Chinese Church Voices

Cults and the Rural Church

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This article from China Christian Daily describes the threat of cults in China today, noting that many rural areas are especially at risk for false teaching. The danger of cults, says the author, cannot be taken lightly.

Grassroots Preacher Talks About Heresies in Rural Churches in Shanxi

In the Book of Matthew, Jesus taught his disciples about the chaos during the end times, saying, "At that time if anyone says to you, 'Look! Here is the Messiah!' or 'There he is!' do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect." (Matt 24:23-24)

Churches have improved in every respect alongside the improvement of society in recent decades, but heresies and cults are still very popular in some rural areas. In fact, there are more heresies in the name of Christ than true churches.

Brother Liu, who used to serve in his hometown in Shanxi and is now serving in an urban church in Hefei, shared some thoughts on why heresies so easily take root in rural areas, and why they are so difficult to eliminate. He said that the main reason was that rural believers did not have a thorough understanding of the Bible. Also, their faith was rooted in thoughts of God keeping them safe. Furthermore, they were more easily lured into heresies because they failed to know God in a spiritual way due to the influence of folk religions.

Liu also said that heresies travel from place to place, starting in small areas and moving on as the surrounding areas are affected. At first they are keen to send warmhearted believers to people in difficulty to aid and comfort them, which is very attractive to rural people.

Liu mentioned several common heresies in his hometown: The "Seven Spirits," "Cry Cult," and "Confession Cult." The Seven Spirits is also called Eastern Lightning and is now more commonly known as "Almighty God," with a female Christ according to their [teaching], which is very dangerous to other churches.

The "Cry Cult" is also called "Cry for Rebirth." Its core doctrines are that one "must cry in order to believe in God," "There is no rebirth without crying," and "One can't just cry, but must see a vision of Jesus in white robes to be sure it worked,” said Liu. "In some places, believers are recommended to cry for three days in order to have their sins cleansed."

In the Bible, sins are cleansed by Jesus' blood, but the cult teaches that people still carry sin and must literally throw up their sins. "It's not just that they can vomit easily, but they must vomit water," Liu said. "People examine it to make sure, and it must be a good quantity, not just some spit." This is supposed to show that the person's sin is cleansed, and if it is not thorough then they still have hidden sin. In cases where the person fails, the heretical teacher says they still have some evil spirit and they must pray and vomit with faith. Many people believe this, and feel good about it, becoming obsessed, while some quit because they fail.

Crying or vomiting is popular among locals as a way to be spiritually clean. Liu said that the fundamental reason for this is that people are too abstract about confession, repentance, and rebirth. People want something they can see, with achievable actions, to believe that death means forgiveness and rebirth, so they believe that they are cleansing themselves in these extreme acts.

Another heresy, “Grace Gospel,” says that a person cannot confess after becoming a believer. If someone does then repent and confess sins, it means that the person didn't believe and wasn't saved. Liu said that a fellow worker from his hometown church heard of this and felt great after listening to their sermon. He started interacting with their group, and not only did he walk a terrible path but led many others down it also.

Liu stated that the cults mentioned are active and open about their activities in rural areas. Except for the members of the "Almighty God," which is underground, they are also very warmhearted. They go to help neighbors with farm work, and chat with them. They only go to Christians because they want to be included with them.

The heresies active in rural areas are very dangerous to local churches and believers. Liu stated that, on the one hand, this creates chaos so that people think Christianity is too complex, they don’t know which one to choose. It takes a lot of time to explain the difference between the cults and true Christianity. On the other hand, believers with a shallow foundation to their faith easily have misunderstandings about the church, so there have been cases where cults lured believers from the church.

This also had a great impact on non-believers, because they felt confused about the many schools of Christianity, and were unable to determine which one was true.

Liu suggested that in order to help believers distinguish faith and heresy, the church should help them to better understand the Bible. By fully explaining the Bible, believers may have a clear understanding of its teachings so that they may withstand cults and heresies.

Original Article: Grassroots Preacher Talks About Heresies in Rural Churches in Shanxi by China Christian Daily
Edited and reposted with permission.

Image Credit: Gaylan Yeung
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