Until the 2008 Beijing Olympics, illegal, unregistered churches in China had been flourishing right under the nose of the Communist government. Shanghai had its first megachurch, led by an ethnic Korean Chinese who borrowed church growth techniques from South Korea. It seemed to promise a new era for the church in China.
These urban churches grew out of China's house church movement, but they distinguished themselves by seeking a public presence (see my cover story in the May 2008 issue of CT, "Great Leap Forward"). Made up of educated professionals, this "third church" was not antagonistic to the government, but sought to publicly support the Communist Party's goal of a "harmonious society." They operated food banks, restaurants, and bookstores. Unlike the rural house church, they rented buildings and advertised their services.
After the Olympics, however, the world's attention shifted, and perhaps the government felt free to pressure the church once again. The government cracked down on the Shouwang church in Beijing, one of the largest unregistered churches in the city. Rather than disband, the church held Easter services in a park as it snowed. Members were arrested and pastors harassed.
The story was widely reported in the press, but little has been told about the broader effect of government pressure on the urban "third church." Has the church adapted, been driven underground, or scattered completely? Updating this story is the value of David Wang and Georgina Sam's new book, Christian China and the Light of the World: Miraculous Stories from China's Great Awakening.
The Value of Hardship
Wang is president emeritus of Asian Outreach and has been ...