The stunning rise of Christianity in China – despite numerous obstacles – is one of the themes of my thriller “Brother Half Angel.” In particular, I wrote about how the government crack-down on the thriving underground house church movement has brought about martyrs, but has also helped raise some strong Christian leaders.
In recent years it seemed that conditions were easing for the church in China, but now the government appears to be cracking down again.
Yet the church continues to expand. Numbers are unclear, but one study estimated that there are now some 70 million Christians in China (compared to 83 million Communist Party members) and that this could grow to 245 million by 2030.
More importantly, the Chinese may have some lessons for the West in what it means to be a Christian.
A lengthy article in the Christian Science Monitor included this snippet:
Being a Christian in a country that sees worship as odd or superstitious does nothing to boost one’s status. “There is absolutely no social advantage to being a Christian in China,” says Bob Fu, a pastor who escaped a Chinese police crackdown in the 1990s and now runs Texas-based ChinaAid, which monitors Christian rights in the country. “There are no cookies, no status, no outward rewards, no privileges in choosing Christianity.”
Certainly that is what I wrote about in my novel “Brother Half Angel,” with the main characters forced to endure enormous torment for their faith.
And this is what becoming a Christian in the early years of the church meant – to enter a world of possible suffering and even death. Yet the church grew exponentially in that period
The early Egyptian church – founded by Saint Mark just a decade after the death of Christ, according to tradition – is the best example. Here is the Tour Egypt website:
It was in Egypt that some of the greatest defiances of the Romans by Christians were done. While their Roman counterparts worshipped in catacombs and underground vaults, the Egyptian Christians built their churches openly and performed their ceremonies in full view of the Empire. And for every one that the Empire struck down, more would be converted by the example of the martyr.
Jesus taught that to follow Him would involve suffering. Paul demonstrated this, as did the early Christians. Now the Chinese church too is growing in the midst of pain. It is a lesson for the West.