If you haven’t already read the recent Chinese Church Voices post on the prosperity gospel in China, you need to.
Meteoric economic growth has given rise to a class of new millionaires that has become the standard of success across China. China Daily estimates one in every one thousand Chinese is a multi-millionaire. Included among these are many billionaires. More than half can be found in Beijing, Guangdong, Shanghai, and Zhejiang.
This rising economic elite now furnishes the role models for China’s growing urban middle class, many Christians included.
“Reasons why Prosperity Theology Floods in China,” a China Christian Daily article adapted by Chinese Church Voices, notes the trend in the church toward favoring those who are financially successful. “Aside from favoring successful people in positions of power,” the article says, “Many testimony meetings are filled with praise for ‘how successful their businesses are.’ This greatly influences the values of the believers.”
As the church follows the general trend in society, it unwittingly adopts the values of the secular community. As a result, prosperity teaching is able to gain a foothold in the church.
Another reason for the church’s openness to the prosperity gospel includes a utilitarian mindset, rooted in Chinese folk beliefs, that sees God simply as a means of obtaining one’s desires. The worship of money and the widespread belief in society that one’s wealth is a measure of one’s success as a person contribute to this trend as well.
The elevation of these successful Christians results in bias in the church, with the opinions of the wealthy carrying greater weight than those of regular believers.
These values stand in stark contrast to the qualities often associated with China’s rural house church movement, namely, simplicity, a deep dependence upon God, and a willingness to suffer for the gospel. In the space of one generation it appears as if this legacy has been supplanted by a very different theological perspective. This new orientation reflects urban China’s materialistic lifestyle, replacing the other-worldly emphasis of the past generation with an emphasis on pursuing material gain as a sign of God’s blessing.
The China Daily article referenced above begins with the statement, “It's not as hard as you might think to bump into a multimillionaire in China these days.”
Depending on where one attends church, it may be possible to bump into one on Sunday morning.
Christian leaders in China and those serving with them need to reflect deeply on the influence of materialism in the church so they might equip believers with a solidly biblical response.
Brent Fulton is the founder of ChinaSource. Dr. Fulton served as the first president of ChinaSource until 2019. Prior to his service with ChinaSource, he served from 1995 to 2000 as the managing director of the Institute for Chinese Studies at Wheaton College. From 1987 to 1995 he served as founding …View Full Bio
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