After World War II, the Communists under Mao Zedong established an autocratic socialist system that, while ensuring China’s sovereignty, imposed strict controls over everyday life and cost the lives of tens of millions of people.
Christians in China have persevered under what may have been the harshest and most widespread persecution of the Church in all history. More Christians have been and continue to be detained in China than in any other country.
The government officially recognizes five religious groups: Buddhism, Daoism, Islam, Protestant and Catholic. It strictly controls the Church through the state-monitored Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM, monitoring Protestants) and the Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA, monitoring Catholics). During the Cultural Revolution, even these submissive structures were banned, and all religious activity was forced underground, giving birth to the house-church movement.
In 1978, restrictions were eased, and the TSPM and CPA were used to regain governmental influence over religious expression. By this point, however, the momentum of growth among unregistered churches was too strong to rein in; further persecution seemed only to encourage further growth, despite horrendous cruelties inflicted on many thousands of church leaders.
In December 2010, Chinese authorities launched a crackdown on unregistered house churches. Members of the CCP Central Committee for Comprehensive Management of Social Order were told to collect information about house churches and turn these reports in to their superiors. A “blacklist” of church leaders and influential believers was reportedly drawn up. According to one Chinese newspaper, the Chinese government is tightening regulations on Christian worship in 2011, with the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) announcing that it will “guide Protestants worshiping at unregistered churches into worshiping at government-sanctioned ones.”
Today, there is much debate related to the current number of Chinese Christians, as the government releases only data from churches that are a part of the TSPM or CPA. While the government says there are officially 28.6 million Christians, experts estimate the real number to lie somewhere between 80 and 130 million.
- Praise God for the significant growth of the Church in China!
- Pray for spiritual and physical strength for the thousands of Christians in prison for their faith in Christ.
- Pray for boldness for Christians in sharing the gospel, despite the dangers that they face.