On Sunday, June 3, 1990, a young man made his way to Tiananmen Square in Beijing, where he knelt down at the scene of last year’s tragedy and began to pray. Moments later, plainclothes police arrested him.
Not surprisingly, senior Communist party officials branded the young man a “troublemaker.” They were joined in their criticism, however, by senior leaders of the Beijing house-church movement, who labeled him “dangerously misled.”
The peculiar instance of agreement between church and party leaders highlights an unusual new challenge confronting church leaders in the wake of Tiananmen Square. Disillusioned by the violent victory of Communist hardliners, thousands of students and young professionals have turned to Christ (CT, March 5, 1990, p. 38). But according to Lesley Francis, director of the China Program for Overseas Missionary Fellowship (OMF), “the house churches and the [state-backed Protestant] Three-Self churches are having huge problems coping with a terrific influx of converts from the intelligentsia.” Not only that, she argues, but these new believers have found both church groups unsatisfactory, and may be on the brink of establishing a new strand of house churches—to the embarrassment and disapproval of the elderly leaders of the traditional house-church movement.
A leading evangelical scholar on the house-church movement, Anthony Lambert, confirms this view, citing the case of a young intellectual in Guangdong Province.
“He is an oil painter,” Lambert said, “reads Shakespeare in English, and is an accomplished philosopher, but he does not go to the Three-Self church because they tried to make him study [Communist] party documents.… He went to the house church of a famous leader—Lin Xiangao (Samuel Lam)—but found ...1
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