As Christians celebrate the risen Christ it is a period to remember that the news is good, not bad. The victory is won, the strongholds have been defeated. So at a time when the news media seem to be relaying little but relentless disaster, it is worth looking instead at some good news.
One of my local newspapers, The Australian, has an excellent article on Easter celebrations in China, where, despite repression, the church seems to be continuing its remarkable growth.
The report focused on two Beijing congregations, the Zhushikou Protestant Church in the south of the city and the magnificent baroque Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
A rock band at the former church was leading 300 young worshippers. The lead singer, Gao Liang, a convert of three years, was prominently wearing a WWJD – What Would Jesus Do? – badge.
At the cathedral – which actually maintains a daily Latin mass – a young congregation of 600 packed the building, with a large screen placed outside for the overflow audience.
The report noted that churches in China seemed especially attractive to those in their 20s and 30s, and it quoted one worshipper who said they came “to seek truth and genuineness, to think, and to find belief.”
The writer of the article, Rowan Callick, is Asia-Pacific Editor with The Australian and also an Anglican lay preacher in my city, Melbourne.
In his report he noted pointedly: “An estimated 100 million people in China have already become Christians – more than the 84 million in the ruling Communist Party. As a result more people worship in China on a typical Sunday than attend all the churches in Europe combined.”
The growth of the church in China is of course not news. I have written about it many times.
Some years ago, when the Dalai Lama paid a visit to Australia, the newspapers were full of stories about the modest growth of Buddhism in this country. I contacted a newspaper editor and suggested a story, that I would write, on what I thought a far more significant phenomenon – the stunning number of Chinese migrants to Australia who were turning to Jesus, very often from a non-religious background.
Take a drive around Melbourne and it is truly inspiring to see how many churches have billboards outside in both English and Chinese. My own Baptist church runs English, Cantonese and Mandarin services, and Chinese worshipper numbers are growing much faster than the English side.
But the editor was not interested. Christians are seldom considered newsworthy, unless they are involved in scandal.
Indeed, “if it bleeds, it leads,” is a common newspaper maxim, and the media this Easter have of course been full of stories about the ghastly, bloody events in Brussels. So it is certainly an appropriate time for us to reflect on those packed Easter-time churches in China – where Christianity was outlawed not so long ago – and to remind ourselves that, yes, the news is good.