Factors in the growth of Christianity in China

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My notes on some of the reasons for the growth of (Protestant = evangelical) Christianity in China given by  Stark and Wang :

Persecution was the single most important factor in the growth of Christianity in China since 1949. By expelling Western missionaries the Communists completed the transformation of Protestantism in China into an entirely Chinese movement.

Some Western Protestant missionaries had begun to lose faith not only in missions but in Christianity. Their expulsion protected the Chinese church from the debilitating influence of theological liberalism. Luke-warm liberalism cannot generate high levels of commitment.

Persecution results in a high level of member intensity. High levels of commitment are required for rapid growth. Committed people share their faith with others.

Most conversions occur through networks of interpersonal relationships. Conversion is not a very visible phenomenon. To deprive a faith of a public presence has little impact on its growth if members are engaged privately in converting their friends and family.

During the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) most churches were destroyed or converted into other uses. Thousands of clergy were jailed or forced into re-education camps. The Catholics were vulnerable due to their hierarchical structure and dependence on ordained clergy and sacred buildings. Soon their was an acute shortage of priests. Without priests there were no Masses and no baptisms.

In contrast, Protestants had a seemingly inexhaustible supply of preachers, male and female. Any devoted believer can conduct a church gathering. Protestants are able to pray, read the Bible and worship in homes.

In 1950 the Catholics outnumbered Protestants by 3 to 1. Today Catholics are outnumbered by Protestants 10 to one and the ratio is increasing.

One door closes, another door opens…

Eco Presbyterians

While some Presbyterians are closing down churches, others are starting them.

via Chuck Huckaby

How many Christians are there in China? Estimates and Trends.

Christians in China 1980 2040 Stark Wang A Star in the East

Estimates of the number of Christians in China vary greatly. In A Star in the East: The Rise of Christianity in China, Stark and Wang chose 1980 as the base year for their estimates. Christianity had just become legal and somewhat visible.

They estimated that in 1980 there were 10 million Christians in China.

Next they examined a 2001 study by the Research Centre for Contemporary China (Peking University) and a second survey conducted in 2007 by Horizon, China’s largest most respected polling firm.

They concluded that in 2007 there were 60 million Christians in China.

If their estimates are correct, from 1980 to 2007 Christianity in China grew from 10 million to 60 million at a rate of 7% per year.

If that rate of growth continues for just the next ten years, there will be more Christians in China than any other nation on earth. If a 7% annual growth rate continues, by 2040 there will be almost 600 million Christians in China.

The faith of Britain

 Religions in the UK

We are living through the biggest religious transition since the Reformation of the 16th Century.

Linda Woodhead
Professor of the sociology of religion at Lancaster University

The BBC reports on the decline of Christianity, the growth of Islam and of “no religion” in Britain and Europe.

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PC USA collapse picks up speed

PCUSA membership chart 2014

The PCUSA is a church made up of vibrant congregations doing their best to live out the gospel of Jesus Christ in their communities and in the world. Membership declines continue, but on a whole the denomination is settling into the new thing God is creating.

Gradye Parsons, top official of the PC (USA)

The PCUSA has announced it’s largest ever percentage decline for the year 2014. The denomination has lost a staggering 645,895 members since 2005, 28% of the denomination’s members.

Every major American church that has taken steps towards liberalization of sexual issues has seen a steep decline in membership.

UPDATE: It’s not all bad news for the Presbyterians…

China — the first post-religious society or the nation with the most Christians on earth?

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A few notes from A Star in the East: The Rise of Christianity in China ….

In the 1940s Western academics like Harvard’s John K Fairbank, were proclaiming it had “become evident that few Chinese people are likely to become Christians and that the missionaries’ long-continued effort, if measured in numbers of converts, had failed.”

In 1949 the Chinese Communists came to power and within a few years had expelled all Western missionaries. China was to become the model of a fully secularized post-religious society.

By the best estimates, in 1949, there were around 1 million Chinese Protestants and 3.2 million Catholics. From the beginning the Communist Party opposed all forms of religious faith, although the fiercest and deadliest persecution awaited the Cultural Revolution of 1966.

The death of Mao in 1976 led to a relaxation of persecution, and by 1979 one million Protestants had become 5 million and 3.2 million Catholics had become 5 million, mostly due to fertility.

By 2007 there were as many Christians in China as members of the Communist Party. Today Christians greatly outnumber party members, although increasingly there is an overlap between the two affiliations. [Yes, there are now many members of the Communist Party who are Christians.]

If this rate of increase continues for just ten more years, there will be more Christians in China than any other nation in the world.

It appears that faith in a coming post religious China has been revealed as the opium of Western intellectuals. The foolishness of God has shamed the wise. The weakness of God has overpowered the strong.

Rodney Stark on the rise of Christianity in China UPDATED

I read everything Stark writes on movements.

I haven’t been disappointed yet.

“A Star in the East: The Rise of Christianity in China” (Rodney Stark, Xiuhua Wang)

UPDATE: The publisher has provided a sample of the book.

The cost of declaring his glory to the nations

HelenRoseveare

I heard Helen Roseveare speak forty years ago. Her story has stayed with me ever since.

Recently I found these messages on the Urbana site. 

In them she shares candidly of personal tests and trials she underwent while serving as a medical missionary in the Congo (now Zaire), including pride, marital longings, prolonged illnesses, and beatings, rape and imprisonment by rebel forces.

The cost of declaring the glory of the Lord Jesus costs all our heart, soul and body. “The branch,” Roseveare says, “had to lose its leaves and flowers to become an arrow;” such is the privilege of sharing in the sufferings of the Lord Jesus.

The Cost of Declaring His Glory

The Spirit’s Enablement

Motivation for World Missions

 

What comes first — reformation or mission?

Chickenegg

Here’s a piece from a longer email from Mike Shipman … I think he’s on to something.

It is my opinion that we should focus on facilitating change in the way churches do missions (local and distant). The fruit from the generational church breakthroughs causes churches to listen and makes them teachable (trainable). By all means, we should continue challenging churches to obey the Scripture through education programs. However, the game is changing now because movements are no longer theory. Where there are movements nearby, life in the Spirit and the demonstration of His power challenge the existing church by their actions to get involved.

Movements raise the faith-level of the church and change results.

Our experience in Indonesia has been that movements also lead the reformation of the church. In other words, when called people from the church begin radically obeying the Great Commission, resulting in movements, then those within the church who are genuinely seeking God through the Scripture will change. However, earlier efforts to change the existing church’s mindset were largely unfruitful, until there were local or regional movements.

In Indonesia we made the shift from “upper level strategizing” to practical training with accountability. We cast vision to a large number of people and trained them to do our CPM package. And then we “filtered up”, offering more training and mentoring for those who were obedient and experiencing fruit. We expected those who were trained to actually apply the method and also to train the method to others. In other words, we applied CPM principles to our training events (focus on the doers). It has resulted in multiple movements and an extensive training net stretched across our country of service. Because of the movements and increased fruitfulness that have resulted, now existing churches are reforming the way they do missions (local and distant).

Nathan Shank talks us through the Four Fields [video]

 

Nathan Shank talks us through his Four Fields training. Nathan’s work, plus some Eckhard Schnabel, was the basis for my Movements Diamond in What Jesus Started backed up with a little Eckhardt Schnabel.

You can download the manual here.