They closely resemble the diffuse New Testament church in the way they have survived, even thrived, in the vacillating political climate.

One of the most exciting developments in twentieth-century church history is taking place today in China. According to reports from firsthand observers, there is a movement today that is seeing Christians increasing by the thousands in house churches.

Although it is impossible to obtain precise statistics for China as a whole, staff and friends of the China Church Research Center traveling in recent months in 11 provinces have provided reliable information about this church-growth explosion. The research center estimates that there are between 25 and 50 million believers in house churches.

Take Henan Province, for example, which has 111 counties. Fifteen of these have an average of 100,000 believers each. One county had only 4,000 believers in 1948; now it has 160,000. There are a thousand meeting points scattered over 20 communes. Henan is a good example since missionaries had made little progress there before the Communists took over.

Many Western observers think house churches are a recent phenomenon in China, brought about by government changes in 1976. Actually, the roots of the current revival go much deeper. The movement is in fact an extension of an independent church movement that began in 1911 and a similar indigenous movement that grew out of the persecutions of 1922–7. These churches were free of foreign missionary control. Even before the Communist revolution in 1949, hundreds of thousands of Chinese Christians were associated with several thousand house meetings.

Several indigenous church movements grew during the 1920s. The True Jesus Church was organized in 1917 and began to ...

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