Q: What are the biggest problems facing the house churches today?
A: In the rural areas, many of the believers live in incredible poverty and hardship. Most of the brothers have no choice but to leave the farm and leave their families to look for work in the cities.
Each farming family was required to pay 200 RMB tax each year. This was impossible. Even after we sold everything we were able to grow in the fields each year and sold all our possessions, it still wasn’t enough to pay the government tax. But recently Beijing has increased the tax to 500 RMB per family! This is more than anyone can bear. This tax is forcing all of our young men and potential leaders away from their families into the cities. This has placed our house churches under great pressure. This is why, when you come to our house church meetings, you will see many more sisters than there are brothers. In the cities the brothers are often busy working, and the temptations of the city life mean that their spiritual relationship with the Lord suffers.
The loving hearts of people for Jesus are getting cool. Many are forsaking their first love. Even though the ministry seems to be expanding here and there, many leaders no longer have the time to sit at the feet of Jesus and hear His voice. Therefore, the spiritual quality of the house churches is going down. The older generation thinks the younger generation has a lot of zeal but not much truth.
Q: There is a trend of millions of people leaving rural areas and moving to the big cities. What can the house churches do to reach the city folk?
A: Several years ago we started to address this question, and we have sent many workers to live in places like Beijing, Tianjin, Shenyang and so on. It is very difficult from a practical level. To send and sustain one evangelist in Shanghai, for example, costs us approximately twenty times as much money as one evangelist living in a rural area.
Many of those who have gone to the cities have not tried to be the ones evangelizing themselves. The more effective workers have taken roles behind the scenes where they teach and train local urban believers to win their city. This is necessary because many city folk look down on rural people, so city people are best reached by other people of that city who know the way things work there.
Some of the brothers and sisters who moved to cities have been used of God as organizers. They organize prayer and intercession teams, they organize training, they organize evangelistic outreach, and the local believers have grown in number.
Q: Has there been much success for the house churches reaching into cities?
A: In the beginning, city ministry was very difficult, but in the past few years many evangelists have seen a large number of souls come to the cross. In many cities, the number of churches has doubled in a few years, especially in places like Beijing, Chengdu, Taiyuan, Kunming and Hohot. We are finding that revival is not restricted just to the countryside; rather, the Spirit has been “blowing wherever it pleases” (John 3). In many places people who own businesses have been finding God’s grace. In the city we find our workers need to consider interaction with foreign Christians much more than they do in the countryside.
This has been helpful in some ways, but in other ways we are concerned because some are being given the opportunity to go and study outside of China in places like Hong Kong, Singapore and the Philippines. When these leaders are taken away, it always leaves a hole in our work that is difficult to fill.