The church in China not only suffered persecution but experienced the most remarkable growth in 2,000 years.

Since the reopening of the People’s Republic of China to the West in the early seventies, the condition of the Christian church there has been a question of both critical interest and controversy. In the following report based upon conversations with persons involved in both the house-church movement and the government-approved Three-Self Patriotic Movement, Sharon Mumper, associate director of the Evangelical Missions Information Service, provides an updated look at the complexities and challenges facing Chinese Christians in 1987.

Pastor Chen was in for a shock when the doors of his Chinese prison finally swung open. As he stood on the threshold of freedom, anticipation mixed with dread. It had been 18 years since the Communists had wrenched him from the church he loved and the 300 people he had faithfully served. Since then, a violent revolution had ravaged the church. Perhaps only a few members remained.

Chen, however, stepped into the sunlight of a new, more liberal day for China—and into the arms of a church that in his absence had grown to 5,000. Today, some 20,000 believers meet in homes throughout the area.

Chen’s experience is not unique. “The first thing I had to do was repent,” said a pastor from Yenan Province, who was released in 1981 after more than 20 years in confinement. In prison, he had mourned for his church, imagining it scattered and frightened. On his release, he found a vital, growing, witnessing church that had multiplied in size many times. Today, his church serves as a base of outreach to the entire countryside.

Pastors who were torn from their churches during the ...

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