Birth of vision in China for equipping underground Chinese church planters committed to planting schools. (Photo of Steve Childers & Pastor Wang Yi Saturday, December 8 in Chengdu, China)
After teaching church planters last week in China, I met for several hours, one-on-one, last Friday late afternoon with the underground church movement leader, Wang Yi, pastor of the Early Rain church in Chengdu. My plane left China on Saturday. I learned on my layover in LA that Wang Yi and his wife were arrested by police, along with 80-100 others in the church, on Sunday and Wang Yi is still being held in custody.
Since returning to Orlando last night, I haven’t posted anything on social media regarding this trip because of the concern that public knowledge of what I’m doing there might put the Chinese leaders at risk. But I’m now being asked by leaders there who are not in custody or were just released to publish their story and photos so Christians will pray and protest their persecution.
PRAY FOR PASTOR WANG YI AND HIS FAMILY
They told me that since pastor Wang Yi is already an international figure representing the persecuted church, raising the awareness of Christians worldwide would be a good thing and is needed to help him and the other leaders. So, this is the first post just to share the big picture and ask for prayer.
There are already stories about this today in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, etc. But World magazine seems to be the most accurate to date: https://world.wng.org/2018/12/chinese_police_raid_prominent_house_church
They’ve reported that all of their church plants are now “officially banned or their possessions confiscated.” And “They are using violent means and methods to arrest and threaten meek and loving Christians. We are like sheep that have entered a pack of wolves.” They also write on Dec 11 2:00am (China time),
“They want to completely eradicate Early Rain Covenant Church from this country, but the will of God is to stamp this church even more firmly onto this country and to engrave it even deeper into their hearts. The Lord’s Church is the only community that will endure forever. Today, may we who bear the weight of eternal life meet head-on all of the hardships, evils, and tears of this world. This is the good intention of the Lord. This is the lot that has fallen in our laps. May the Lord fill our cups to overflowing!”
PRAY FOR ELDER TIMOTHY AND HIS FAMILY
Another key movement leader taken into police custody today is Early Rain Church elder, and headmaster of Christian schools (up through college) Li Yingqiang. He goes by elder Timothy.
He took my course in church planting last week, partly to learn our Pathway Learning educational platform for helping train their teachers—like we’re doing in their seminary. After our meeting to review the Pathway courses in Chinese, he wanted us to take this photo above—taken in the classroom we used.
Elder Timothy was in hiding until a few hours ago when police found and arrested him. But before he was arrested he wrote a letter called “How the Church Should Face Persecution” for members and leaders in the movement now suffering persecution. Here are some excerpts below:
Beloved brothers, sisters, and fellow workers:
Thank the Lord! Just as the year 2018 is about to end God has given us a reward in the form of this large-scale persecution that arrived on December 9. Since yesterday evening until noon today, over 100 pastors, elders, staff, brothers and sisters have been taken away. As of now we still do not know where they all are, and even if we did know it would be difficult for us to help them. But, thankfully, we know for certain that the Lord’s loving face is shining upon them. They are within the gracious, sovereign providence of the Lord. He will be with them in the midst of their chains and trials…
…. Police also went to the homes of those brothers and sisters one at a time. They would use multiple police officers and community workers to control just one person. Their small groups were also broken up one by one. How should we respond to these things in the days to come? According to the contingency plan prepared by our session of elders, there are a few things we must do.
- Those elders who are still free must take up the responsibility of pastoring the whole church, waiting for the pastor and elders to be released. If Pastor Wang Yi is not released within 48 hours, those elders who are still free must lead the church down the next stretch according to the order decided on previously.
- Regardless, Early Rain Covenant Church must not alter the statement of faith and the path of openness that it has proclaimed publicly in the past. And we will not alter our previous stance on the relationship between church and state (正教分立) or our beautiful spiritual inheritance from the Chinese house church of walking the path of the cross. We will not register with the Religious Affairs Bureau; much less will we join the Three-Self Church.
- We will not easily relinquish our church building and retreat to our small groups. Regardless of who is leading the church, they must try to return to the church building that God has given us. Neither paper seals nor arrests should hinder our determination to worship in our church sanctuary. Unless all elders, preachers, and seminary students able to lead public worship and the preaching of God’s word lose their freedom, we will not retreat to small groups. If we cannot enter the church building, we will rent another place. If there is no place indoors where we can worship, we will begin worshiping outdoors.
- Meeting in small groups is our last resort. If there is even a very small possibility of worshiping together as a whole church, we will not retreat to small groups. But if we must meet in small groups and encounter opposition while doing so, we are willing to pay an even greater price to bear witness to the great work of the gospel in our lives. We are willing to have 200, 300, or 500 people arrested and imprisoned. May the whole world know that we are joyfully willing to receive this persecution for the sake of our faith.
Beloved brothers and sisters, I am writing this letter in “hiding.” May you all be filled with joy in the gospel of Christ. May you welcome, filled with hope, the even heavier cross and more difficult lives that lie ahead of you.
“Christ is Lord. Grace is King. Bear the cross. Keep the faith.”
This is the vision Early Rain Covenant Church received from the Lord. May we all obtain it, cherish it, put it into practice, and live it out!
Loving you all,
December 10, 2018″
PRAY FOR CHURCH PLANTER JOSEPH JIANG AND HIS FAMILY
Church planter, Joseph Jiang, during my church planting course last week. We trained the church planters how to train other church planters and leaders in church planting by using only their cell phones.
Joseph was my translator last week. He was arrested and interrogated for 24 hours after I left. They did not allow him to sleep.
But I have some good news. He was just released by the police. We’re able to communicate again now through encrypted software. See an excerpt from our communication today below.
Please pray for Joseph, his wife Wendy and 2 young boys, 5 years old and 3 years old. Wendy is pregnant with number 3. Thanks. He writes me: “Please pray for our family to stand firm during this persecution.”
Thank you for praying for our brothers and sisters facing persecution in China. Please pray and protest in any way you can. Let your voice be heard.
For the King!
PS: I just learned as I was writing this that ten young women serving the Christian school as teachers and staff are being taken into custody. These women were in the teacher training course being offered by Ravi Jain, former student and partner in ministry, during the same time I was teaching church planting 45 minutes away. I’m sure several are among those I met while there and shared a meal. Please pray for them also. Thanks.