CHINESE TURNING TO CHRISTIANITY EN MASSE
More people worship in China on a typical Sunday than attend all the churches in Europe combined.
The message coming out of China is not about the slowing economy, nor about the tensions in the South China Sea — it is “Jesus Saves”.
It’s a theme echoed in Australia, where Chinese people are packing into our universities, tourism sites, property auctions and churches. In south Beijing on any Thursday night, a rock band leads 300 young worshippers at Zhushikou Protestant church, with lead singer Gao Liang, a convert of 3 years, prominently sporting a WWJD badge — What Would Jesus Do? A couple of kilometres away, another large and youthful congregation of about 600 was at mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, where Catholic churches have stood since 1605, and which also maintains a daily Latin mass. Large screens communicate the service to the overflow outside.
Liu Qiaojing, a 35-year-old teacher worshipping with her husband, Sun Yanqing, and their two-year-old son Yibo, said ever more young people were joining the church: “They love the atmosphere, the feeling of love, the warm-hearted people.”
Wang Libo, a 45-year-old businessman said: “Our broader society is in a quandary.” So the church is filling with those, especially in their 20s and 30s, “who come to seek truth and genuineness, to think, and to find belief”.
An estimated 100 million people in China have already become Christians — more than the 84 million in the ruling Communist Party. As a result, more people worship in China on a typical Sunday than attend all the churches in Europe combined. So Easter Day was a very big event in China, even though the authorities haven’t declared it as a formal holiday.
Easter saw unprecedented numbers attending both officially recognised Protestant and Catholic churches as well as underground “house churches” — although there is also constant traffic between these strands of Christianity.
In Australia, the Anglican Church, which has historically been viewed as largely an Anglo preserve, provides a particularly strong example of how rapidly Chinese people are changing core institutions, and how the latter are adapting. The Primate of the Australian church, Melbourne Archbishop Philip Freier, said: “Over the past 15 years, we have ordained 17 people for Anglican ministry in Melbourne who are Chinese by birth or background. “We have experienced a very positive response to our ministry amongst people newly arrived from China.”
The archdiocese ran a ministry conference in 2014 on the theme of the church in the Asian century, “where we celebrated the freshness of approach that all of our Asian congregations, including Chinese, are bringing to the church”. Last year, the Anglican cathedral, St Paul’s, introduced a weekly service in Mandarin, led by two Chinese priests. The official prayer book used in Australian Anglican worship has been translated into Chinese. Andreas Loewe, the dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, said: “The face of Anglicanism in Melbourne is changing. In 10 years, the number of congregations in our diocese where a language other than English predominates has almost ¬doubled, from 23 to 40 today.
“If you walk through the cathedral on any given day, you will witness an incredible cultural diversity among the people visiting and praying here. Our Chinese ministry at the heart of Melbourne is a visible sign of our commitment to serving the people who live, work, and now worship in this great culturally diverse city.” Many Chinese worshippers in Australia became drawn to the church only after they arrived, having no previous religious adherence or knowledge at all. Back home, the Christian surge within China has happened even though Communist Party members — the national elite — remain banned from all religious adherence, and proselytising by religious groups is illegal except within officially prescribed religious venues, whether temples, churches or mosques.
Source: Compiled by Australian Prayer Network from media reports, April 11, 2016.
CHINA GRIPPED BY SPIRITUAL REVIVAL AS HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS TURN TO FAITH
Forty-one years after China’s Cultural Revolution snuffed out all forms of religious expression, hundreds of millions of Chinese people are flocking to religions like Christianity. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ian Johnson believes what’s transpiring in China is nothing short of “one of the world’s great spiritual revivals” and says the world better take note because the impact of this “spiritual transformation” could have significant global implications. “People in China are looking for new moral guideposts, some sort of moral compass to organize society,” said Johnson, author of The Souls of China: “So they are turning to religion as a source of values to help reorganize society.” Johnson spent six years researching the “values and faiths of today’s China.” He says the fastest-growing drivers of this “religious revolution” are unregistered churches or so-called “house” or “underground” churches.
“These groups have become surprisingly well-organized, meeting very openly and often counting hundreds of congregants,” Johnson wrote in an article. “They’ve helped the number of Protestants soar from about one million when the communists took power to at least 60 million today.” Over the past 15 years, CBN News has also documented this unprecedented revival. From the countryside to the big cities, we’ve highlighted how a new generation of Believers is changing the face of Chinese Christianity. “Any casual visitor to the country can tell you that the number of churches, mosques, and temples has soared in recent years, and that many of them are full,” Johnson wrote. “While problems abound, the space for religious expression has grown rapidly, and Chinese Believers eagerly grab it as they search for new ideas and values to underpin a society that long ago discarded traditional morality.”
Church leaders that CBN News spoke with say prayer has played a key role in sparking the Christian revival. For example, in one corner of northeast China, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, thousands of Christians have been meeting for an unprecedented prayer movement. What started as a small gathering several years ago has turned into a nationwide prayer initiative uniting hundreds of Chinese churches. In some cases, this revival is even touching China’s state-controlled churches known as Three-Self Church. “Now there’s big revivals happening in the Three-Self Churches,” Dr. Zhao Xiao told CBN News from his offices on the outskirts of China’s capital city. Zhao is one of China’s foremost experts on Christianity. A former Communist Party member and atheist, Zhao converted after reading the Bible.
“If you go to Haidian Church, you’ll find yourself in a more than 100-metre line trying to get inside and worship. In Shenzhen, there are usually an average of 500 people being baptized each Sunday!” he shared. Decades ago, the Chinese government had a law that said that young men and women below the age of 18 could not attend Three-Self Churches. Zhao says those rules have been loosened in recent years. “There’s an increasing proportion of them in churches now, more young male Believers, professionals, mainstream celebrities, especially in the big cities, that are attending the church unlike the past when it was mainly the elderly who attended.” While the government remains deeply suspicious of China’s religious revival, Johnson says it hasn’t stopped people from exploring matters of faith.
Source: CBN News
Australian Prayer Network, May 15, 2017
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