Early Rain Covenant Church in China has been in the news of late and they are a testimony to the power of the Biblical Gospel as they have decided to take up their cross and follow the Lord Jesus, even to jail and to death.
In the latest crackdown by police, several Christians were arrested on Sunday as they were worshipping with fellow believers.
World Magazine reports:
On Sunday morning, members of Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, China, tried to meet together for Sunday worship only to have police detain about 60 people and shut down outdoor services. Several small groups found spaces to meet and worship without incident.
One week after Chinese authorities cracked down on the prominent unregistered church and arrested more than 100 of its leaders and members, congregants arrived at their building to find the metal gate locked and plainclothes cops and riot police blocking all the entrances, according to a church prayer update. Police arrested some of the congregants who showed up for Sunday worship.
A group of about 50 or 60 Early Rain members held a service in a nearby riverside park, singing hymns, praying, and reciting the first question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism: “What is your only comfort in life and death? That I am not my own but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.” Police halted the outdoor worship service and arrested three church workers who were leading it. Another group of congregants—including several women whose husbands had been detained—met together in the field of a nearby university to pray and sing hymns when police came by and also arrested them. In total, police arrested about 60 people Sunday for attempting to worship.
This is not the first time government persecution has forced Early Rain to meet outdoors: In 2009, authorities kicked the church out of its rented location, and for three months the church worshipped in a park. At the time, church leaders secretly purchased a new office space for a meeting place and openly appealed the government’s eviction charges. Government pressure eased after that.
Now, even Early Rain’s church plants are under persecution. Members of Deyang Field Church arrived at their building on Sunday to find that the landlord had changed the locks on the doors. They held their service outside and police did not disturb them. Authorities placed Jiang Tian, the preacher of church plant Gospel Church, under house arrest earlier this week, so on Sunday about 30 church members came to his house for a worship service. About 30 police officers showed up to break up the meeting, taking Jiang’s phone, beating him, and trying to coerce him to sign a pledge to stop meeting (Jiang refused to sign). Police also detained Linxishu Church’s preacher, Cao Qingen, outside his church’s building on Sunday afternoon.
In Guangzhou, police cracked down on another large unregistered church, Rongguili Church, this weekend. Founded by the late pastor Samuel Lamb, the church attracts up to 5,000 worshippers each week, according to Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post. More than 60 police barged into a Rongguili children’s Bible class on Saturday morning. They declared the service an illegal gathering, took down the names of church members, and confiscated 4,000 books.
Pastor Wang Yi and more than 100 members of the Early Rain Covenant Church were arrested on December 9 by Chinese authorities.
In the midst of the first crackdown, Li Yingqiang, one of the church elders, told The South China Morning Post, “This round of crackdown is unusual as it seems that the authorities want to close the church down for good. Our social media channel accounts such as WeChat were not closed in previous rounds and they have taken a large number of our members into custody this time. The scale was unprecedented
“His home was ransacked. It was a mess,” Zhang Guoqing told The South China Morning Reporter. “The police said our church is an illegal organization and we cannot attend any more gatherings from now on.”
“Even if we are down to our last five, worship and gatherings will still go on because our faith is real,” the elder explained. “Persecution is a price worth paying for the Lord. We would rather live through it than to hide our faith and we hope more Chinese churches will speak up and stand with us.”
What brought about the raid? A line in the sand drawn by Pastor Yi, a 7,300 word manifesto, if you will titled “Meditations on the Religious War.”
Yi denounced the Communist government and called on Christians to engage in acts of civil disobedience writing that Communism “is morally incompatible with the Christian faith and all those who uphold freedom of the mind and thought” and that the Chinese were engaging in “Caesar worship” by treating President Xi Jinping like a god, much like some Americans treated Barack Hussein Obama Soetoro Sobarkah and Donald Trump.
On Sunday, The church met in various outdoor spaces for worship. The more the persecution takes place, the more who will join their ranks. Don’t be deceived.
Christians in America have become weak and lazy as God has been moving in China for years preparing his people for this stand and ultimately, a victory. Christ is king, even over the government of America. They are required to submit to Him (Psalm 2) just as the government of China and all governments around the world, and our faith is that one day they will.
