How A Church Began

How a church began

After a tragic turn of events in her family, a young woman seemed to have no choice but to go to an unfamiliar city and become a KTV girl to support her family. She experienced two failed marriages before returning to her hometown to open a hairdresser shop, and spread the gospel. This article tells the testimony of how a former KTV girl started the first church in the county seat.

Religious landscape in China

In order to gain an overview of the religious landscape in contemporary China under Communist rule, I have developed a theory of three markets (or spheres or zones) of religious activity – the red, the black and the grey – which correspond to whether particular religious groups, individuals and activities are considered legal (red), illegal (black), or are legally ambiguous (grey).

The Church in China – an introduction

This article is intended to be a brief introduction to the church in China for Chinese who have become Christians while overseas and want to understand something about the church in China before returning there. This article was published in 2017, but we include it again because it is a helpful introduction to the church in China.

The Chinese church’s new normal

Over the past four decades, the number of worshippers in Chinese churches grew steadily. As church membership grew, the church services matured and developed. Irregular worship times then became established Sunday meetings. Meetings moved from homes to larger rented spaces. Full-time pastors were hired, and land was acquired for church buildings. The church ministries also expanded beyond Sunday services to include teaching for children, care for the elderly, cross-cultural missions and community outreach. These four became standard ministries in churches across China. Despite their differences in legal status, house churches and Three-Self churches followed a similar pattern of growth. They came to resemble each other both in format and range of ministries, especially in the past decade or more.

New considerations in the new normal

For many years, the church has been required to abide by the principle
of ‘separation of church and state’ with Chinese characteristics. This meant that ministers could not publicly criticise the government nor talk about politics in their sermons. Therefore, whether in worship services in the open church or in gatherings in private homes, ministers would only preach the Bible and avoid criticising the government or talk about politics. However, today, the rule of ‘the separation of church and state’ is taken away and ministers are required to talk about socialism according to government trainings and standards.

Untangling the complexity of Chinese Bible translations

I often have theology students or believers in churches ask me: “Which Chinese Bible translation is the best? What are your thoughts?” During the past 20-30 years, a few different editions of the Chinese Bible have been published. But currently, in Chinese churches, almost everyone uses the Chinese Union Version (hereafter CUV) as the standard. Only a very few Chinese Christians have tried other Chinese Bible translations. Among this extremely small group, most only use the other versions for reference. Currently there is a version of the CUV with updated punctuation, and a revised version, but most Chinese Christians still largely use the traditional CUV.

WeDevote: An app in exile

WeDevote is China’s most popular Bible app, but Communist officials keep trying to shut it out of the country. In July, a 6-year-old Chinese Bible app called WeDevote marked a major milestone: 10 million installations. With its slick design, respect for copyrights and curated Bible reading plans and devotionals, WeDevote stands apart from other Bible applications for smartphones and tablets available in China.

Churches, posters and State propaganda

Like Christians during the Republican era, Chinese believers today also would like to shape the values and course of their nation. In the current environment, however, their ability to publicly present an alternative to the official Party ideals is constrained. Since 2018 the Chinese Communist Party has been pursuing a policy of sinicization (中国化) in religious affairs, a process described by government officials in terms of the “four entrances 四进”: