to increase religious freedom in China.
Ever since that visit a decade ago I’ve prayed for the church in China and have been alert to news about the treatment of the estimated 75 million Chinese Christians -which constitutes about 5% of their population. Most of our brothers and sisters in China meet in underground churches that are not sanctioned by the state.
One of the primary reasons thousands of house churches refuse to register with the state is the government dictates what can be taught although church shepherds are determined to follow Scripture alone. Latest reports are that the Chinese government has introduced a five-year plan to make Christianity more compatible with socialism. Their plan features a “rewrite” of the Bible to “reflect Chinese ethics of Confucianism and socialism.
No wonder a dedicated pastor of an underground church told us he really envied the kind of religious freedom we enjoy in America.
In spite of our visit sanctions against the church and persecution against Christians have intensified…especially in the past couple of years. In a campaign to eradicate religion from their country, China’s Communist Party is now removing crosses, forbidding evangelism on college campuses and recently even prohibited churches from offering humanitarian aid following an earthquake because their acts of kindness promoted Christianity.
Last week I was grieved to read the following headline in the Christian Post, “China bans 1,000-member church in Beijing, demands members vow not to attend.” The article read, “An influential house church in Beijing was shut down Saturday after 20 government and police officials raided Bible classes at two different locations, changed the locks and demanded congregants vow never to worship as a congregation again. Beijing’s Shouwang Church is one of the most prominent among thousands of unregistered house churches in the city and is said to be attended by over 1,000 people.”
The Christian Post reported, “Last July, at least 34 house churches in Beijing signed a joint statement to China’s Communist Party officials decrying what they called an ongoing and worsening crackdown against believers.”
“During his trip to Hong Kong earlier this month, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback, said he believes the Chinese government ‘is at war with faith.’ ‘It’s a war they will not win,’ Brownback declared during a speech at the Foreign Correspondents Club. ‘The Chinese Communist Party must hear the cry of its people for religious freedom.’”
“ICC [International Christian Concern] Regional Manager Gina Goh stated in a press release that China’s disregard of religious freedom ‘is deplorable.’ ‘Christians outside of the state-sanctioned churches can no longer worship without fearing of harassment, detention, or even imprisonment,’ Goh stressed. ‘Even official churches face increasing pressure to exalt the Communist Party over God. The international community should continue to press China over its human rights abuses until it is willing to make positive change.’”
Bob Fu, a Chinese American pastor, recently warned the U.S. Congress that, “Religious freedom in China has reached the worst level that has not been seen since the beginning of the Cultural Revolution by Chairman Mao [Zedong] in the 1960s.”
Please pray for the persecuted Christians in China. These courageous brothers and sisters are really suffering for their faith.
Pray the believers will stand strong amidst tightening religious restrictions.
Pray that the Chinese government would enter into constructive dialogue with local churches and understand that Christian values can be a positive influence in Chinese society.
Pray also that we Christians in America would appreciate our religious freedom and courageously speak out against all current efforts to limit it.
“Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (Hebrews 13:3).