My co-worker in Intentional Encounters, Colin was recently in China with some of the unregistered family churches. He posted this comment on my “A Week in Woodstock” post. The comment has nothing much to do with Woodstock but it was such a challenge and an encouragement to me that I thought it deserved a post on its own.
“Stepping into China and living with the unregistered Churches is like stepping back into the first few centuries of the Church. China is powerful and controlling, offering religious freedom to those who belong to religions registered with the state and abiding by the state regulations laid down by a non believer. You are free to hold worship gatherings, but as long as it does not interfere with your patriotism to the state and it’s commitment to Marxist ideology and the teachings of Chairman Mao.
The unregistered churches choose to live as Chinese patriots, but with Jesus as Lord. They love their country and pray for its leaders while living constantly with the threat of being disliked for their commitment to the gospel and being reported to the police by a neighbour. They are forced to maintain good relations with their neighbours by serving them and loving them … while not shrinking back from leading them to the truth. No Sunday Christianity or a private faith, but public and missional by nature.
The baptism that took place yesterday was in full view of onlookers at a beach. They rejoiced publicly.
While teaching on 1 Peter one day, they stopped me in mid sentence and said, ‘now we must discuss’! They proceeded to plan how they could practice what they were hearing. Besides assisting the Pastor’s family to clean the 8 flights of steps in their apartment block as a way to serve his neighbours, they invited a non believing neighbour around for supper that night to introduce her to their Christian family and to present her with the message of God’s love in Christ.
Another evening included a Communist Party member whom they had never met before! They helped her with some advice about her wayward son and then had her reading the Bible (which she had never seen before). I was nervous! But two days later, she invited me and the others to lunch and let us say grace before eating.
It was like living in the Empire in one of those small household churches Peter was writing to … ‘you are a royal priesthood … a people belonging to God … that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness … Don’t be surprised when you face trials … as if something strange is happening to you … you participate in the sufferings of Christ … To this you were called … this is the true grace of God’.
I miss China and the vitality of simple church lived on the edge!”