Many American evangelicals know only one scenario.

When it comes to the church in china, many American evangelicals understandably know only one scenario—suffering Christians in a Marxist regime desperately needing outside help to survive. More specifically, they see the visible church in China as having fatally compromised with its Communist overseers; and the true church as being made up of underground Christians who conduct their lives secretly and thereby preserve the faith in its pristine purity.

May I, however, suggest another scenario sketched only in broad strokes; one that, despite the severe problems and persecutions of the past, more accurately has today’s Chinese government granting freedom of religion to all groups in China—albeit within the tightly regimented framework of patriotism and acceptance of its laws. And it is within these limits that the visible church in China has indeed grown remarkably.

Since 1979, 1800 Protestant church buildings have been renovated and reopened for public services. Many of these facilities are crowded out on Sunday, often with standing room only, even when two or three services are held. At least four new churches are being opened each week—most where congregations had once existed, but occasionally in rural areas where there had never been a Christian congregation. And an additional 11,000 home meeting points (connected to these open churches) further extend the outreach of the gospel. Thousands have been publicly baptized, including many young people.

The China Christian Council, the organization of Chinese churches, has established three- and four-year training programs at Nanjing Theological Seminary, two-year courses in at least seven different cities, ...

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