What Christianity in China Is Really Like (recommended reading)

Credit: Flickr/Brian Kelly

Credit: Flickr/Brian Kelly

The Gospel Coalition has a good introduction to Christianity in China. I love Colin Clark’s opening disclaimer:

First, a disclaimer. I can’t tell you what anything in China is really like—that is, unless we’re comfortable with saying it’s like a bunch of contradictory things all at the same time. A faithful and honest description of Chinese Christianity will be nuanced and somewhat paradoxical, not definitive and one-sided….

When asked if China is like this or that, the answer is almost always “Yes.” In fact, it’s easy to spot a China rookie: They’re the ones who confidently begin, “The church across China looks like ______,” “All Chinese Christians believe ______,” “Ministry in China is always ______,” or “The government’s attitude toward Chinese Christians is ______.”

Here are a few of the bullet points.

1. Understand the legality of Christianity in China

2. Understand the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM).

3. Understand the existence of the house church movement.

4. Understand the continuance of the house church movement.

5. Understand international churches.

 
He rightly concludes

Many questions remain, of course; these five points are by no means exhaustive. But it’s worth noting that the needs in China are as great as ever. The church in China is often lauded in the West as the pinnacle of modern Christian discipleship and church planting. And in some ways it’s a reputation well deserved…

But there’s also plenty of messiness. Statistics of churches planted are often inflated; conversion stories are sometimes contrived; missions agencies and sending churches are exporting poor theology; and many Chinese house churches are rife with bad doctrine and influence from destructive cults.