Sadly, the American Church has bought the lies of Dispensationalism and believing that a postage stamp piece of land that calls itself Israel are “God’s people,” and are looking for a rapture to take them out of this world instead of “occupying” till Christ comes, advancing against the gates of Hell, and submitting wholeheartedly to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. She has become a harlot, riding the beast of corrupt politics rather than being the moral compass for society and our representatives, who are God’s ministers (Romans 13:1-5).
This should be a wake up call to the Christian Church in America. Are you willing to be persecuted for standing up to our own beast system here, or will you just go along because your political team’s jersey is in control? Think about that because it will cost you. It’s costing these Chinese brothers and sisters their freedom and perhaps their lives.
The following is an English translation (courtesy of Brent Pinkall and Amy Cheung) of Pastor Yi’s letter of instruction to his church that was written in September when he believed that he would probably be arrested.
He outlined 14 principles he wishes to abide by when the persecution came:
- Do not stop gathering together
- No cooperation
- Not signing
- No confession
- Request to read the Bible
- Not plead guilty
- Disobeying ideological reform
- Refusal to pay penalties or fines
- Refusal to accept the additional penalty of deprivation of political rights
- Persist in sharing the gospel
- Refusal to accept government designated defense lawyer
- Refusal to appear on TV or contact official media
- Demand of public trial
My Declaration of Faithful Disobedience
On the basis of the teachings of the Bible and the mission of the gospel, I respect the authorities God has established in China. For God deposes kings and raises up kings. This is why I submit to the historical and institutional arrangements of God in China.
As a pastor of a Christian church, I have my own understanding and views, based on the Bible, about what righteous order and good government is. At the same time, I am filled with anger and disgust at the persecution of the church by this Communist regime, at the wickedness of their depriving people of the freedoms of religion and of conscience. But changing social and political institutions is not the mission I have been called to, and it is not the goal for which God has given his people the gospel.
For all hideous realities, unrighteous politics, and arbitrary laws manifest the cross of Jesus Christ, the only means by which every Chinese person must be saved. They also manifest the fact that true hope and a perfect society will never be found in the transformation of any earthly institution or culture but only in our sins being freely forgiven by Christ and in the hope of eternal life.
As a pastor, my firm belief in the gospel, my teaching, and my rebuking of all evil proceeds from Christ’s command in the gospel and from the unfathomable love of that glorious King. Every man’s life is extremely short, and God fervently commands the church to lead and call any man to repentance who is willing to repent. Christ is eager and willing to forgive all who turn from their sins. This is the goal of all the efforts of the church in China—to testify to the world about our Christ, to testify to the Middle Kingdom about the Kingdom of Heaven, to testify to earthly, momentary lives about heavenly, eternal life. This is also the pastoral calling that I have received.
For this reason, I accept and respect the fact that this Communist regime has been allowed by God to rule temporarily. As the Lord’s servant John Calvin said, wicked rulers are the judgment of God on a wicked people, the goal being to urge God’s people to repent and turn again toward Him. For this reason, I am joyfully willing to submit myself to their enforcement of the law as though submitting to the discipline and training of the Lord.
At the same time, I believe that this Communist regime’s persecution against the church is a greatly wicked, unlawful action. As a pastor of a Christian church, I must denounce this wickedness openly and severely. The calling that I have received requires me to use non-violent methods to disobey those human laws that disobey the Bible and God. My Savior Christ also requires me to joyfully bear all costs for disobeying wicked laws.
But this does not mean that my personal disobedience and the disobedience of the church is in any sense “fighting for rights” or political activism in the form of civil disobedience, because I do not have the intention of changing any institutions or laws of China. As a pastor, the only thing I care about is the disruption of man’s sinful nature by this faithful disobedience and the testimony it bears for the cross of Christ.
As a pastor, my disobedience is one part of the gospel commission. Christ’s great commission requires of us great disobedience. The goal of disobedience is not to change the world but to testify about another world.
For the mission of the church is only to be the church and not to become a part of any secular institution. From a negative perspective, the church must separate itself from the world and keep itself from being institutionalized by the world. From a positive perspective, all acts of the church are attempts to prove to the world the real existence of another world. The Bible teaches us that, in all matters relating to the gospel and human conscience, we must obey God and not men. For this reason, spiritual disobedience and bodily suffering are both ways we testify to another eternal world and to another glorious King.
This is why I am not interested in changing any political or legal institutions in China. I’m not even interested in the question of when the Communist regime’s policies persecuting the church will change. Regardless of which regime I live under now or in the future, as long as the secular government continues to persecute the church, violating human consciences that belong to God alone, I will continue my faithful disobedience. For the entire commission God has given me is to let more Chinese people know through my actions that the hope of humanity and society is only in the redemption of Christ, in the supernatural, gracious sovereignty of God.
If God decides to use the persecution of this Communist regime against the church to help more Chinese people to despair of their futures, to lead them through a wilderness of spiritual disillusionment and through this to make them know Jesus, if through this he continues disciplining and building up his church, then I am joyfully willing to submit to God’s plans, for his plans are always benevolent and good.
Precisely because none of my words and actions are directed toward seeking and hoping for societal and political transformation, I have no fear of any social or political power. For the Bible teaches us that God establishes governmental authorities in order to terrorize evildoers, not to terrorize doers of good. If believers in Jesus do no wrong then they should not be afraid of dark powers. Even though I am often weak, I firmly believe this is the promise of the gospel. It is what I’ve devoted all of my energy to. It is the good news that I am spreading throughout Chinese society.
I also understand that this happens to be the very reason why the Communist regime is filled with fear at a church that is no longer afraid of it.
If I am imprisoned for a long or short period of time, if I can help reduce the authorities’ fear of my faith and of my Savior, I am very joyfully willing to help them in this way. But I know that only when I renounce all the wickedness of this persecution against the church and use peaceful means to disobey, will I truly be able to help the souls of the authorities and law enforcement. I hope God uses me, by means of first losing my personal freedom, to tell those who have deprived me of my personal freedom that there is an authority higher than their authority, and that there is a freedom that they cannot restrain, a freedom that fills the church of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ.
Regardless of what crime the government charges me with, whatever filth they fling at me, as long as this charge is related to my faith, my writings, my comments, and my teachings, it is merely a lie and temptation of demons. I categorically deny it. I will serve my sentence, but I will not serve the law. I will be executed, but I will not plead guilty.
Moreover, I must point out that persecution against the Lord’s church and against all Chinese people who believe in Jesus Christ is the most wicked and the most horrendous evil of Chinese society. This is not only a sin against Christians. It is also a sin against all non-Christians. For the government is brutally and ruthlessly threatening them and hindering them from coming to Jesus. There is no greater wickedness in the world than this.
If this regime is one day overthrown by God, it will be for no other reason than God’s righteous punishment and revenge for this evil. For on earth, there has only ever been a thousand-year church. There has never been a thousand-year government. There is only eternal faith. There is no eternal power.
Those who lock me up will one day be locked up by angels. Those who interrogate me will finally be questioned and judged by Christ. When I think of this, the Lord fills me with a natural compassion and grief toward those who are attempting to and actively imprisoning me. Pray that the Lord would use me, that he would grant me patience and wisdom, that I might take the gospel to them.
Separate me from my wife and children, ruin my reputation, destroy my life and my family – the authorities are capable of doing all of these things. However, no one in this world can force me to renounce my faith; no one can make me change my life; and no one can raise me from the dead.
And so, respectable officers, stop committing evil. This is not for my benefit but rather for yours and your children’s. I plead earnestly with you to stay your hands, for why should you be willing to pay the price of eternal damnation in hell for the sake of a lowly sinner such as I?
Jesus is the Christ, son of the eternal, living God. He died for sinners and rose to life for us. He is my king and the king of the whole earth yesterday, today, and forever. I am his servant, and I am imprisoned because of this. I will resist in meekness those who resist God, and I will joyfully violate all laws that violate God’s laws.
The Lord’s servant,
Additionally, there is a prayer conference call on Monday evening, which all are invited to attend. Below is information on that call.
