The summer issue of ChinaSource Quarterly comes out next month and, in the words of guest editor Robert Menzies, “seeks to illumine the origins, characteristics, and continuing influence of Pentecostal churches in China.”
It is a rich issue written by those who have been observers and active participants—both Chinese and expat Christians—in this ongoing story. In fact, we ended up with more material than we could use and decided the following testimony would work well as a ChinaSource Blog post to help set the stage for the full issue in June.
One Chinese Couple’s Testimony
By Hong and Esther Yang
The following testimony was penned by Chinese Christians who came to faith in China but now reside in the US. This husband-and-wife team had ministered for many years in China. Although they are currently blacklisted and unable to enter the land of their birth, they continue to serve the Chinese church through their preaching and teaching ministry.
Expect Great Things from God:1 God’s Amazing Work
Over the past twelve years, my wife and I have been faithful in carrying out the great commission (Matthew 28:18–20) with the great commandment (Mark 12:30–31) in our hearts. As a result of exercising our faith in his promises and our willingness to pay the price to win souls for Jesus, the Lord has favored us with fire, force, and much lasting fruit (John 15). By his grace and for his glory, we have been able to help establish and support over 20 Bible schools which have trained and graduated more than 3,000 ministers, preachers, pastors, and missionaries of the gospel.
These preachers, sold out for the cause of Christ and on fire as a result of their experience of the Holy Spirit, are serving whole-heartedly all over China and even beyond China’s borders (in Buddhist countries like Thailand, in Muslim nations west of China as part of the Back to Jerusalem Movement, and even in isolated North Korea). These modern-day Chinese apostles operate their lives and ministries according to:
- The Word of God as the only foundation,
- Christ the Lord as the only centrality and authority,
- The Holy Spirit as the only guide,
- The cross of suffering and sacrifice as the only path to Christ,
- Agape love as the only motivation for evangelization and edification.
They work with passion and purpose, humility and unity, with a team approach to ministry to spread the gospel, establish churches, and send out missionaries to unreached people groups.
Our strategy, the result of much fervent prayer, has been simple: reach the lost, teach the saved, and dispatch the called. In turn, these young gospel soldiers, being fully equipped to live and die for the Master, have reached hundreds of thousands themselves, set up countless house churches, and even started their own Bible schools to make more disciples among the younger generation in China. The gospel seed has been sown in fertile soil all over China. As we travelled far and wide among the beloved and hungry people of China, we have had the privilege and honor of leading to Christ and baptizing thousands—in rivers, bathtubs, fifty-gallon grain jars, and swimming pools. We now have dedicated disciples all over China continuing the work of God even though physically we are not able to be with them. We might be banned from China for a while, but the Holy Spirit can never be blocked from saving the precious nine hundred million Chinese who are yet to have a Bible and to hear the gospel. Our work in the Lord is not in vain.
The revival in China has been the most explosive and spectacular over the past thirty or so years in the midst of persecution including arrests, torture, detention in forced-labor camps, life imprisonment, and even martyrdom. Tens of thousands of Chinese saints have suffered and sacrificed their lives for the advancement of God’s kingdom. Yes, the disciples of the Lord in China are the kernel of wheat unafraid, willing, and in some cases, even eager, to fall to the ground and die to produce many seeds (John 12:24). We as a fellowship have grown tremendously from only a few timid preachers in 1998 to over three thousand bold and productive full-gospel ministers in 2010. From only a few families, the Full Gospel Church of God2 now has approximately half a million members and many more affiliates, mostly in the central, northwest, and northeast provinces of the country.
Attempt Great Things for God: Reasons for the Revival
Christianity in China has miraculously grown from less than one million in 1949 with the Communist takeover to well over one hundred million strong. The rapid growth of the underground house churches in China has become an irresistible trend in the nation, and it will surely become the leading force in China and beyond China for the evangelization of the world, especially in the Muslim world west of China as the Back to Jerusalem Movement advances. The precious and powerful promise of the Lord is being realized even as I write this summary (Matthew 16:18).
