Under the Chinese Communist Party, the number of Christians in China has grown 15-fold to the current total of more than 60 million (other estimates put the total at 100 million, and another recent estimate is closer to 200 million). As a result of this growth, according to Newsweek (April, 2001), Chinese communists have demolished approximately 1,500 houses of worship in the last six months. But in spite of the persecution of believers and destruction of their churches, the number of Christians continues to grow with an estimated 25,000 people putting their faith in Christ every day.
“China is historically the place the most Christians have been persecuted and martyred, and some are still dying even today,” says Randy Alcorn, author of the new novel Safely Home (Tyndale House Publishers) which portrays both the persecution and hope in China. “I was very humbled at the freshness and vitality and simplicity of the faith of the Chinese Christians I’ve met. They don’t focus on their suffering or that at any given time their lives could be much easier if they’d be quiet about their Lord.”
China is a paradox in that some churches are able to worship freely while other church leaders are being arrested, persecuted and jailed. And while not always enforced, all churches have legal government restrictions regarding worship gatherings, evangelism and education for their children.
“The widespread myth is the unqualified statement that you can be a registered church in China and freely preach the Gospel,” says Alcorn. “This is a great oversimplification, because while in most cases registered churches are allowed to gather and have some Bibles, they are also required to follow written guidelines that forbid them from private religious gatherings, giving religious instruction to children under eighteen, having unapproved Bibles and Christian literature, and teaching the basic biblical truths of the resurrection and second coming of Christ.”
What can American Christians do to help believers in China? In Safely Home, Alcorn shows in the course of a dramatic storyline practical ways Christians can help, with prayer and sending Bibles topping the list. “Chinese Christians ask specifically for prayer and for Bibles,” says Alcorn. “They aren’t concerned about their rights or changing Chinese laws, though we should be concerned, and should stand up for them however we can. But their hearts are in spreading the gospel, regardless of the cost.”