This prayer guide was written and disseminated by Western China Presbytery, the regional body of churches Early Rain Covenant Church belongs to.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, who are also called as children of God and disciples of Christ,
Peace be with you! We trust that you have heard the news that since December 9, 2018, Early Rain Covenant Church, a church that belongs to our Lord Jesus Christ, has been attacked and persecuted by the secular authorities. God’s children are being persecuted unconstitutionally and illegally and are experiencing great suffering.
After losing contact with Pastor Wang Yi and his wife for over 48 hours, his family was told that Pastor Wang Yi was in criminal detention on suspicion of “inciting subversion of the state;” Elder Tan Defu has been lost in contact for over 72 hours; Elder Li Yingqiang is under criminal detention on suspicion of “internet provocation;” and Deacon Ge Yingfeng is under criminal detention on suspicion of “illegal business operations.”
Forty-seven brothers and sisters are being detained at Xinjin County Legal Learning Center and two sisters were stripped searched. One sister is now at the hospital delivering a baby while her husband has been out of contact for almost 72 hours.
Additionally, the police took away some elders, deacons, staff members, and brothers and sisters by force, to the point where some even suffered violence, receiving scars and wounds on their bodies. While they are gradually being released, they are still under surveillance.
So far, ministry staff members are still being dragged to the police stations and the government is still putting pressure in various ways on church members, demanding them to sign a pledge agreeing not to attend Early Rain Covenant Church. Many are being monitored at home and some brothers have been deported back to their hometowns. The authorities have used landlords to force some brothers and sisters to relocate and the total number of congregants directly subjected to illegal persecution is well over a hundred.
The government has also seized the church’s sanctuary and all other facilities, closed down the seminary, the college, the Reformed [church]academy, and issued penalties banning several church plants.
Its purpose is to destroy the Lord’s church, which is obviously severe religious persecution.
Yet we are deeply aware that this is not only a persecution from the secular government but also Satan’s scheme to attack God’s church; it is a spiritual battle against God’s people, and no child of God is left out.
As the Western China Presbytery of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, we are bound to stand with them. We share with Early Rain Covenant Church the same catholic, orthodox faith, and therefore identify with the persecution they are under because we are part of the body of Christ. The persecution they suffer for the sake of Christ is the persecution we are going to suffer. “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). They are experiencing suffering and we are willing to suffer with them. “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:26).
Since this is a spiritual battle, we are not wrestling against the flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12 ). For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but the divine power of the Holy Spirit. “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4).
Meanwhile, we appeal to the churches of God to join in this spiritual battle through your prayers, your encouragement, your comfort and your support; to hold with love the members in distress, and to crush Satan’s neck with your knees and tears. If possible, please make efforts to provide for their practical needs, such as visiting their families, taking care of their children, cooking, or opening up your home for those who are in need of refuge.
Please pray for the members behind bars. May the Lord grant them confidence and strength so that they would be as bold as Paul and Peter to preach to the kings and prisoners about Christ who died and was raised.
Please pray for the members who are frightened and for those who have been released but are still being monitored. May the Lord keep them, whether free or bound, from losing heart, so that they may testify to the true, trustworthy, and glorious gospel before their family, neighbors and law enforcement.
Please pray for the members who are facing pressure to sign the pledge not to attend the church. May the Lord guide them through the Holy Spirit in all circumstances so that whether they turn left or right, they will hear the voice that says “that is the right way,” so that they can walk in it.
Please pray for the ministry team of Early Rain Covenant Church. May the Lord fill them with his unifying Spirit, his Spirit of wisdom and discernment, and grant them strength, courage, love and self-control so that even in distress they will not be confined by hardship. May the Word of the Lord increase and multiply through them.
Please pray for every church member of Early Rain Covenant Church. May the Lord turn all of them into warriors of the gospel and grant them confidence so that in the midst of the storm, they will be rooted even more deeply and made more resilient.
Please also pray for the police officers and local community leaders who have been involved in the attack.May the Lord have mercy on them as most of them do not know the truth but are only doing what they were ordered to do. May the Lord reveal to them through the sufferings of brothers and sisters, the mystery of the gospel truth. May the Lord call some among them, so that they will come to know the true ruler – Jesus Christ.
Through this storm, may the Lord’s church be a city set on a hill that is built firmly on the rock, the lamp on a stand that shines light into darkness. To him be glory.
Reprinted from The Washington Standard