Fiercely independent house churches and their government-controlled counterparts eye each other with suspicion. Might God be able to use them both?
Through 1950, David Adeney lived in China for a total of 12 years. Since 1978, he has returned to China ten times. His most recent visit was in May 1990.
In this article, Adeney reports on the two major types of Protestant churches in China: the house churches and those affiliated with the Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM).
Begun after China’s Communist Revolution, the TSPM is a nationalist, government-recognized Christian organization. It gets its name from its emphasis—self-government, self-support, and self-propagation. Three Self churches are stronger in urban areas, are government-regulated, and are usually closed to missionary speakers. House churches, on the other hand, flourish in more remote areas (though many are in cities). They are typically based in homes and are comparatively free of government control.
Visitors to Chinese cities typically see large churches that are full and growing. Shanghai is officially reported to have 23 churches and 33 meeting points, with an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 Christians—and this figure probably only accounts for baptized Christians. A government magazine reported that 20,000 had been baptized in the city in the space of three years.
In churches connected with the Shanghai lianghui (the body composed of the Three Self Committee and the China Christian Council that oversees church activity), the average attendance is 4,000 people. According to the May–June 1990 issue of Bridge magazine, the city’s official projected Christian growth rate is 4,000 per year.
An unknown number of Chinese also attend smaller meetings in house churches. ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 63+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more