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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

New Perspectives on China, The Church and Persecution: Communist Bible Distributions

Last week I met with Jonathan Brooks, President and Wendell Rovenstine, Exec. VP from Voice of China-Asia (VOCA) and heard amazing stories and a whole new picture of the church in China and the Chinese government.  All I have ever heard is about the Chinese communist government suppressing Christianity, they tell a very different story, much more positive.  I am also reading The Chinese Puzzle by Mike Falkenstine, which is giving me a similar picture.

Jonathan spoke of a revival that many of us have heard about with an estimated 20,000 people a day becoming followers of Christ.  Many of these are rural poor in China living on less than $100 annually and having no access to a whole Bible.

I was under the impression that the only real believers in China were part of the underground church and not part of the communist state recognized Three Self Church.  Apparently this is not true.  VOCA has partnered with some of the leaders of the Three Self Church for Bible distribution projects amongst the poor -- there is no need to smuggle Bibles into China.  VOCA and the Three Self Church buy them from the communist printing press -- and yes, Jonathan did assure me that these are indeed full Bibles and accurate translations.  These distributions happen through the Three Self Church and have the full support of China's communist government.

There is still some persecution of Christians but not all that is reported to be persecution is such.  For example, a ministry reported to it's constituents that the Chinese government had destroyed a church.  What they did not report was this was what we Americans would call an instance of eminent domain and that the Chinese built them a new church elsewhere.  Sadly, this ministry was using this story as fodder for their donor base to raise funds -- even after it was pointed out to them that it wasn't a story of persecution.

In the US, if a pastor left the ranch and started flouting the IRS laws and was thrown in jail for it, we wouldn't call it persecution.  We might even call it stupidity.  But when some Chinese flout the laws of their government and they are thrown in jail, some ministries report these instances as persecution.  Not sure what to make of that.

No doubt China is not paradise and there are real instances of persecution and they do not have the religious freedoms we have here in the US.  But there are also real instances of Christian believers working in the Three Self Church, doing Christian ministry with the full support of the communist government.  It is also interesting to see the growth of the church there and with our freedom, the decline of the church here.

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