In late 2003, three remarkable events took place that signal a fundamental shift in how China's house church sees itself.
First, Regnery Publishing released veteran journalist David Aikman's Jesus in Beijing. Then, China Soul for Christ Foundation in Los Angeles issued Yuan Zhiming's dvd series The Cross: Jesus in China.
Both of these journalistic works put names and faces on the house-church movement. Previously, a veil of secrecy covered the movement. Jesus in Beijing introduces Western readers to the key house-church leaders, based on interviews and research in China by the former Beijing bureau chief for Time. The Cross is a powerful collection of interviews and testimonies, taped on location in China, of Christians from all walks of life, collected across three years. Yuan brilliantly combines his talents as a filmmaker, philosopher, and apologist as he weaves the dozens of stories into a coherent montage.
Aikman and Yuan have given us pictures, video testimonies, and careful descriptions of house-church ministriesand the house-church leaders participated, apparently regardless of the risk of imprisonment inside China.
A third event occurred in Chicago at the 2003 Christmas Conference, sponsored by Christian Life Press. At the conference, I was stunned to meet some of these Chinese brothers and sisters featured in the book and the videos. To keep track of the all-star lineup of speakers, I often referred to my now well-worn copy of Jesus in Beijing.
On the last evening, the organizers expressed thanks to Western Christians for 200 years of Protestant missions in China. They rounded up the handful of Westerners in attendance and asked us to sit in the front row. About a dozen of us were asked to stand while 2,000 Chinese ...