Many people are wondering how the church in China is doing after the intense crackdowns and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The workers supported by BTJ are all located in western China and are working among minority groups in China’s most unreached areas. In total, BTJ is supporting 220 Workers in Western China. 90% of the workers that we support receive $100 USD per month, per worker. 10% of the workers live in special circumstances where BTJ adds more money for families, children, education, etc. Any additional funds that the workers need is supplemented by a local church or vocation.
BTJ workers are expected to be bi-vocational and are normally supported for a period of at least two years. The workers are sent from their church in eastern China, and serve in the unreached areas of western China.
We were able to sit down with one of the top pastors overseeing these workers and ask how the situation currently is in China.
“We have seen more persecution in the last three years than in the last two decades,” he said, repeating an earlier statement he made at the beginning of the year. “But the church is growing. We have more of a need for home group leaders than we have ever had before.” Last year, the pastor and his workers were not able to give written reports or send pictures because of the increase of persecution, but he gave solid information about the continued growth.
The persecution has led the churches to meet in smaller groups again as they did in the 1980s and 1990s. “We are going back to our roots,” the pastor said as we discussed the situation, meaning that the underground house church today are returning back to the simple ways of doing things as they had been doing in the 1980s and 1990s.
The church in China has had a lot of resources at their fingertips in the last 20 years. As the world has grown more technologically advanced, China has been at the forefront leading the way. Technology, like computers, the internet, mobile phones, payment applications, etc, have completely transformed the way that Christians communicate and engage one another. However, the new wave of persecution in China has changed all of that.
Technology, instead of being a benefit for the underground house church in China has been a liability. The government have been using mobile phones to track activity and monitor communications of church members. “Leaders no longer carry their mobile phones,” the Chinese pastor shared. “When we meet together, we toss them or leave them behind in our homes.”
The new environment has created a unique and clever way for fellowship. As we reported earlier this year, the Chinese are now using fellowship vans. These fellowship vans are an idea that kind of developed overnight.
“Christians have not been able to meet in their homes,” David said (not his real name) during a private meeting with BTJ missionaries. “But they have been able to have fellowship meetings in vans and drive around the city.”
David has been working with BTJ for almost 30 years. He has seen underground Christian meetings in homes, fields, caves, offices, cubicles, and factories, but now with the increased persecution and draconian controls implemented by the Chinese government, the church has had to come up with more creative ways.
“Christians are being tracked on their phones,” Ling Ling said during the meeting (not her real name). “If we meet together in our homes, the government can see all the phone numbers that are congregated together in one place and easily send the police to raid the meeting. Chinese Christians are using ‘bread vans’ for fellowship. A ‘bread van’ or ‘mianbao che’ is a common cheap vehicle in China that looks like a loaf of bread. The Chinese ‘bread van’ is one of the top selling vehicles in China. BTJ has bought several of them over the years.
Now these vehicles are being used for a special purpose. Christians leave their homes, but when they connect with the ‘bread van’ they leave their phone in a nearby hiding spot. With several pick up points, the phones are never seen congregated together. Once in the vehicle, Christians read the word together, sing and worship, fellowship, and even raise funds for missionary work!
The church in China is continuing to grow in some of the most miraculous ways.