1. The Beginning of the State Church (1911-1927)
In 1911, General Son Moon led a democratic revolution in China and defeated the Ch ' ing Dynasty, leading to the establishment of the People ' s Republic of China (PRC). This began a period of great turbulence in china. It was during this chaos that the leaders of the academic community began the New Culture Movement, which called for the abandonment of traditional Chinese beliefs and culture for science and democracy as the only means of saving China. This included the rejection of all religions because they were thought to be part of Shamanism. As a result of this movement, anti-Christian sentiment began to spread, as Christians were thought to be instruments of the hated western world. In March 1927, most of the 8000 foreign missionaries in China were forced out of inland China and were sent back to the coastal regions. Out of fear of the anti-Christian sentiment, most were able to escape the country to Japan and the Philippines. In the absence of foreign missionaries, Christian leaders in China began a movement to build the Church.
2. The Revival of the Protestant Church in China (1928-1949)
By this time, Chiang Kai-shek had won control of northern China, bringing stability to the region. This allowed the Church in the region to begin settling down, which led to a revival and the beginning of a movement to spread the gospel. Major contributors to this cause were Wang Ming Dao, Sung Shang Ji, and Watchman Nee in 1930. However, in 1937, Japan attacked China and the country once again erupted in chaos. Still the number of Christians continued to grow rapidly. In 1936, it was estimated that there were 560,000 Christians in China. By 1945, this number had grown to 700,000.
3. The Three Self Patriotic Movement (1949-1958)
Three conditions were placed on the practice of Christianity, called the Three Self policy: ¡° Self-dependence, self-nourishment, and self-sufficiency. ¡± This policy summed up the Chinese government ' s policy on religion in an attempt to rid religion in China from any outside influences. It particularly affected Christians in China as it tried to separate it from the outside world, as the PRC thought that the Protestant Church was merely a means for outsiders to change the Chinese mentality. The PRC tried to spread the Three Self policy through liberal Christian leaders like Wooyah Ohjong, who had studied at New York Theological Seminary, a known liberal seminary in America. If any Christians were found to have violated this policy, they were labeled as anti-government and imprisoned. The government carried out two big raids against Christians in 1955 and 1958.
4. The Persecution of the Protestant Church in China (1958-1966)
Since 1958, two kinds of Protestant churches exited in China, one that followed the government ' s religion policy and the other did not. The latter was forced into hiding because of the raids and moved underground as believers were not allowed to worship openly in a public place of worship. Instead, the members of this movement worshiped in secret small groups. This was the beginnings of the underground house church movement.
a. The Suffering of the Followers of the Three Self Policy
Even those who abided by the government ' s policy were subject to suffering, as they were forced to study the policy instead of the Bible. After a mandatory six month study of the Three Self policy, the church leaders were forced to confess to crimes that they had not committed and were imprisoned or forced into manual labor. Without leaders, many members of the Three Self Church grew afraid and joined the underground movement. In the meantime, to make it easier to control the Church, the PRC consolidated over two hundred churches into eight churches in Shanghai and sixty-six into four in Beijing.
b. The Persecution of the Underground church
As a result of the PRC ' s policy, most of the leaders of the Underground Church were either imprisoned or sent away to forced labor. Their families were left without any means of supporting themselves and couldn ' t even get jobs or go to school because they had been branded as anti-government. Despite their struggles, they realized that they could rely only on God and their faith grew stronger and stronger. They continued to meet secretly, although constantly moving around to avoid the raids, and supported each other. So, even in the hardships, the Underground Church continued to grow.
5. The Chinese Church In Hard Times (1966-1976)
By August 1956, Chairman Mao Zedong was in power and as part of his policy, he enacted the Cultural Revolution. He gathered together an army of young aggressive teenagers and young adults, the Hongeebyung, to destroy anything from the previous generations, as the problems in China were blamed on the past. The Hongeebyung destroyed ancient temples and churches and Christian houses, set fire to Christian books and bibles, and even killed Christians in an attempt to destroy all religions in China. For three years, Mao carried out and attacked on all religions. But still the leaderless Underground Church kept meeting, praying even harder and the gospel continued to spread in secret.
