China (MNN) — Concerning accounts are pouring from China that have nothing to do with a physical virus. Many local believers are reporting crackdowns on the underground Church’s digital presence in China in the form of arrests and criminal charges.
Restrictions on digital Christian content are nothing new; some local believers already change their websites and programming on a near-daily basis. However, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the game for two reasons.
First, the online Chinese Church has experienced explosive growth since the pandemic kicked off. Believers were forced to go digital when churches shut down, and officials were too busy fighting the virus to focus on restricting that growth.
But then, after the pandemic began to die down, Chinese officials had new resources and resolve to quench the rise of the digital underground Church.
“The Chinese capacity to kind of oversee what’s happening in the digital space is quite strong,’ reports Joe Handley of Asian Access. “Now we’re hearing stories of pastors that are getting detained because they were holding some kind of rally online.”
In fact, some anonymous contacts within China report arrests and other crackdowns are happening on almost a daily basis. Muslims, Catholics, Protestants; anyone who could pose a perceived threat to Communist ideology is finding themselves silenced.
Why? According to Handley, “There is fear of a political uprising, too much power and influence, or moving towards democracy. They want to retain a more authoritarian kind of state.”
Some churches are part of the “endorsed” or registered church. Anyone outside of that could face serious criminal charges for religious broadcasting, websites, or online communication.
But that doesn’t mean local believers are planning on stopping. They’re seeing exponential growth in the Church thanks to digital tools, and it’s too positive of a trend to ignore.
“Many of the people I know have talked about near revivals in China because of digital technology,” Handley reports. “It’s allowed them to reach more people for Christ, and they’re they’re seeing expressions of church growing in leaps and bounds.”
Handley says the Chinese character for “crisis” can also mean “danger and opportunity,” and the local Church is living into that definition.
So pray. “They say ‘We’re used to this. We’re not worried about pressure and persecution. We’ve lived through this before. But pray that we can be adaptive based on whatever comes our direction.’”
Pray especially for young believers. Although many believers are adapting to new pressure in creative ways, there’s concern that young Christians may not have the same flexibility.
“They actually did not live through these crises of the past. so this is brand new for them,” Handley says. “That kind of pressure on a younger believer can be immense.”
This persecution is what God has called Christians in China to face. This challenge, as difficult as it may be, is what His Church must face. For your part, consider God’s calling for you.
Header photo courtesy of Pixabay.