There Xi Goes Again: Xi, Persecution in China, and the Art of Keepin’ On Keepin’ On

In an article that you can read here, we learn that China’s president, Xi Jinping – or “Xi”, has been cracking down on religion in China and “has particular animosity against Christianity in particular”.

This has been seen in the various news stories recently coming out of China concerning persecution of Christians. First, there was the dynamiting of a church around the turn of the year (see here).

More recently, there is this story about the government no longer allowing Bibles to be sold online in China. This happened just days after the government announced that in the upcoming years it wanted to retranslate the Bible – presumably in its own image by making it more socialism-friendly.

As we travel to churches here in the states, many have asked us about these developments and what they might mean for how we are able to do ministry when we arrive back in China.

While we don’t know exactly what the coming years in China hold for believers there, we can be sure of the Christ’s words in Matthew 16:18, “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Our Lord will build His church, and nothing – not dynamite, not Xi, not communism, not even the very gates of hell – shall prevail against it.

This is great news! As we go to China to plant churches, we are investing in a building project that cannot be thwarted!

And Christ is building His church! Just over the last couple of months, our teammates in China have had seen multiple professions of faith in their church plant with many baptisms as well! Please read their April 2018 Prayer Letter for the details.

Despite the persecution that seems to be at hand, believers in China are still seeing God at work to change lives. They aren’t living in fear of persecution but instead are faithfully pressing on to get the gospel out. Read here about the latest plan to print John and Romans in-country. They are keepin’ on keepin’ on!

I am reminded of Daniel, who when learning that a law was passed in Persia that made it illegal for him to pray, went into his house, opened his windows, and prayed “as he did aforetime” (see Daniel 6:10). He just kept on keepin’ on doing what he had always done. He just kept on worshipping and obeying the Lord. He didn’t let fear of being thrown into a lion’s den get to him.

So, you may ask, are we having second thoughts about starting churches in China? No! Taking our cue from Daniel and the believers currently over there, we have every intention of keepin’ on keepin’ on with our deputation and plans to start churches, trusting that even if we get thrown in a tiger’s den, we serve a God who is known to send angels to stop mouths, and He has promised to be with us until the end of the world (Matt. 28:20).

Project China: A Growing Trust

“China ramps up persecution of Christians”

“China removing crosses from hundreds of churches”

“Chinese authorities dynamite Christian megachurch”

For any Christian with a heart for world evangelism, keeping up with news stories coming out of China can certainly be disheartening. It seems like no more than a couple of months can go by without seeing another story of persecution in China popping up in our newsfeeds.

As I travel to churches raising support, I am frequently met with concerns about such headlines and how myself and the rest of Project China intend to start churches in China given its climate of hostility toward Christians.

“Can you actually start churches in China?”

“Aren’t you afraid?”

“What will happen to you and your family if you’re caught?”

All of these are legitimate questions. I sometimes think on questions like these myself. However, I think that they are oftentimes asked with an eye that is more keen on headlines and news bites than on the Word of God.

Jesus, when commissioning us, promised us His presence as we fulfill it:

“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth, Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matt. 28:18-20)

He didn’t say He would only be with us until we reached the borders of certain countries. He said He would be with us always.

Granted, that doesn’t mean that as Christians we are exempt from persecution. Far from it.

“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” (Matt. 10:16)

“It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?” (Matt. 10:25)

Jesus was very clear that persecution should be expected. He suffered even unto death. Who are we to expect any different when following after Him?

Is there risk of persecution while planting churches in China? Certainly. In fact, two on our Project China team have been kicked out of the country and now serve in Taiwan, and another has previously dealt with encounters with police. 

There is real risk, and yet there is the commission of Christ to obey.

In 2 Samuel 23, David’s men risked their lives breaking through a Philistine garrison to retrieve a drink of water that the king longed to have. How much more should we, as servants of Christ, be willing to do whatever it takes for our King, “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4)?

In the face of growing persecution, we must have a growing trust. A growing trust in the promises of Christ. A growing trust in the One who said:

“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” (Matt. 5:10-12)

This is part of a series of articles about our growing team of missionaries, Project China. To learn more about Project China and find subsequent links to the websites of its missionaries, please visit our website at www.projectchina.org.

Why Plant Churches in China? Part 2: Why in China?

Last week we looked at the “Why Plant Churches?” of “Why Plant Churches in China?” This week, we are going to look at the “Why in China?” part of the question.

Yes, China is a “closed” country. Of course, there are no “missionary” or “church planting” visas available. But, church planting can be done there. It has been done, and it must be done! Christ commanded that we “teach all nations” in Matthew 28, and when He said that He certainly meant to include the nation that would one day comprise nearly 20% of the world’s population! And as we looked at last week, His commands to baptize them and teach them all things whatsoever He has commanded us can only naturally be obeyed in the context of a local church.

To fulfill the Great Commission in China, more churches must be planted. There are many cities in China that number in the millions and have but just a handful of churches. When I say a handful, I mean that the number of churches in the city can be counted on just one hand!

By comparison, just two days ago I preached at a church located in a county in South Carolina with a population of around 120,000. As I drove through part of the county to reach the church, I passed over 25 Baptist churches (I stopped counting at around 20 but know that we saw more). Some of those churches were located right next door to another! I have a friend from that county who estimated that there are nearly 100 Baptist churches in that one county! That’s 1 church for every 1,200 people!

If an unsaved person in that area wanted to learn about the Bible, he could simply walk to any of those churches and meet someone that could teach it to him and share the gospel with him. In fact, many of those churches actively share the gospel in that community and would perhaps find him before he went to them.

However, in most (if not all) Chinese cities, finding a church isn’t nearly as easy. Some cities with over 5 million people may have no more than five churches! That’s 1 church for every 1 million people! The likelihood of someone in a city like that meeting a Christian who could share the gospel with them is terrifyingly low!

How are we to effectively reach so many people with the gospel? I would propose that a good start would be to begin bringing that 1 church for every 1 million people (1:1,00,000) ratio down to the far more manageable 1 church for every 1,200 people (1:1,200). To do that in a city of 5 million, however, we would need to plant just over 4,000 churches! -for just one city! Keep in mind that there are around 60 cities in China with at least 1 million people and a handful of cities in China that number in the tens of millions!

We have a huge task before us – over 1 billion Chinese people are in need of the gospel!

“How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?” (Romans 10:14, 15)

We need to be about sending more church planters to China to establish thousands of Bible-preaching churches that will faithfully preach the gospel and obey the Great Commission there!