6. The Revival of the Protestant Church in China (1977-1980)
In 1976, Chairman Mao died and the landscape of politics in China began to change. Divisions arose between the Maoists and the modernizers who realized that China was getting poorer and poorer and needed to open up to the West. Although the latter was the minority, it was growing faster and its power was increasing. In March 1979, the Maoists and modernizers decided to put aside their differences and agreed to open up to the West, which would open China up to religion again.
In August 1979, the Three Self movement, which had been waning, started again in the face of pending influx of Christian missionaries. The Underground movement also became emboldened and more active in preaching the gospel.
7. The Struggling Chinese Church (1981-1985)
In December 1980, Hua Guk Bong, a high-level Communist leader was fired. By 1977, the indoctrination of the government ' s policies ceased after Mao ' s death. After the Hua died, it started up again and was changed into the Four Basic Principles.
• The Four Basic Principles:
1) We must keep to the socialist road
2) We must uphold the dictatorship of the proletariat
3) We must uphold the leadership of the Communist Party
4) We must uphold the Marxism-Lenninism-Mao Zedong Thought
• The Three Policies in Enforcing the Three Self Patriotic Movement
Christians began to realize that the government was trying to control religion more and more and that they needed to be more cautious. Meanwhile the government began to enforce its policy in smaller districts to make it easier to control smaller groups. On March 31, 1982, the PRC announced its policy on religion as being the Three Self policy and the three enforcement policies.
1) The government would control where believers would worship, the place of worship
2) The government would choose the leaders of the churches
3) The government would dictate the location and kind of religious activity.
• The Struggles of the House Church
In 1949, the number of Christians in China was less than one million, by 1982, there were an estimated 20 million believers in China but no leaders because of government raids. In the face of this growing problem, the Underground Church decided to organize its members and appoint its own leaders in secret. However, the leaders of the Three Self churches realized that their members were leaving the state churches to join the house churches and had them captured and killed by the government.
In May 1983, Witness Lee, the leader of the charismatic anti-government group Hoohanpah, was named as an enemy of the government. By October, a campaign against charismatic Christians was well underway and may were killed or forced to join the Three Self movement.
8. The Revival of the Church in China (1985-Present)
In October 1984, the Chinese government decided to open the country up more to foreigners to further build up the economy and the persecution of the Protestant Church decreased.
• The Three Self Church
In 1984, there were approximately 2000 state churches in China; now there were about 5000. The PRC government has estimated the number of Christians in China at 50,000,000. Also, the Three Self Church asked international organizations for new printers to print their own version of the bible. It has opened its own seminaries throughout China and currently prints its own bibles.
On January 5, 1992, forty-five pastors were ordained at Joongwonmon Church in Beijing. This has brought a lot of hope for the Church.
• The Underground Church
Under the less strict enforcement of the government policy on religion, activity within the underground church began to grow throughout China. The movement quickly grew to have approximately 50 million members.
3. Seven Reasons for the Growth of the Protestant Church in China
1) Spiritual Starvation
After the death of Chairman Mao, the Chinese were suffering from spiritual emptiness because of the influx of Western culture, especially the young people of China. This led to a general lack of identity because they were caught between the Chinese and Western culture. This opened their hearts to accept Christ more easily.
After forty years of hard times, the Church in China was cleansed by their struggles. The blood of the countless martyrs became the send of the Church. The persecution of Christians led to the testing and refining of their faith and they looked directly to God and not to foreign churches for relief. They were also able to build a deep relationship with Christ throughout their struggles.
Also, the church leaders who kept their fact in hardship became a source of encouragement and the example for future generations of believers to follow. Finally, through the struggles, the leadership among the disciples improved. In the face of all this, the Church blossomed, and this revival spurred on a missions movement throughout China.
Christians kept their faith during the period of struggle through prayer and praise to God. IT was when they cried out to God that they received the power to overcome persecution.
4) Traveling Missionaries
Protestant missionaries began to arrive in China during the nineteenth century and traveled throughout China, preaching the word of God. This played a central role in spreading Christianity in the country. But staring in 1958, evangelizing was prohibited to foreigners by government policy. That didn ' t stop foreign missionaries though and missions activity started up again around 1960, leading to many arrests. Still they were able to bring the gospel message to many people and helped the Underground church to grow.
5) Believers Build Up Their Own Chinese-style Church
Because of the lack of pastors to take care of the members of the Church, disciple leadership became highly motivated and active. They were devoted to guiding members of the church and helping them become mature followers of Christ even though they had full-time jobs. They built up the Church and settled on a specifically Chinese style for the Church. They were able to create a Church that was not very influenced by Western traditions.
6) Miracles and Testimonies
One big influence on the growth of the Church was the testimony of the healing power of God. The Chinese Church was feeling the brunt of Satan ' s ploys against God, but they also witnessed God overcoming the evil. The abundance of the Holy Spirit made them believe in the power and existence of God.
7) The Support of Christians Outside of China
The growth of the Protestant Church in China was greatly helped by the intercession through prayer from Christians outside of China. They also aided China by sending bibles and Christian books, financial support, and encouragement. Since 1979, over 20 million bibles were sent into China which helped spread the gospel throughout the country. Christian radio also played a big role in the growth of the Church.
4. The Two Types of Chinese Church
1) The Three Self Practice Church
The Tongjunboo was a governmental committee that tried to neutralize anti-communist organizations by force and isolation. Its ultimate goal was to destroy their culture and they were able to gain cooperation from minorities, the rich, and from all religions. The Tongjunboo was also controlling the Three Self Church and used it to act as a bridge between the government and believers.
Article 29 of the Chinese Constitution proclaimed that the Three Self Church explained the goal of politics and religion on both sides. [It describes the committee ' s goal as being anti-imperialism against Christian and patriotic organizations under the Chinese Communist Party and the government in order to control and unite Christians to love the country and the law of the land and to encourage obedience to the law while keeping the independence of the Church. It warrants the incorporation of religions and the Three Self principles. The Constitution calls for the freedom of religion to achieve a highly democratized country and culturized faith. It also calls for the immediate return of Taiwan to create a united China, keeping the country united instead of divided among parties.
Beginning in 1950, the CCP began to put pressure on individual religious organizations and put them under Three Self governmental control. Members of the Church were required to attend classes on the policy and confess their discretions as well as to those in their class. This forced many members to flee to the Underground Church.
2) The Underground Church
The foundation of the Church in China was a Chinese-style Church as it was before communism took hold. Before the establishment of the People ' s Republic of China, the Underground Church was connected through a movement to create a Church that was different from those built by foreign missionaries. This Chinese-style Church consisted of small meetings in houses. Present, the majority of the members of the Underground Church belong to the Cheheeso organization. After the revolution of 1949, the members of the Underground Church criticized the Three Self Church ' s attitude and felt that it had betrayed Christians since before the revolution.
After the Cultural Revolution, Christians were freed from jail and immediately joined the Underground Church. As a result, membership increased dramatically and the own-style movement grew. The Underground Church existed even before the establishment of the PRC, composed mostly of those opposed to the Three Self Church. Presently, eighty percent of believers belong to the Underground Church and it has become the mainstream of Christianity in China. Since the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976, the Underground Church has experienced tremendous growth. For example, in the Hunan Province, ninety-five percent of believers accepted Christ after 1976. Despite severe hardship, the Underground Church believed that God protected His own people and that He would carry out His will through His power. This is an important lesson for all Christians to learn.
The Underground Church was purified by the hard times it has experienced throwing away all the unnecessary and keeping everything simple. Theological differences gave way to the primacy of confession of faith to attain to close, personal relationship with God in addition to the Word. This was demonstrated through individual testimonies during worship time.