The underground church in China is “unstoppable” despite extreme persecution because Chinese Christians are willing to suffer for the Gospel, Francis Chan has said.
Several years ago, the Crazy Love author sold his house and spent a year traveling through Southeast Asia, visiting churches and interacting with church leaders. Recently, he told attendees gathered at the “Rethink Church/Rethink Mission” event at McLean Bible Church in Vienna, Virginia, that during his time in China, he met with the pastor of an underground church.
The pastor told him that when China temporarily loosened its restrictions on religious freedom, he decided to hold a public, large church service “just like the Americans do.” The church was attended by 2,000 believers in Shanghai, which had “never been done,” Chan said. However, it wasn’t long before the Chinese government arrested the pastor and closed the church, forcing the congregation to once again worship underground.
Chan said he was taken aback when the pastor told him, “Francis, that was the greatest thing for our church. When we got up and started doing services, I couldn’t get anyone to do anything — they just wanted to show up and listen to a sermon.”
“Listen, we lost our whole DNA, and when we were forced back underground it was so refreshing,” the pastor continued. “We got our DNA back, because the underground church was built upon these five pillars. One, we were devoted to the word of God. Two, we were deeply devoted to prayer. Three, we expected every single believer to be out sharing the Gospel. Four, there was a regular expectation of miracles. Five, we embraced suffering for the glory of Christ.”
While embracing suffering and finding joy in hardship seems counterintuitive, Chan said that idea is in “every book in the New Testament.”
The underground Chinese church, he said, has grown so large because Chinese Christians “actually believed they could make disciples and start these gatherings because Jesus was enough.”
“I started to think, ‘This is what made the underground church in China unstoppable. If you have a group of people that actually embrace suffering, how are you ever going to stop them?'” he asked.
Underground house churches are illegal in China, as they operate outside the guidelines of the government. Despite continued persecution, their membership is rapidly growing across regions and demographics. Fenggang Yang, of Purdue University’s Center on Religion and Chinese Society, estimates that there are between 93 million and 115 million Protestants in China, with fewer than 30 million attending officially registered churches.
Continuing his message, Chan argued that the problem with churches in the West is that they are “so stoppable the moment it gets too difficult.”
“What if you actually go, ‘I want to suffer for Christ?'” Chan asked. “Will you suffer to obey these things? Will you actually sacrifice? Because it’s a lot easier to come somewhere and be fed than to love [others] as much as Christ loved you, as much as the Father loves the Son, and to break bread with thinking, ‘Christ was tortured for me; would I do that for [others]?'”
The pastor encouraged attendees to become missionaries – wherever they are – and embrace suffering for the glory of Christ “because the Church is that beautiful and that important.”
Irish Bishop Against Practicing Yoga in Christian Schools
An Irish bishop has written to Catholic schools urging them to ban yoga as it is ‘not of Christian origin’ and the children should spend their time ‘in adoration of Jesus’ instead.
Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan, wrote to principals, teachers and school staff members in Waterford City and County, Ireland, on October 10.
In his letter, he said: ‘Yoga is not of Christian origin and is not suitable for our parish school setting and especially not during religious education time.
‘I have been asked by several people to say a word on yoga and mindfulness. My question is, ‘Will they bring us closer to God or replace him?’
The bishop claimed that Christian Mindfulness is ‘meditation on Christ’ which empties the mind of ‘everything unnecessary’ in order to become ‘aware of the presence and love of Christ’.
While he also quoted Pope Francis that practices like yoga are ‘not capable of opening our hearts up to God’.
The bishop added how people can ‘take a million courses in spirituality’ but this activity ‘will never be able to give you freedom’, echoing Pope Francis’s speech in 2015.
He said Pope Francis’s philosophy was in keeping with Ireland’s Grow In Love programme. This touches on Christian doctrine, Scripture, morality and prayer.
Teacher’s were reminded that October is the ‘month of the Rosary’ and they should each pray in a bid to get closer to Jesus, in the letter.
But the primary school curriculum allows a degree of flexibility about how its implemented, according to the Irish National Teachers Organisation, who hit-back at his view.
John Stokes, a yoga instructor in Waterford, said the practice of yoga, meditation and mindfulness should be ’embraced’ in ‘an age where children are really suffering from anxiety and stress’.
‘There is no dogma taught in our classes and Yoga in it’s truest sense is a movement and breath awareness practice for health and wellbeing.
They said ‘here’s to tolerance, love and unity’ and invited him to a one-to-one yoga session or class of his choice’ at their Wellness Centre in Youghal, Ireland.
The Irish National Teachers Organisation said the primary school curriculum allows schools a certain amount of flexibility and autonomy with regard to its implementation.
They said the schools ‘are best placed’ to make the decisions about how the subjects are taught, taking into consideration the ‘school culture, ethos and needs of the pupils’.
This is not the first time Bishop Cullinan has received backlash for his views as he said he was to establish a ‘delivery ministry’ group to rid people of the devil through exorcism, last year.
He also claimed the cervical cancer vaccine could lead to promiscuity in 2017.
The bishop said the vaccine ‘lulls girls into false sense of security’ and encourages sexual activity, adding: ‘Prevention, the number one and most effective protection, is abstinence. A good old traditional value.’
He later apologised and admitted he was not fully informed about the vaccination programme. Cullinan’s ‘intention was solely motivated to protect people from HPV’.
China Demolishes 3,000-Seat Megachurch during Worship Service
The People’s Republic of China destroyed a church that reportedly could seat 3,000 people and detained its pastors, according to a human rights organization.
An international nonprofit Christian human rights group based in Texas, reported the incident in a statement released Saturday. According to the group, Chinese authorities provided no legal papers to justify the demolition.
The church was located in Funan, Anhui province. Its pastors, Geng Yimin and Sun Yongyao, were detained under suspicion of “gathering a crowd to disturb social order.”
China Aid President Bob Fu said in a statement that the incident was “yet another clear example showing the escalation of religious persecution today by the Chinese Communist regime.”
“The total disregard of religious freedom’s protection as enshrined in the Communist Party’s own Constitution tells the whole world President Xi is determined to continue his war against the peaceful Christian faithful. This campaign will surely fail in the end.”
While China’s persecution of religious groups has existed for many years, recently under President Xi Jinping a wave of crackdowns on religious practices in China has taken place.
The Communist government has destroyed or damaged several churches, reflecting concerns about the increasing Christian population of the country.
In the summer, True Jesus Church in Henan province was razed to the ground, according to persecution watchdog Bitter Winter. Police officers reportedly dragged out all believers from the church before they demolished the property.
Bitter Winter also reported last month that the Ten Commandments have been removed from nearly every Three-Self church and meeting venue in a county of Luoyang city and replaced with the President Xi Jinping’s quotes as part of the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to “sinicize” Christianity.
In addition to cracking down on its Christian minority, China has engaged in violent persecution of its Uighur Muslim and Falun Gong communities.
The China Tribunal, a human rights group, told the United Nations Human Rights Council last month that the Chinese government is harvesting organs from religious minorities, with possibly hundreds of thousands of victims.
“Forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience, including the religious minorities of Falun Gong and Uighurs, has been committed for years throughout China on a significant scale, and that it continues today. This involves hundreds of thousands of victims.”
“Victim for victim and death for death, cutting out the hearts and other organs from living, blameless, harmless, peaceable people constitutes one of the worst mass atrocities of this century.”
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