What Kind Of Churches Are In China?
There are two main types of churches in China. There are the churches registered with the government`s Three-Self Patriotic Movement commonly called government churches. The other kind of churches in China known as house churches or family churches. These churches are churches that are not registered with the government`s Three-Self Patriotic Movement. The teachings, sizes, buildings, outreach, etc. of both groups of churches varies widely among themselves, but I will outline the normal distinctions between each group of churches below.
- Have the ability to openly be a church: They can have their own buildings and church signs. They can also freely organize the times they meet.
- Are under the control of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement: which along with its sister organization the Chinese Christian Council report to the Chinese government`s State Administration for Religious Affairs. Government churches are ultimately under the direct control of the Chinese government.
- The government controls who teaches, what is taught, and what kinds of evangelism the church can do. Sometimes leniency is given the local church to decide these things but it is still under the government`s control. Also, the length to which these restrictions are enforced varies greatly by region.
- The book of Revelation is often not allowed to be taught, and sometimes children under the age of 18 are not allowed to be baptized.
- Meet without government permission: Therefore, they usually do not put out a sign, have a website, or advertise their church publically.
- Becuase they meet without government permission, they do not follow what the Three-Self Patriotic Church would say as to how to govern and run their church.
- Each local church decides who their pastor is, what is taught, and how they evangelize others.
The doctrinal beliefs of both kinds of churches vary widely among themselves. It will depend on the individual church and pastor as to whether Bible truth is taught, and the Gospel is preached. Going to a house church does not guarantee that the Bible will be taught correctly nor does going to a government church guarantee the Bible will be taught correctly. That will depend on the individual local church. However, there are some general statements of faith that the two different kinds of churches follow that reveal the differences between the beliefs of the two. I have listed the statements of faith below. From reading the two, it is evident that the house church beliefs are much more in line with the Bible than the government churches. There are some grave concerns with the government church`s beliefs. They seem to mix works with grace, and it is not clear that salvation is by grace alone through faith. They allow baptism by sprinkling. The foundation of their faith is not based on the Bible alone, but also on the Apostles and Nicene creeds. There are also some other things mentioned that are out of line with the Bible, but these are three of the main things. This does not mean that every government church believes these things, nor does it mean that house churches are in line with the Bible either. I did find it very interesting reading what the two groups claim to believe.
In 1998, many leaders from different house churches and house church groups in China gathered and wrote a statement of faith that they agreed upon. You can find a copy of this document here: Statement of Faith of Chinese House Churches
The Three-Self Patriotic Movement published in 2008 a church order document that also includes a summary of their basic beliefs. A copy of this document is attached here: Chinese TPSM Statement of Faith English
Can The Gospel Openly Be Preached?
Yes, and No. Technically according to Article 36 of the Chinese Constitution citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy the freedom of religious belief. The Constitution even says the state protects the rights of normal religious activities. They do not however define what normal activities are and also say that people cannot use religion to disrupt public order, impair the health of citizens, or interfere with the state education system.
This basically means that whenever you do public and open evangelism that you risk being stopped for disrupting public order or doing something that is outside of normal religious activities. Also, if you share the Gospel on a university campus that could be considered interfering with the state education system. Doing these things does not mean that you will be stopped for preaching the Gospel, but rather that you run a higher risk of it. Sharing the Gospel privately with friends or at people`s homes is not dangerous at all, and you can do it without fear. It is up to each to each person to decide what risks they are willing to take and what they think is best for them to do. You can share the Gospel in China. Maybe not as open as you could in other countries, but there are many opportunities you will have to tell someone openly about Christ.
How Long Before Ministries Can Be Started?
You can start ministries right away, but will be limited by your language abilities. If you cannot speak Chinese, you will only be able to minister to English speaking people. Only a small percent of Chinese people speak English fluently enough to be able to study the Bible in English.
Depending on the type of ministry that you are wanting, you will also need to consider some things before you start. You need to have a place to meet set up and an effective way to meet people established before trying to start some sort of ministry. This could be as simple as attending a local English corner and meeting people at KFC or as complex as renting and renovating a building. You do need to have a plan though before starting a ministry.
What Things Have Been Effective In Ministry?
Local English Corners: In Dalian, China as well as in the rest of the country local universities will usually organize a time and place for their students to practice English. These are called English corners. Usually, there are just a couple or no foreigners present at these corners and the students just practice speaking English among themselves. So, when a foreigner comes, he or she gets a lot of attention and a group of people that want to talk to them. It is a great opportunity to meet students, share with them, and get their contact info. During the rest of the week, you will have an opportunity to follow up with them. Going to English corners has been a very effective place to do outreach and evangelism. Many people have come to Christ through meeting a foreigner at an English corner.
You can also host your own English corner. All you need are a couple of native English speakers, a way to invite people, and a place to meet. People will come to practice their English. This gives you the perfect chance to meet them or share the Gospel with them.
Meeting People On Street Practicing Language: Anytime as a foreigner you try to meet new people, it is usually pretty easy. People want to talk to a foreigner because you are different. This is especially true if they want to learn English. However, there is a problem. Most people will think it strange if you just walk up to them for no reason and want to meet them. Practicing the language gives you a perfect excuse. You can walk up to people and ask them to help listen to you try to speak Chinese. They usually will be surprised, but also willing to help. After you practice with them for a little bit, you can turn the conversation towards trying to get to know them better. If the conversation goes well, you can exchange contact information with them and invite them to the church or an outreach event. I have met many new people that have come to church or an outreach event through practicing Chinese with them.
Providing English Classes for Kids: Parents in China are all about education. They want their kids to be able to go to university and get a good job when they grow up. They know that in order for their kids to succeed at a high level that they must be able to speak English. Therefore, they are willing to take up any opportunity available for their kids to learn English, especially if it is free. Starting an English kid`s clubs or kid`s English classes is an effective way to meet parents and their kids. You then have the opportunity to follow up with them and tell them about Christ.
Resources used in writing this article: