China (MNN) — One of Henry Ford’s most famous alleged sayings with the production of the Model T vehicle in 1908 was, “You can have any color as long as it’s black.”
This humorous quote may relate to the trite subject of car color. But is there a similar mindset in China’s treatment of a Christian’s freedom to worship?
The Communist government of China states in Article 36 of its constitution, “Citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief.”
However, Greg Musselman through Voice of the Martyrs, Canada’s source, ChinaAid, says, “Over the next ten years, [China’s government] has made a stated document…that actually shows a three-phase plan to eradicate house churches or unregistered churches and then gett them all together under the three-self patriotic church which then allows the government to control the church.”
Some wonder what the big deal is with registering a house church in China anyway. Musselman explains, “There may be some good things going on within the government-controlled churches [if they are] preaching a salvation message, but really that is frowned upon by the government. So many I have talked to over the years are saying that the control of the government is not really a true church [with] the freedom to preach the whole Bible.”
One recent example of governmental crackdown on unregistered church activity took place two weeks ago, June 26, when Chinese government officials forced a teacher theological training camp for pastors to shut down.
The Chinese Theological Society is registered in Hong Kong, but not with the Chinese government where they held the training in Southern China. “They were doing some training…and near the end of their training time, the religious police came in and shut them down. And again, it’s a part of the intimidation process that the Chinese government often uses to try to force the underground Christians or the house church Christians into registering.”
ChinaAid says that cases of Christian persecution like these in China have increased by 20%.
However, Musselman points out that they don’t always make the headlines, since many of the more serious cases of persecution don’t always happen in the big cities. “China is such a massive country and many places are very rural, and so we don’t often hear the stories until much later, if at all in some cases.”
Yet, Christianity is flourishing and growing, both in the registered and unregistered churches. “The interesting thing is that there are more Christians in China than anywhere in the world,” says Musselman. “Some of the sources we’ve heard say that there are over 100 million, maybe as high as 120 million, who identify themselves as Christians.”
Musselman asks for prayer "that the Lord will give the [church] leaders wisdom and strength not to compromise.”