14 floors above a scaled down hotel, discreetly wedged in an alley next to a McDonald’s, is a haven away from havoc in the form of a Chinese underground family church. Though not exactly under the ground, this church teems with believers from Taiwan, Macau, Hong Kong and other Mandarin-speaking bordering countries. It is a home away from home – a safe space to worship, pray, and seek God.
In July of 2014, I had the privilege of attending a Sunday church service at a Chinese underground church.
Overflowing with praise and full hearts, this house church shares the same passion as any other church interiorly – worship band led by college students, three pastors (one of which is a woman), yearly missions trips, and continual prayer. All of this discussed behind a dull and quiet, closed apartment door.
Amongst many other issues in the country, religious freedom in China has some vaguely drawn lines.
A few weeks before I visited the house church, Pew Research Center released an article on the “damage governments inflict on religious property“. The image is appalling, but it reels in reality.
Yet house churches near the borders of the mainland seem to have more of a peaceful history. “It’s been 11 years and we’ve only been questioned once,” said the woman pastor and original co-founders, “as long as we don’t cause a disturbance among neighbors, like loud music and microphones, they generally don’t do random checks. They only check when the neighbors send an official complaint.”
In the early 1950s, the “Three Self Patriotic Church Movement” was initiated by the Chinese Government. About 57,000 churches known as the “Three-Self Church” are spread across the nation and are under the control of the Chinese Government. As a result of this campaign, the Chinese Government refused and discarded any private congregated church, which instigated the birth of underground churches. Read more about this: Christianity Today , Christians in China
“When it happens, you can’t do anything about it. Church leaders just randomly disappear and no one would know what happened to them,” Mrs. Pastor shakes her head, “by the time you hear about them missing, they’re in the hands of the Chinese government.”
In America, we get up early every Sunday morning, drive to our churches, walk through their ajar doors swung open with praise bursting from our hearts and music pouring down the streets. Religious freedom is available to us – anytime, anywhere.
In China, praise and worship are done in privacy and secrecy, not to be known by anyone but the believers themselves.
We should realize how incredibly blessed we are for the privilege of being able to worship our God in a country that takes freedom seriously. Keep China in our prayers.
Disclaimer: All quotes were translated as directly as possible from Mandarin Chinese. Mentioned and visited house church and interviewed pastor will remain unnamed. All images in this post belong to The Petite Report.