China (MNN) — For years, many have been trying to estimate the number of Christians living in China. Some thought there were more than 100 million. Others thought maybe 20 million. However, no one could back up their claim with research.
Well, now they can. China Partner asked a select group of people to travel into every province, municipality and autonomous region in China — all 31 of them. Founder of China Partners, Werner Burklin: "We did research in all provinces, except Tibet. We polled 5,340 people. And we came up with a number of 39 million."
In a country where Christians have been treated badly, they'd keep their faith quiet. But Burklin says, "We found out that it's very, very easy to talk about religion. The minute we found someone who was a Christian, a smile came across their face, and they rejoiced in the fact that they could tell us they were Christians. Most of the people we found were Buddhists, more so then even [communist] party members."
While 39 million isn't 120 million, it's still a great number of people. Burklin is excited. "There are so many that have come to know Christ, mostly over the last 20 or 25 years. In 1950, there were just 750,000."
In those days, it was rare to see someone come to Christ. Burklin says that's changed. "China is open to Christ like it has never been before. That is to me amazing, and that's what I'm thrilled to know that millions upon millions have turned to Christ over the last few years in China."
According to Burklin, Chinese believers are missionaries at home, but it's different than the west. "They cannot do things like we can do over here — go on radio and television, or pass out tracts. Those are restrictions that the government has placed on all religious people. But, they are tracts themselves. They do what the Bible talks about: being letters that people can read."
That real-life evangelism is why the church is growing in China. "There are now thousands of churches that have reopened in China. There are now close to 50,000 [churches] that we know of that actually have been opened in China."
China Partners has helped build some of those churches.
Pray that this research would be an encouragement to believers inside China.