China (MNN) — The church in China continues to rapidly expand, but some movements are facing heavier persecution than others.
According to Ken Leggatt with WorldServe Ministries, the church is split into three movements in China: "There is the Three-Self Patriotic Movement church, which is the official, state-sanctioned church where the Chinese can participate in Christian church services, but that is under the authority of the Chinese government.
"There is the second church, which is the unregistered house church movement. That is the churches that have grown up in the rural areas of China, primarily groups that would be five to 50 members strong, worshiping and fellowshiping together in homes.
"Then there's the third church, which has really grown up in the urban areas of China. This third church is comprised of professionals, educated people, university graduates, business people. This third church has been known to be a bold church that is boldly proclaiming its faith and is meeting publicly inside China in the urban areas."
This third church movement in particular has recently been targeted by Chinese officials, unintentionally rousing government attention.
The most notable incident regarding the third church and the government was the April 10 storm of an outdoor church service held by one of the largest churches of the third church movement in Beijing, Shouwang Protestant Church.
"Recently they were told that they could not meet in their place of worship, so they decided to gather in a park," explains Leggatt. "When they came to gather for worship in this park, they were met by the police. They were confronted, and they were told not to be gathered–basically, that they were disturbing the peace. Ultimately, out of the 1,000 of the congregation, 169 were detained."
The somewhat shocking government behavior has been attributed to rumors that the church has some sort of political agenda. ChinaAid reports that such allegations are unfounded.
As disturbing as 169 arrests are during a church service, this is not the first time such an attack has been made on an evangelical church and will certainly not be the last. "We've seen this come and go in China where it would get tighten for a bit, and then it would relax. [Persecution] just seems to happen in waves."
WorldServe is responding, in part, by sponsoring a Million Bible Campaign, in which a million Bibles will be sent to China, Cuba, Ethiopia, Vietnam, India and Iran. The Gospel will go out to countless people as Bibles are shared and studied. Every Bible costs just $5 to distribute; you can help here.
WorldServe is also responding in prayer. Pray for the church in China, this third church in particular. Pray that church leaders would not be discouraged but would continue to persevere in preaching to Truth to all who wish to hear.