28 May 2010

Justified by Love?

When I see Christian organizations in America making agreements with the Chinese government in order to give their ministry the freedom to expand in China I have to ask, what is being compromised? Unfortunately, I already know the answer: the Gospel.

The article below mentions the difference between the government-controlled church in China and the underground churches. The church sanctioned by the government teaches a Gospel of justification by love, not justification by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. The job of the government-run churches is to promote unity and anyone thought to be challenging that goal is to be reported to the authorities. So if we all love everyone and join hands around a campfire, be we Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Atheist, Wiccan, or whatever, then we should be good to go and Heaven is just one final breath away. To preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified though, well, that may be just a bit too divisive for the tastes of the communist government in China. Could that be why the true Christians are meeting secretly and illegally in underground churches and, when discovered, why they are arrested? Could it be that the Gospel being taught in these house churches is just different--and just true--enough to be an offense and a threat to the "unity" that is sought?

From the blog of Scott Thunder of Bible League (bold emphasis mine):
To the Church in Smyrna...and China...  
Cyrus and Daphne are a very well-educated couple who oversee several ‘clubs’ (house churches) in the city of Beijing. We met at a local shopping mall outside of a coffee shop, and they gave me a real education. I’ve already shared that the underground church in China suffers from many of the same deficiencies as the church in Corinth: lack of a teachable spirit, factions, judgementalism, envy, power struggles and so forth. Why is this so? Because there is a lack of good pastors and lay leaders…and because although many of the urban Christians have Bibles, they don’t really know how to use them.
Cyrus began to talk about the official registered church in China, the so-called ”Three Self Patriotic Movement” church. When we speak of the church in China, there are really two varieties: the official, government sanctioned and monitored “Three Self” church, and the unregistered, unofficial and illegal “house church”. Many people choose to worship in the underground house church system, as they find the fullness of the Christian experience and body life in fellowship there. Because they are not monitored or controlled by the government, they are free to preach, teach, evangelize, worship and function as they please. The “Three Self” church is much less free to do the same. While I was in China, I attended services in both underground and Three Self churches, and I will speak to the differences in an upcoming post.
“Let me give you a theological example of the difference between the Three Self Church and the underground church,” Cyrus told me. “The Three Self churches don’t teach people that we are ‘justified by faith’; they teach ‘justified by love’. Just love people and you’ll be saved.” A small but extremely significant deviation from the true faith!
Before I go any further, a caveat; many Christians have visited China, and have had their own experiences with the church there, and their experience may have been different from mine. I do not suggest that my experience is representative or definitive, but it is an actual, truthful account of what I heard and saw when I was there.
Cyrus explained to me that over the years there have been changes in the government’s attitude toward ‘religion’, and that the climate is more friendly than in the past. Complete freedom of religion does not exist, but there is less active persecution of Christians than before; it still happens, but it happens less. Not all persecution comes from the government or the police, by the way. Cyrus told me in some cases, it comes from the Three Self Church.
“Pastors in the Three Self Churches are actually paid by the government, ” he told me. “Because of that, they are basically agents for them. Now, they are to promote unity among the people, which is one of the main social goals of the Chinese government. These Three Self pastors then have a duty to monitor the communications within the church, and if they hear of anything that is counter to ‘unity’, they need to report it back to the authorities. If these pastors hear news of underground churches, it is their duty to report it as a threat to unity.”
Persecution also comes from cults like “Eastern Lightning”. They believe that God has returned to earth as a woman, “born to an ordinary family in the Northern part of China” to guide mankind for the third and last time. Members and leaders of this cult have been known to kidnaps house church pastors in order to steal members to their cult. According to Cyrus, their methods include beatings, extortion, seduction and embedding themselves in legitimate house churches to lure others away.
Mormons are active in China as well; they conduct free English classes and then teach their doctrines to those who attend. Jehovah’s Witnesses are also active in China.
What does all this mean? It means that getting Bibles and training materials in to the hands of the underground church in China is imperative for the spiritual health of its members. Without a firm grounding in doctrinal truths, and discipleship instruction, believers are more likely to fall away during times of persecution or to be lured away by deceptive heretical doctrines.
As of today, Bible League International’s nationwide effort to send Bibles into China stands at 78,864. The goal is to have 105,000 funded by the end of June. A Bible for a Chinese Christian is just $4.00. Could you make 10 available for $40.00? If so, go tohttp://www.1800yesword.com and make a gift safely and securely online. Christians in China want them and need them, but probably won’t get them unless the body of Christ in the United States makes a deliberate effort to send them. You can be an answer to their prayers today!
You'll note that I did highlight the fact that, though religious freedom is still limited, the attitude is a bit more friendly toward Christians than in the past. That's wonderful. However, when house churches are still being stormed by government officials and members are being arrested, I have to conclude that the Chinese government is still one of the worst friends a Christian church can have. I would like to encourage you, as I have in the past, to pray for the persecuted church in China. Pray also for those Christian organizations who have, perhaps selfishly and naively, made a deal with the Chinese government in order to grow their numbers and their prestige. Pray that the leaders of these organizations may see the danger of their compromise before it's too late. And if, through prayer and God's leading, you feel a call to help spread God's TRUE Gospel in China, I would encourage you to visit the website of Bible League International for ways that you can help get Bibles into the hands of Chinese Christians who are hungry for Truth.

See also: PRAY FOR...


  1. Dave Mitchell /CrazyfoxMay 28, 2010 at 2:34 PM

    You are right about the government three-self churches in China with one exception...I have been to China twice some years ago to work underground training house church pastors. During that time we met as well with several three-self pastors who were born-again.There have been so many chinese people saved in the underground church that the govt. church was losing revenue and attendance so they allowed some of the pastors to be born-again men. These men know the govt. did not allow this because they wanted the gospel but they felt agreed to pastor praying they could reach some for Christ. I have heard several messages and they were Christ-centered and the church attendance was up in these few churches. How long will they be allowed ? No one knows because church persecution is on the rise again in the areas outside the well known cities.....

    Dave Mitchell

  2. Thanks for sharing your firsthand experience, Dave! I have no doubt that there are born-again Christians within the three-self church. My concern of late is with Christian organizations who, in their desire to grow their numbers and recognition, are appearing to compromise with the Chinese government in order to be allowed to legally exist within the country. Does this mean there won't be true Christians leading within these groups? Not at all, but I fear that the Gospel either has been or will be compromised, especially considering that the Chinese government is hardly a friend to that true Gospel!

  3. I agree with your concern completely...We knew of some that were questionable. Not every group taking in Bibles and asking for donations are truly what they appear to be...Thanks for bringing up the concern,


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