I have often wondered how the persecuted underground churches in China, without much financial or missionary support, and without enough Bibles or training materials, could grow so fast in such a short period of time all the while facing Communist oppression and suppression. Based on my personal participation and keen observation over the past twelve years of living and serving among them, I offer the following list of the major reasons for the astonishing survival and growth of the house churches.
They love the Word of God. The ministers and Bible students do little else but memorize the Word in their heart (even entire books like the Gospel of John and Romans) and copy the Bible by hand. They have no interest in liberal theologians!3
They are fervent in praying day and night, always weeping loudly before the Lord, repenting, and confessing their “sin of lack of zeal,” asking the Lord to forgive them for being “lukewarm!” More than once, I have seen Acts 4:31 being realized among these simple, down-to-earth, and followers of Christ.
They are zealous in evangelism, passionately winning the lost at all costs. Their zeal is expressed in the following song, which is one of their favorites and sung with great emotion and many tears.
To Be a Martyr for the Lord
From the beginning of the early church,
Followers of the Lord all paid a heavy and high price.
Tens of thousands sacrificed their lives as martyrs for spreading the gospel. Therefore, they received eternal life.
Chorus: To be a martyr, to be a martyr,
I have already been prepared,
To be a martyr for the Lord.
The apostolic age was a river of blood,
For the followers of the Lord were not afraid to die.
Apart from the natural death of John,
All the rest of the Lord’s disciples died a martyr’s death.
Stephen was stoned to death,
Matthew was beheaded in Ethiopia,
Mark was tortured to death by the horses,
Luke was hanged,
Peter, Philip, and Simon the Zealot were all crucified on a cross.
Bartholomew was skinned alive,
Apostle Thomas was speared to death,
James was pushed out of the temple and crushed to death,
Jude was killed by many arrows, and Paul was beheaded.
I, too, am willing to pay such a price.
Whether insults or persecution, false accusations or abandonment by family, friends, or fellow workers,
I am ready to leave everything behind and follow him.
They emphasize the absolute sovereignty and unique lordship of Jesus Christ and refuse to compromise their faith, willingly paying the high price of persecution for their faith and work in the Lord.
They live not by sight, but by faith and faith alone. Under the circumstances, they are stripped of all the non-essentials of external religion, and they embrace the intimacy of godly relationships! Their close fellowship further enhances relationship with God and with each other for accountability and discipleship.
They are not a fixed temple with a maintenance mentality of religious institutionalism, but are flexible like the tabernacle, dynamic and effective in following the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
They are filled with the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts, full of passion and conviction. Many signs and wonders follow those who believe, including miracles such as healing, exorcism, and, in some cases, the resurrection from the dead. Many illiterate old ladies I know are now miraculously reading the Bible fluently.
The persecution, as they have told me many times, is a sign of God’s approval over their ministries, a sure blessing of the Lord in disguise. Never-ending oppression and opposition from the enemy help to unite the body of Christ as the family of God in sharing and caring for each other with vision for our common mission.
I hope and pray that these points I have learned from the living martyrs of China might enrich, challenge, and inspire all of us, spurring us onto more godliness and Christlikeness in our character and conduct for him! May we continue, together in the faith, to pray and support the house churches in China.
May the gracious and great Lord continue to abundantly bless and mightily use each of us so that we might be a blessing to others, especially the persecuted church of the Lord in China and beyond.
Watch for the summer issue of the ChinaSource Quarterly, “The Pentecostal Church in China,” coming out in June.
- The phrase “expect great things, attempt great things” is generally attributed to William Carey. See Expect Great Things; Attempt Great Things (wmcarey.edu).
- A denomination or group of churches that was established in Anyang, Henan in May 1998 which has grown rapidly since then.
- Several themes marked the Protestant liberal theology espoused by Adolf Harnack and other Protestant liberals of the early 1900s: the rejection of Christianity’s claim to be the sole possessor of truth; the elevation of other religions as essentially equal to Christianity; and an emphasis on mission as benevolent action rather than proclamation of the gospel message. This theology, espoused by “liberal theologians,” is not attractive to these house church believers.
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